The Dangers of Disappointment
Disappointment is a powerful adversary with a particularly annoying superpower: it can render us unreasonable—even stupid—in mere seconds. Most often, the effects of this despicable foe are fairly harmless, but be careful. Succumb too deeply and you might just find yourself out of your depth.
Let’s take the case of Bonnie the Wannabe Snow Bunny.
Bonnie is a nice girl, though somewhat dull according to a certain set of people. She’s shy and single, living the quiet version of a city life, which involves a lot of tea in her apartment and watching reality TV on a Friday night. Actually, she sounds like someone I might like to hang out with, but that’s beside the point. She yearns for love and adventure and life outside her four walls on the eighth story. She’s just too shy, though. More than that, she’s careful. Always careful.
Luckily, her college roommate Lisa lives a few blocks away, and Lisa is a party girl! Approximately once every three months, Lisa convinces Bonnie to hit the town. This is no small feat—in college Bonnie was a three-Zima-maximum kind of girl, and hated house parties—so when Lisa gets her out the door she takes full advantage.
On one of these outings in late autumn, they’re at some hip new spot and Lisa gets totally plastered. She starts to feel violently ill and heads to the bathroom, leaving a barely tipsy Bonnie and an empty bar stool in her wake. Bonnie retreats into her phone (what else is a shy girl to do left alone at the bar) and is jolted back to reality when a shockingly handsome man leans in beside her.
“Is this seat taken?” he asks.
“Um—“ Bonnie stutters. “Kind of?”
“Great,” says shockingly-handsome as he takes over Lisa’s stool. “My name is Jeff.”
“B-Bonnie,” she replies, trying not to look at him for fear she’ll go blind.
Lisa is back now, slurring and stumbling. “Who-oah! Bonnie!” She looks at Jeff as she leans heavily against Bonnie’s shoulders. “Good job Bons! Ima. . . I gotta go. . . home.”
Before Bonnie can protest, Lisa is tripping toward the door. She thinks she ought to go after her, but then Jeff looks at her and smiles. “Friend of yours?” he asks.
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Revenge is better with a side of bacon. . .
One thing leads to another, phone numbers are exchanged, and by Christmas Bonnie and Jeff are a couple, though oddly mismatched by Bonnie’s impression. Jeff is so cool and confident. He loves to be outdoors—hiking and camping. His idea of an awesome vacation is SCUBA diving in the Caribbean. Bonnie is constantly amazed by his thirst for life, and she is worried he’ll grow bored of her cautious, vanilla routine.
For Jeff’s part, he wants to do all of these things with Bonnie. Truthfully, he doesn’t mind that she is quiet and shy—he can see her unbridled potential as future adventure girlfriend. He expects her to make an effort, but he doesn’t begrudge her for the girl she currently is. He thinks maybe they’ll start off slow. It’s ski season, and he’s got the perfect idea.
One night in early January, in the middle of dinner, Jeff says “Let’s go skiing!”
Bonnie fights hard not to choke on her kale salad. Her eyes widen as her mind fills with images of broken bodies tangled around the trunks of cold, snowy pines. The thought of skiing is terrifying and everything within her wants to shout no, never, it’s too dangerous! But then she looks at Jeff, his face so hopeful and expectant; she remembers her secret desire to be adventurous, and knows how much this would mean to him.
“Alright,” she says. “But, I’ve never been skiing. I’m not sure I know how.”
Jeff laughs. “Don’t worry Bonnie. We’ll take it slow. I’ll teach you. We’ll start with the bunny hill.”
She breathes a sigh of relief. She can do this. “Alright,” she says.
So she prepares. She buys a super-cute snow suit, and borrows skis and poles and goggles from Lisa, who is luckily the exact same height. The weekend they’ve selected finally arrives, Jeff picks her up before dawn and they start the three-hour drive to the mountain.
“Are you excited?” Jeff asks.
“Oh, yes,” Bonnie replies. She’s not sure if she’s lying or not. She laughs awkwardly. “Wouldn’t it be funny if we got all the way up there and there wasn’t any snow on the mountain? It’s been an unusually warm winter.”
