Today’s column topic has been on my mind for months. The reason I delayed writing it is because I have not arrived at a great answer for the dilemma. I have some ideas but, quite frankly, it is a raw issue in my life right now and at times I am not navigating it well.
What do you do when you have a vision or an assumption of how something should be, and the reality of the situation is significantly different than what you assumed? How do you deal with that disappointment?
It has been years since we have been with a large group of family members for a holiday. In August, we started inviting family members for Thanksgiving. Plans picked up steam with each invitation. Eventually, we had family members from Colorado, North Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois coming to Kansas City. My wife, daughter and I were stoked. We have other family in town so there was the potential for 30 of us to be together to celebrate Thanksgiving.
A month ago, the COVID-19 situation was not great, but the gathering was not too outrageous or unwise. So, we started planning: the menu, the outings, where we would gather. We started decorating. We bought main ingredients to avoid potential shortages. Our daughter and other cousins in town were more excited with every passing day.
Weeks earlier, even with the reality of the pandemic rapidly increasing, my wife and I decided to celebrate family and relationships and continue with plans. But we needed to contact each household coming to let them know we totally understood if they decided it was best for them to cancel. We are currently living in this difficult and uncomfortable space, pulled between emotional vs. physical health.
Then we received news three of the households decided it was best not to come. It was a bitter pill to swallow filled with emotion and tears.
This happens in life, right? We have an anticipation or assumption of how our wedding day, a new job, a relationship, a sports season, a major purchase, being a grandparent will go and then, wham, we are hit with a significant gap between what we were expecting and the reality of the situation. What do you fill this gap with? How do you move forward despite those gaps existing?
For years I minimized the hurt or pain. I ignored the emotions, sloughed it off as no big deal. This was what I saw modelled for me growing up in northwest North Dakota; ignore your emotions, lean into your faith, and get back to work!
I have realized to minimize the pain is not helpful. The other pattern I was taught was to not get your hopes up. Don’t embrace the potential. Stay calm and if something good happens, great, but do not anticipate or expect it. Have low expectations. Then, the only way your emotional thermometer can go is up. There may be some validity to that strategy, but I think you rob yourself and the world of authenticity, joy and wonder if that is your approach.
I am still mulling this dilemma over. What I do know is, how you process these gaps is critical. They exist. There are healthy approaches and unhealthy ones. More conversation to come! Happy Thanksgiving.
Hauser is a pastor and leadership coach and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org