I think of disappointment as the feeling I get when I get what I want — sort of. The image for me that looms large is being in eighth grade and winning a raffle first prize. The second prize was a stereo record player. The third and fourth prizes were something like tools or school supplies. I would have been happy with any of them, but instead I won the first prize — a huge, sturdy, last-your-whole-childhood swing set for the backyard. A great prize, really. Just eight years late.
Unlike resignation (when I wouldn’t even buy a ticket for the raffle) or discouragement (when I wouldn’t look at my ticket stub), disappointment is a critique of what I get. While I am convinced that all feelings of disappointment can be traced to childhood, the stimulus that prompts them is fresh and feels very current.
Take, for example, the Affordable Care Act. I am a fan of Medicare and Medicaid. I believe in these single-payer programs that make us a healthier and more-informed nation. However, while the ACA extends benefits to millions of otherwise uninsured people, we will find when the dust settles that the reason it could be passed by congress is that it is a boondoggle for insurers, the healthcare industry, big pharma, and manufacturers of durable medical equipment. What we won’t see, in the end, is that we are all that healthier as a nation.
Another disappointment I have lately is the poor quality of apologies that seem to be created by committee, limit truth telling, and make real reconciliation impossible. These apologies are more about loss prevention and risk management than they are about relationships. I have used the recent kerfuffle over Mrs. Clinton’s comments about Nancy Reagan as an example of this practice. The loss prevention aspect of the pseudo-apology seems to be in place; I have been reminded repeatedly to question the candidate at all is at its core sexist. People want to know why I have not given equal airtime to Mr. Sanders. Fortunately no one is asking why I have not commented on the various Republican candidates — frankly, I am not sure which of them is still running. All this smoke obscures the real fire: There was no real apology for her gaff.
My disappointment is not limited to national issues, for sure. In my own neighborhood, I strongly advocated for a pedestrian bridge to replace one that had failed with age. The project of building a new bridge took so long to complete, with its protracted political debates, that my late husband was never to cross it again. This bridge was part of the reason we selected our neighborhood in the first place, and we spent many lovely times together gazing through the tree tops to the lake just beyond. I got my bridge, just not on time. The bridge is also limited in its accessibility. One must cross a highway without crosswalks to get to it. To even suggest a crosswalk in my village is an assault on motherhood and the flag.
The list of disappointments is long. For six decades I wanted to marry a man. When we finally legally able to do so, my husband of thirty years was dead. My family is plagued with high blood cholesterol. For more than a decade I have taken a series of statin drugs. These have kept my blood cholesterol in check, but they have also managed to move fat around my body and given me a sleep disturbance. Similarly, a drug I take for heart disease gave me a chronic cough.
I am fascinated by the drug ads on television, showing happy people ready for a day of smiles when the most common side effects are leprosy, uncontrollably oily stool, loss of eyesight, and sudden death. But, hell, your erection will last for a month or more! I am now taking drops for an eye condition. The good news? My eye lashes will grow even longer. The down side? My eye color may change from blue to brown.
I guess if I want a pet dog and get a pig instead, I might just give it a disguise and pretend. After all, they are both intelligent mammals.