“Well, I’m not sure if that would be funny, but don’t worry about that. The mountain is open. Plus, they’ve got snow machines to supplement the natural snowfall.”
“Okay,” Bonnie says, unsure whether she’s relieved or disappointed.
A few hours later they arrive and by some this-would-never-happen-in-real-life coincidence, Bonnie’s prediction comes true, sort of. The bunny hill is bare and dry as an August day.
Angrily, Jeff confronts the guy at the ticket counter. “Your website says the mountain is open! What the hell?”
“Well, it is,” the ticket guy replies. “Just not the bunny hill. It’s been really warm and we only have the one snow machine. The double black diamonds are open.”
“Yeah, but my girlfriend has never been skiing before.”
The ticket guy shrugs. “Well then, I’d recommend you come back when the bunny hill is open again. It’s supposed to get cold and snow this week. Maybe next weekend. Sorry it’s not open, we have it posted all over our website. I mean, I guess you guys can use the double black diamond runs, but I don’t recommend them for beginners.”
Jeff sets his chin stubbornly and looks at Bonnie. “What do you think?” he asks.
Now, Bonnie has a choice. Does she make the obvious reasonable safe choice and come back another time, or does she disobey her better instincts and tackle a double black diamond when she’s never been on skis before?
She looks at Jeff, who wants this so badly. She looks down at herself, already dressed in her super-cute snow suit. She wants this too. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe—
Meanwhile, in real life
Okay, if you’re not rolling your eyes at the absurdity of this situation, then I haven’t done my job as a writer very well.
The truth is, I see this situation at the pool more often than I’d like to. People who are just learning to swim have an unfortunate tendency to show up when our shallow pool is closed for any number of reasons—classes, schedule, etc. They’re in their suits, goggles ready, and really really want get better at swimming. I can’t turn them away, not really, but when the only option is water with a minimum depth of seven feet—
It’s a harrowing thing for a lifeguard when, more often then not, they choose to try it anyways.
So what is at work here? I can only blame disappointment and its reckless superpowers. Well, I’m already here, might as well give it a go, right? It isn’t what I wanted, but—
And I want to be super critical of these people. I want to take them by the shoulders and shake them and shout what are you thinking?! But then I remember I’m human too, and just as guilty of making bad decisions in the face of disappointment, for example—
You’ve probably heard that I just published my first novel The Education of Ryan Gregori. It’s out now in paperback and Kindle formats, and you should definitely pick up a copy. But there is one format I really had my heart set on that looks like it isn’t going to happen:
This is a topic for another post, but since I was a teenager I’ve dreamed of being a narrator (in addition to the million other things I’ve dreamed of being). Well, what better opportunity to check that one off my list than to narrate my own book, right? It should be easy for me; I already have all the equipment from the years I spent dreaming of being a songwriter.The only problem is, I don’t have a great recording space. I live right on a main road, and my house is full of gorgeous, light-giving, sound-permeating windows. No one wants to listen to an audiobook where trucks and busses and car horns muddy up the background.
So I found a solution. I set up a recording space in my basement storage unit, right up against the thick, windowless, field-stone foundation. I started up my equipment, sat down and got ready to launch into chapter one, and then. . .
Noise. Noise everywhere, even in the basement. Noise my naked ears couldn’t detect, but my awesome microphone could. Noise that would take a master audio engineer a lot of time to eliminate. Noise that would sink my narration dreams.
So I was faced with a choice: disobey my better instincts and forge ahead, hopeful that I could salvage hours of recording in the end, or scrap this project until I found a better solution.
I wanted this really badly, and you can guess what I wanted to do. Luckily I came to my senses and thought of Bonnie, and those swimmers, and decided my time would be better spent writing this post. I wish I was in the basement right now reading out loud, but I’m a bunny hill kind of narrator, and there just isn’t any snow.
I’d love to know your thoughts! How do you deal with disappointment? Do you forge ahead and hope for the best, or do you regroup and come back later? For extra credit, how do you think the story ends for Bonnie? Let me know in the comments below.
And if you’re interested in learning more about The Education of Ryan Gregori you can check it out on Amazon.
Thanks as always for reading,