Some lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view) soul won the Megamillions jackpot last night. 1.6 billion dollars if they played the booster. That’s life changing money. Hell, 1 million dollars would be life changing money for me, and three people won that.
My husband and I played the lottery. Who can resist the chance to win that much money? We play every time it gets above 500 million. We dream big. That money would mean the chance to go back to school for my husband. It would mean the chance to follow our dreams instead of (for my husband) working a dead end job. It would mean the chance to become philanthropists.
But we never win. And waking up to disappointment in the morning is hard. I used to salve that disappointment with alcohol. But I don’t drink anymore. So I have to learn to accept these disappointed feelings, sit with them for a little bit, and then move on.
I don’t only face disappointment when I don’t win the lottery. I face it when my favorite team loses. I face it when my husband doesn’t want to go out to dinner with me. I face it when a vacation doesn’t quite turn out like my high expectations wanted it to.
And there’s the rub — Expectations are the key to all my disappointments. When I expect certain actions and behaviors from others, I will nearly always be disappointed. When I expect something (like a vacation) to go a certain way, I will make myself miserable by becoming controlling to make sure it goes just the way I want it to.
Expectations set me up for disappointments. It took me a long time to learn to let go of my expectations and just enjoy life as it came to me. In the beginning of my marriage, I expected a lot from my husband that he just wasn’t equipped to give me. He’s a wonderful man, but my expectations of what a husband should be made me miserable and disappointed (and very drunk) in my first year of marriage. When I finally dropped those expectations, I learned to see and love him for who he is – just as he is – without all the unnecessary trappings and add-ons of what I thought a husband was supposed to be.
I still face disappointments in my life. I’m not perfect. My expectations creep in all the time. Here are some things I do to normalize and manage my disappointment:
- Feel the feeling
I don’t like to feel my emotions, “good” or “bad.” I bottle everything up – shove them into boxes in the back of my mind and move on with my day. Eventually they fade away, right? No – eventually they become reasons to drink.
The healthy thing to do is to feel the emotion. Let myself wallow for a bit. Acknowledge that I’m disappointed and sad and my dreams of instant money and instant gratification are not going to come true.
- Take a reality check — Acceptance
Disappointment happens to everyone. Yes, a few lucky winners hit the lottery, but a whole lot of people didn’t. I’m one of those thousands that didn’t. It’s time to accept it.
- Don’t stew in the negativity
Acknowledging the disappointed feelings is good and healthy, but stewing in them is not. I don’t want to spend all day dwelling on what could have been. I felt the feelings, now it’s time to move on.
- Manage the stress and anxiety
Sometimes moving on isn’t so easy. All that money from the lottery was going to pay off all my debt. It was sweet to dream of being debt free for a little while. Now the stress of being in debt is back on my shoulders.
So I had a chocolate chip cookie with my coffee this morning. And I’ll take a long hot bath later.
- Focus on the good
There’s so much in my life that I can be grateful for. But I forget to be grateful. One thing that helps me remember to be grateful is to write out a gratitude list. There’s so much that I have that others don’t or that others have struggled for that has come easily to me. I need to remember to always be grateful
Disappointments come and go because life happens. And life doesn’t always meet our expectations. We can more easily manage disappointment by managing our expectations. And when disappointment happens, we can feel it for what it is. Acknowledge it, and let it go.