It’s Not Intentional….No, Really

It would be ridiculous for anyone to say they have never disappointed someone else along the course of their lives.  I have been disappointed in many things, but I think it hurts the most when the disappointment comes from a person, not from the results of an action or inaction so to speak.  For example, I was disappointed when it didn’t snow on a night when I forgot to do my homework.  It hurt a lot more when the girl I confessed my feelings to denied me her companionship.  Ok, maybe that’s an extreme example, but my point is, when we come to hold out hopes in one another, disappointment can be a nasty feeling.  Obviously, I have dished out my share of disappointment to others at various points of my life, and I think it’s fair to say that unless you are a total dirtbag, the one doing the disappointing can often feel as bad as the one being disappointed.  Let me give you an example.

I’ve been going to a Spanish speaking book club for several weeks now.  I think today would have been the sixth meeting.  I enjoy going to these meetings very much, but it took me a great deal of effort to overcome my hesitation to speak Spanish in front of native Spanish speakers.  I was terrified the first meeting was going to go terribly, but it went well and the next few meetings made me feel much more comfortable.  Last week, I almost didn’t attend the meeting because I had struggled to get through the material and I felt silly going when I wouldn’t have been able to offer much to the conversation.  I felt like a high school kid again who was going to show up to class without doing the assignments.  Despite my fears, I told myself it was silly to worry, as I wasn’t being graded or anything.  This was a free club for people who wanted to discuss books.  There was no reason for me to avoid going, so I went and it turned out things went well for me.  Had I not gone, no one would have judged me, but by going I felt I proved to the group that I really did want to better myself in terms of speaking Spanish and I would not let my limitations stand in my way.

This morning, I had set my alarm to get up at 7 AM so I could have breakfast and finish reading one of the stories.  When the alarm went off, I forgot my intentions and shut the alarm off.  My alarm does not have a snooze feature, so once it is off, it is off.  The next thing I know, it is almost 9:00 and the meeting is at 9:30.  I wasn’t going to make it, at least not without arriving totally unprepared.  I was angry at myself but resigned to just stay home this morning instead of attempting to rush to the meeting.  Of course around 9:30, I received a text message from my English speaking friend Mary who was waiting for me at the meeting.  I apologized and told her I overslept and couldn’t make it.  While I doubt anyone is going to hold this against me or exclude me from the group, I obviously let her and the director of the group down, and for that I feel terrible.  I’m going over things in my head, certainly more so than those in the group and I have this overwhelming feeling of guilt.  I wrote Mary an E mail that explained in a little more detail the situation, and in the end, it was an hour and a half of our lives that I was unable to participate in, yet I feel like a failure.

Now, I’m only using this little story to relate to these feelings in general.  I’m not sure people realize that no one intents to disappoint others.  Like I said, I am not blind to the fact that I have disappointed my share of people in my life.  It hurts more when it hits closer to home with friends and family.  Had I not grown close with the people in the book group, I probably would not have felt so bad, but they had made me feel very comfortable with them, knowing I was nervous about speaking Spanish.  If I feel this guilty about disappointing a group of people I very well may never see again should I stop going to the club, imagine the feeling of disappointing those closer to me.

So, while I said that no one intents to disappoint others, it still happens sometimes, even when it can be avoided.  So why don’t we avoid it?  That is the harder question.  Things in life make us uncomfortable.  Sometimes we have no choice but to deal with the unpleasantness and sometimes we manage to weasel our way out of it.  Sometimes we do things to make ourselves feel better, safer, more comfortable, whatever, knowing that it may disappoint someone else.  Sometimes, it is simply impossible to overcome our own insecurities, fears, doubts, whatever, in order to avoid upsetting someone else.  I guess since in that situation, either result is uncomfortable, you go with the one that is less uncomfortable.  Going to the meeting this morning, unshaven, unprepared, and feeling foolish for over-sleeping was enough reason for me to accept the consequence of feeling guilty about simply not going.  The problem is, you can not measure the amount of guilt you are going to feel until after the decision is made.  It is very possible that had I gone to the meeting, we could have joked about the whole matter and I would be writing a very different entry today, but the fact is, I made a choice to avoid the awkwardness and the result is a feeling of guilt that I probably am overreacting to.

It’s not always easy to see things from someone else’s point of view.  I try, but often I am blinded by my own stubbornness.  I know this and I try to work on it, and I think I have made some progress, but my ridiculous social fears push my actions in directions that make me defend myself against things that may or may not be right.  Of course, like a defense lawyer defending the obviously guilty, I make arguments for myself that don’t necessarily hold their water.  I can admit when I am wrong, but I do it grudgingly.

I can’t go back in time and change the things I have said or done in my life, or in that respect, things I have not said or not done.  Sometimes inactions are just as damaging as actions.  So what’s the solution?  People like to say we have to “step out of our comfort zone,” and sure, that’s true, but it’s not so easy to do.  Some of us are more daring than others.  Some people thrive on the adrenaline rush of new experiences, but I tend to avoid those instances.  I know I’ll always get that lecture that I am throwing my life away by not trying new things or having new experiences, but I wonder if the people telling me this think I don’t know this already?  I don’t need someone to tell me I could accomplish more in my life if I didn’t spend my free time in my apartment.  I already know.  I look out the window and see that I could be doing more, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still remain inside.  I make excuses, no matter how silly, to avoid challenging myself.  I set goals for myself and don’t accomplish them.  I’m not looking for someone to point this out to me, I am simply stating the facts.  This is who I am.  I don’t want forgiveness, empathy, or even encouraging words.  This is not a plea.  It is a statement.  I am the only person who can change who I am, and change does not come easily.  Off I go.

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~ by James on August 17, 2012.

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