It starts in babyhood- we learn by watching- when you’re happy, you laugh; when you’re sad you cry. Then as we start talking, you realize mummy shouts when she’s angry and daddy stops talking when he’s frustrated. Everything is neatly compartmentalized in those little minds. There is no confusion, no further need to question.
But then, we grow up and suddenly all the barriers seem to be melting into each other. The neatly made compartments of infancy are confusingly encroaching into each others’ space.
You made it through the night with a temperature of 105 C- mom’s supposed to be happy; but, there she is- soaking your forehead with a wet towel and tears running down her cheeks. You ask her: mummy, why are you crying? I’m fine now. And she smiles through her tears and replies: these are not tears because I’m sad sweetheart, I’m crying because I’m so relieved; these are happy tears.
You are sitting in the class with the teacher reading out everyone’s test results. All your friends got decent marks, but you not only got less than all of them, but also it was completely unexpected. You think of your parents back home who are expecting a better result because you told them it would be so and your sadness intensifies. But, everyone else is happy. In fact, no one notices that you got less than what you expected. Your misery is neither expected by the crowd nor does it have company. You want to cry but can’t find a good enough corner. You are forced to celebrate with everyone else. Suddenly you realize you’re laughing- loudly, openly, excessively and you are not searching for your corner anymore. The urge to cry has passed. The urge to laugh has replaced it. But, the sadness is still intact.
You start to notice that mom doesn’t shout every time she’s angry and dad doesn’t stay mum every time he’s frustrated. You start looking at people and notice that all reactions are not the same- the feelings might be, you don’t know- but the reactions are definitely different.
Confusion builds up in your head to such an extent, you feel like pulling out your hair. Your mind feels like a mass of tangled up weeds in a sea of weeds. And over all this, you begin to experience this new crushing emotion- disappointment…
Disappointment- the word itself sounds so….so…disappointing. Preceded by anticipation, by excitement, by expectation; followed by hollowness so deep, it can’t be measured or gauged. It is the one feeling that has the potential to convert an extrovert to introvert, a class monitor to the class dud or even your best friend to ‘I don’t really know you’ person.
You can swallow anger, you can contain sadness, you can even hold your happiness- but once disappointed, it can’t be hidden- your smile seems stretched, your style seems stunted, your eyes seem hooded with loss. Not just your best friend, but the whole world can gauge the extent of your disappointment just by looking at you. This feeling opens you up for the entire world to see, it flays you bare and lays your heart out for all to pity, to sigh, to say: oh dear, that’s so sad for you….
At some time, when you were younger, when you didn’t think so much, you had a life in which disappointment was still a tangible emotion; until it became too tangible, ran too deep and lingered too long. That’s when you start fearing it. That’s when you acknowledge that this emotion is scary and that you’re scared. The anticipation of a disappointment runs your blood cold. This fear bites into you until it is all you think of. You want to get rid of it, win over it. That didn’t happen. Since the subject couldn’t be changed, you decide to do away with the object. You refuse to let disappointment into your life.
The repercussions tell now…
Disappointment is not a lone-stander. In order to master over it, I taught myself to not anticipate, to not expect, to accept what comes my way. Twisted philosophies ran through my head, cynicism gained a new respect from me and cold reality became the Mecca of my mind.
If I give an exam, but don’t expect a good result, there’s no chance to be disappointed, right? Or when dad comes home from an overseas trip, I don’t expect a gift? Or when my friends come for a sleepover and I don’t expect it to be too special? Or when I enter a competition and I don’t expect to win? Or basically, if I keep deleting from my mind every event with any potential of anticipation so I don’t expect anything at all??? See, no disappointment either, right?
It’s like, every time you open a Pandora’s Box, your first thought is: in this one, I guess, there’s no hope to make it all right. You see, if you expect hope to come out and finally, it doesn’t, you will be disappointed. And this self-preservation instinct becomes so sound, it becomes a reflex reaction and after a while, this reflex is all you’ve got left.
So, I get good marks in an exam, dad gets me a gift from his trip, I have an special sleepover with my friends or I win a competition- I’m supposed to be happy- I feel… strange. I’m with a group of people celebrating our win and I feel…awkward.
My smile is still stretched, my style is still stunted and my eyes are still hooded with loss. Only this time, it’s not a loss of expectation; it is a loss of the expected.