Dealing with the Landslide of COVID-19 Era Disappointments
October 30, 2020
Image courtesy of Vera Arsic via Pexels.
Hoo boy-- 2020 so far has really been the proverbial train wreck! Much about this year has led to feelings of grief and disappointment, so much so that some of us have begun to shut down and go numb.
And yet the media story continues. The world spins on, and 2020 is moving in for the close. We don’t want to peer into a crystal ball for fear of what the rest of the pandemic will look like.
What’s happening to us? We can’t take any more disappointment. Can we?
Welcome to Pandora’s Unboxing Video of 2020
“Disappointment” seems like such a mild word to describe our emotional state in 2020. But it's actually a bit more complex than it appears, and it has very real mental and emotional effects.
Typically, we’re “disappointed” by untimely endings to perfect plans, unexpected plot twists in our lives that prevent us from dreams. 2020 has been a huge, seemingly unending stream of broken dreams and upset plans and expectations halted by a brick wall backed with concrete and shaken-- not stirred-- violently by deep political divisions rife with deep wounds.
Add to that the very real danger of a highly contagious disease which forces us to live in isolation, and the disappointments keep coming.
We’re disappointed by the political and moral decisions of friends and family. We’re disappointed by cancelled festivals and vacations. We’re disappointed by the fabled “return to normal” that seems further and further away the harder others ignore safety protocols and push back against virus restrictions.
Our airlines are starving. Our food industry is crashing. Our live entertainment is silent.
The harsh reality is that this virus is going to be around for a long time, even after a proper vaccine and treatment are developed. And you what that means-- more disappointment.
Our souls are starving, and our expectations and dreams have crashed so often we’ve stopped speaking about them, for fear of having hope.
But hope is essential to our wellbeing. Without hope, it is hard to be motivated to do basic self-care and essential basics, such as eating well or even getting out of bed. Hope is the tricky little thing Pandora managed to hold onto after her epically failed unboxing attempt. In fact, let us revisit that myth for a moment.
In the Pandora’s Box myth, Pandora is the first woman. She was fashioned by the Greek gods from earth, and given beauty and a burning curiosity. Before she was presented to her husband, she was given a vessel that contained all of the world’s evils and told never to open it. Some time later, after she was happily paired with her husband, her curiosity got the better of her and she opened it. Out flew all of the disappointments, evils, and troubles of the world.
Some versions say that she was able to shut the vessel in time to keep Hope inside, but others say that Hope decided to stay with mankind to remind them of her importance in the face of all the evils the world can produce. Either way, she is here, and we must not forget her or stop believing her, else she crumple and fail like Tinker Bell after she drank poison to save Peter Pan.
The answer to finding our hope will not be as easy as clapping our hands and declaring that we believe in Hope, but perhaps remembering what hope truly is will be a place to start healing from 2020.
Hope is not tied to a specific outcome or person. Hope is not desire, expectation, or faith. It is rather a trust in potentiality. We trust that likelihood increases with specific actions-- we hope that these actions create the space for manifestation to be more likely.
Hope is not dashed by dreams falling through and expectations disappointed-- it is harder to feel, but it is not lost.
Your response to disappointment is valid
It’s important to realize in any type of healing that your emotions are valid. This is especially crucial in recovering from-- and continuing to fight-- the seemingly unending onslaught of COVID-19 era disappointments.
Having dreams and expectations are not bad things that damage us when they don’t come true. We should have goals because they provide motivation and learning opportunities and create connections.
What we shouldn’t do is let their endings define us.
So give yourself space and time to process these things. Talk to a therapist or a life coach. Talk with a member of your support network.
Disappointment isn’t forever, and neither is this pandemic. COVID-19 is not going to poof away into thin air, but its devastation is not permanent.
How to deal with disappointment when more is on the horizon
The first thing you need to realize is that there is no point in staying in a funk and wallowing in your disappointment. You don’t know what the future holds, but the person or event that let you down is in the past and there is no changing it. You must choose instead to look forward, even though it is scary.
Focus on the things you can control, and remember that the old expression of “misery loves company” is rather true in this pandemic world we live in. Everyone has had disappointment, so it’s familiar territory these days.
Once you’ve gotten your bearings, it’s time to reframe what happened. This is especially important to do now that our old way of life is no longer viable. Spend some time writing out what happened and exploring your reaction-- dig deep into why it was this thing or that person that caught your fancy. Get objective about it, but also give yourself credit for the work that you put into it.
Then find a new, smaller goal to set for yourself. Make it something that you can control-- like having a clean mask to wear every single day or brushing up on your resume. Since many of us are working from home, make it a goal to dress for work from top to bottom at least once a week.
Or, go back to that objective reframing and see if there is a different way to approach the issue. This can be an effective tactic for social events, and can be seen in the plethora of virtual events and Zoom classes now available, drive-through birthday and graduation parties, and parades of teachers driving through neighborhoods to show their support for their students. This is also how working from home is possible. Ask yourself: Can I make this virtual? Should this issue be a Zoom meeting, a phone call, or an email? Is there a public park where we can space out and wear masks?
Dealing with disappointment takes a multifaceted approach even under normal conditions. So don’t focus on one way to deal with it. Engage in several, at the same time-- after all, this is a healing process.
Much like when you heal from surgery or a broken bone, you rest, take the medicine, do the physical therapy, and try to eat right. 2020 was the surgery, and now we have the disappointment and pain to heal. Reframing alone won’t fix the issue. You also need to seek peace, reality, and support.
Seeking peace is especially important during the pandemic, since disappointment alone can create a sense of anxiety and frustration and restlessness inside of us. Combined with COVID-19 related fears, it might seem impossible to not exist in a state of constant worrying. And if the disappointment was the result of effort on your part, the failure to have it come true can leave you with insecurities related to yourself.
You must work to find ways to create peace for yourself. Meditation is a great way to accomplish this, though it will take some work on your part. Meditation has a way of conjuring up images of monk-like figures sitting in the lotus position for hours, perhaps chanting. Many folks think that because they can’t do that, or can’t shut their brain off, they’re not good at meditation. This is simply NOT TRUE. There are many different kinds of meditation, so make a point to try a few and focus less on quieting your mind and more on what creates peace. If you’re super busy, there are also 5-minute meditations!
The idea of “facing reality” may seem harsh or cold, but it’s essential. Yes, dreams and goals are important-- and visualizing them coming true provides motivation-- but it doesn’t serve your best interests to lay all of your cards on that particular thing, person, or event. Keep track of facts, and touch base with yourself about how you see the dream, feel about it, what you want from it, and what are the straight facts. Again, focus on what you can control, but also keep track of what factors you cannot directly control. Be sure to know the difference between the two.
And finally, you really do need to find support. There are many different kinds of support systems, beyond the traditional friends and family approach. There are support groups, which are also safely and largely online, as well as various therapists and therapeutic approaches. You were never “in this alone” to begin with, so stop trying to be an island and carry it all by yourself. You don’t want or deserve to be Sisyphus, which is exactly who you’ll embody if you try. You are not a bother or a burden-- you are a human being, and all human beings need each other. So get help, at whatever level you can reach.
There are many ways to look at 2020, and many of them are framed by disappointment and loss. But 2020 does not have to be the year of defeat! Yes, there is a huge future out there full of unknowns-- and for certain, many of them will not be good-- but we have hope. Take the time now to learn how to deal with disappointment, and free yourself from 2020’s iron grip. It may feel like an onslaught, but you have the tools and weapons to defend yourself.
You can do this.