When I got divorced my mother told me I’d embarrassed her.
She told me I had put her in an awkward and uncomfortable place. That by not telling her my husband was an alcoholic and my marriage was broken was a sign of my unwillingness to be honest with her, and that made her look badly in front of her friends.
I’d disappointed her another time and I wasn’t really that surprised; I expected it. I’m doing it now too, I’d imagine.
When I was a young athlete I would set goals—to beat my time, to get a certain number of kills on the court, to place in the top five—and if I didn’t meet them, I would be upset and critical of myself and my efforts. And often so would my coaches and my teammates. The focus wasn’t on what I achieved but on what I could do better next time.
When my report card came home the six A’s were soon overlooked to question the one B. Not close enough. I graduated from college at 20, but not with honors. I won a fellowship but I still had to borrow money to pay for grad school. I got married, but to the wrong man.
My daughter promised to go right to sleep and then stayed up half of the school night reading with a book light, scrambling to turn it off when she heard me at the door and I told her, without a second thought, “I’m so disappointed.”
I found a pile of candy wrappers under my son’s bed last fall—Halloween swag left apparently unattended. “I’m so disappointed,” I told him.
It hurts to write this.
Disappointed is everything I am not. Disappointing is everything I refuse to be or indict.
I am not disappointed. I am not disappointing. They, are not disappointing.
Along my journey to uncover all the patterns I’ve learned, the records I play and the habits I developed and taken ownership for, I take a moment to zoom out and just look at them. I see them as they are, without a lens of familiarity attached, and I suddenly become acutely aware of how I’ve been passing them on to the people who matter the most to me.
I can avoid culpability and blame society and my parents for my conditioned response. I can say it’s because parenting is hard and I don’t want my kids to turn out to be as*holes so I run a tight ship. I can say it’s because I just want them to be happy and I’m giving them tools for adulthood. I could say it’s because it was effective at getting what I wanted. I can say it’s because I don’t know how to stop doing it.
I could say all of those things and they might feel true for a minute. But they are not. I chose it. Me. It was my choice to feel it, and my choice to give it. And I can un-choose it just the same.
Disappointment stems from expectations and expectations from lack of presence. From dissatisfaction with the current moment, from wanting something with condition.
Expect without condition, and disappointment is no longer an option.
Who my children are is really none of my business. Supporting them in growing into the best version of themselves they can be, is.
What success looks like for my friends is not defined by me. It’s not my place to say who they are and what they’re up to; it’s theirs.
They get to be who they want to be. I get to decide who I want to be. We get to decide who we want to be. You get to decide who you want to be.
And everyone gets to love us as we are—whole, complete and without condition.
Go do you, as you, for you and because of you. Try, fail, learn, grow, repeat.
Author: Michelle Sweezey
Editor: Katarina Tavčar