“Why did I agree to do it?”
I have to go on stage and play a Beethoven Piano Concerto with Orchestra. There are at least 1,000 people in the audience. I haven’t played the piano in 30 years. I will fail.
I have 10-minutes to save myself.
I stumble towards another musician backstage, a woman who unlike me actually PLAYS THE FREAKING PIANO. I ask her to fill in. She covers her ears, shakes her head and backs away laughing.
Pacing and wringing my hands, I realize the only thing to do is find the conductor. I have to tell her I can’t perform. But she’s counting on me. Disappointing her feels as shameful as public humiliation…. What will I do?
Fortunately, I wake up. I realize I’ve just experienced what my husband and I call “The Actor Dream.” There are many variations on this dream. You’re dressed for Madame Butterfly and everyone else is doing Oklahoma; you haven’t learned your lines; you can’t find the stage…. It’s usually about unpreparedness and fear of failure.
This dream was a little different though. Although I woke up relieved that I didn’t have to butcher Beethoven, I also had an eerie awful feeling – the feeling of being a disappointment.
I do not enjoy feeling like a disappointment. I don’t like to let people down, even if our shared expectations are as ridiculous as me trying to play Beethoven. The idea of being a disappointment makes me cringe.
In the past, I scrambled to meet everyone’s needs. I applied rigorous affirmations to avoid the possibility of failure or disappointing others. If I did fail someone, I would pretend it never happened.
Not anymore. Avoiding our forsaken, forbidden parts keeps us stagnant. We grow through our willingness to fall in love with our wHole life, not our half life. We find grace as we learn to love everything — even the parts of us that feel like gaping HOLES of inadequacy….
So after the Beethoven ordeal, I meditated on disappointment. I revisited some of the ways I’ve let myself and others down. I swam in a soup of discomfort without trying to push bad feelings away. I looked at my inner disappointer with compassion.
In this spacious willingness, I saw Truth.
- Everyone disappoints from time to time. Disappointment is a common condition, with a far reach. I have a friend who is disappointed with Siri, the woman in the iPhone. Siri sometimes fails to measure up. If Siri can disappoint, so can we. It’s a normal part of existence.
- However commonplace it may be, the perception of being a disappointment is only a perception. That means it is relative and not Truth. In a blog I wrote called “The Holy Goat,” I describe the difference between Absolute and relative reality. Relative reality changes based on our position in it, our perspective.
In “The Holy Goat,” the town where I live is too small because it has no opera. The town suddenly becomes too big when our foster-goat goes on the lam and we can’t find her.
Disappointment works the same way. You may not be “enough” for some person or situation in your life. At the same time, you are probably too much for someone else. This is the nature of relative reality. It is perception. Perception changes. It is not Truth.
- Disappointment has no power in the realm of Absolute Reality, the changeless Truth that holds everything. Viewing life through the lens of Absolute Reality purifies all relative perceptions, even our perception of disappointment.
When I was new to ministry, I believed I had to have all the answers. So one day in a class, when a student asked me a perplexing question about her life, I felt I had to perform. I had no clue how to respond. I babbled a few platitudes and sent her on her way. I felt like a disappointment. I had failed. I lay awake that night, gnawing on what I “should have said.”
The next week, this student came back happy. I revisited her question and discovered that my failure led to her own answers. She found a perfect solution, one that was custom-made, something I had no way of knowing. My disappointing inability was her “appointment” with empowerment.
That’s how the Absolute works. Failure isn’t failure. A disappointment isn’t a disappointment. Everything exists within a perfect process. We can’t always see the bigger picture; so we get to trust.
- Forgiving ourselves for “being a disappointment” requires skill. To gain skill, we practice forgiving others when they disappoint us.
Our dog Stella flunked out of Sleep-Away-Dog-Therapy-School. It cost $2,000.00 and hours of training. Stella was supposed to learn how to be nice to people in Nursing Homes so I could take her on pastoral care visits. She was not up to the task. She was Florence Nightingale’s evil-dog-twin. She was hyper-active, bark-y and liable to morph into Cujo at the sight of a wheelchair.
When Stella failed, I was disappointed, but not disappointed in her. I looked at my unrealistic expectations and loved her as unconditionally as ever. I hope to someday love everyone, including myself, as well as I love my beautiful, inconvenient and perfectly imperfect dogs….
So that’s it. Life is good but sometimes it feels like we’re caught in “The Actor Dream.” We don’t know our lines and we struggle with our forsaken selves. But a dream, especially this dream called life, exists for our awakening. The dream of “feeling like a disappointment” lives and loves to rouse us to hidden perfection.
Here’s the truth: Everything about you belongs. it’s time to embrace your wHole life and see how much you can love.
That being said: May you always remember who you are. May you recognize that you are never a disappointment. You are an appointment with the Divine, in Truth. Sweet Dreams. And so it is.