9/17/19 - Disappointed Face!
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I figured it all out! The key to never being disappointed is never expecting anything in the first place!
Hi! This is Coach Sarah, and this is the Morning Mantra!
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Hi, my name is Sarah Axelrod. I'm a run coach and a lover of poetry, and a person who cares about your well-being. You don't have to be an athlete to be #coachedandloved, and if you need an anchor to hold onto as you move through a tough situation, you've come to the right place.
Today's mantra is: "Disappointed face!"
All this started a few weeks ago on a trip to the grocery store. Halfway there, my daughter Ros is piping up from the backseat “I want a racing cart! I want a racing cart!” You may be familiar with the racing carts that she is referring to. They are the enormous, unwieldy shopping carts that have a front-facing bench for kids on top, with steering wheels for them to turn and little squeaky horns for them to beep and the turn radius of a semi.
For Ros, all the upsides, and for me, the only thing worse than when we DO get to use it is when we DON’T get to use it. There have been screaming tantrums over these things, which is never a good way to START a grocery store experience.
So on this particular occasion, we were going to a particularly large and overwhelming grocery story, and we were going there at Peak Family Grocery Shopping Time (Saturday at 11 AM) and I knew that there was a better-than-even chance that we would be out of luck on the racing cart front. So I turned to Ros in the backseat to try and prepare her for the worst. Maybe there will be a racing cart, I said, and maybe there won’t. “No there WILL be one” is her boilerplate response to a statement like this - she lives in a world where it’s always possible that if she says something loudly enough she can will it into being. “And if there isn’t,” I said, “we’re going to be very disappointed.” This was met with another “no there WILL be one” to which I said, “can you show me your disappointed face?”
Now, let me be very clear: I am not a parenting wizard. I am a parenting stopped clock, and occasionally I can grind my gears enough to be stopped at the exact minute of the day when I most need to be right. This was one of those occasions, because as soon as Ros and I started testing out different versions of our disappointed face on one another, we were too busy giggling to really care which cart we got. And there were no racing carts, so Ros got to use her best disappointed face when I lifted her into the regular-ass cart. I got to maneuver through the overwhelming aisles with a manageable amount of awkwardness.
I learned to prepare for the worst and be surprised by the best when I was a pretty young kid. I remember proudly telling my mom’s best friend that I had figured it all out: I assume that I am going to lose the game of Monopoly, because then either I get to enjoy the fact that I was right and stew in self-righteous indignation (I KNEW it, I KNEW I would lose) or I get to be pleasantly surprised by a victory I hadn’t planned on, which is way sweeter than one you’ve been expecting. I said this to her, around the age of 8, as if I’d unlocked the secret to life. And while I didn’t really connect the two things at the time, now I kind of get why I’d convinced myself that this was the one true way: my mom had cancer, and she often had to rush to the hospital unexpectedly. And if I sat there expecting her to come home, then every minute she didn’t come home was a disappointment - and the phone would ring and it would turn out to be my dad saying that actually they’d be staying the night and could we stay over at whatever friend’s house we’d ended up at that afternoon. I learned to reverse-engineer my expectations: assume that every doctor’s appointment would turn into a hospital stay of unknown duration. Assume that every phone call was unfortunate news. Then enjoy the moments when my dad was actually calling to say “we’ll be home in time for supper.” Let those be the reward for my ingrained pessimism! I think that when I declared my new philosophy to my mom’s best friend, she knew exactly what I meant; I saw, without understanding, the sadness in her reaction.
So I check myself sometimes as I think about how to teach Ros about dealing with disappointment - both with my words and my actions. I want her to have a framework for how to deal when things don’t go her way, but I don’t want her to grow up thinking that the only way to be happy is to assume that the worst will come to pass. I am glad that it helps her to have a disappointed face, as dramatic as the disappointment may sometimes be, because I would rather that than a resigned face.
So, the mantra. Disappointment is real. It deserves to be seen and heard, and a four-year-old’s disappointment over the wrong grocery cart is not lesser because it is the disappointment of a child. Disappointed face! Is the mode we enter when we are giving space to our feelings - because we gave ourselves the gift of allowing ourselves to feel them in the first place rather than trying to head them off at the pass. Disappointed face! does not take over our day. It is something we can practice, and it is something we can put away when the moment has passed, however long that takes. Feelings may be inconvenient, but they do not become less so because we deprived them of space. Disappointed face IS both the vocalization and the letting go.
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