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How do you Manage Life's Disappointments?

I recently posed a question to the Facebook Group, the New Boomer Network, asking, "What's the biggest disappointment you've had to overcome in retirement?" I'm quite the editor, particularly after posting. This tendency holds especially true for my texts. If you ever receive a text from me that leaves you scratching your head, just give it a moment. I'll follow up with an edited text that clarifies what I meant (rolling my eyes).

Perhaps a more thought-provoking question could have been, "What disappointments are you currently grappling with and reconciling at this stage in life?" Since my initial post in the NBN, I've been mulling over the concept of disappointment. Here are the reflections that have come to mind:

Humanity's inability to coexist peacefully is a significant source of disappointment for me. No matter where you look around the world, there's an ongoing prevalence of war, armed conflicts, violence, and suffering. When I was a kid, the Vietnam War dominated media coverage. Presently, we're confronted with issues in places like Ukraine, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Israel, Haiti, Mexico, Central and South America, and beyond. The media warns us about imminent world conflicts involving China, North Korea, Iran, and more. It appears that over the past millennium, the global population hasn't made substantial progress. We still lean towards "my way or the highway "thinking, with a greater readiness to destroy than to build consensus. This persistent tendency is disappointing.

The division between East and West seems more pronounced than ever before. The boundary between the United States and China is being redrawn boldly, much like with a gigantic Sharpie marker. I recall attempting to create a yard sale sign with one of those massive Sharpies once – the outcome resembled the scribbles of my 3-year-old son, a bit messy. That parallels the current state of international relations – a bit of a mess. That’s disappointing.

The racial divide between White and Black communities is, in my view, worse now than during my childhood in the '70s. Back then, we laughed at the absurdity of racism in shows like "Blazing Saddles," "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons," "Laugh-In," and "SNL." My personal experiences included playing college football and working alongside people of all races. We shared laughter, supported one another, and formed strong friendships and professional relationships. Racist jokes and occasional slurs were lobed at each other, knowing we had each other's backs. It was a space for growth, learning, and love. Regrettably, today's climate stifles such interactions due to the fear of backlash from an overly sensitive mob. In an interview, Morgan Freeman once suggested that stopping the constant discussion of racism could help combat it. Yet, we're inundated with messages of hatred and racial tensions. This widening gap is disappointing.

Religion, too, appears inept in making any progress toward reconciliation. Christian versus Muslim, Buddhism versus Hinduism, even clashes within the same faith. The premise of "My God is the only true God" feels tiresome. To resort to violence against neighbors due to differing beliefs about the afterlife strikes me as utterly mundane. I find it challenging to argue that religion has genuinely improved the world or humanity. A quick look around reinforces this disappointment.

Climate change advocates versus climate skeptics present a markedly clear divide. Both sides claim to possess "The Science." Instead of critically assessing information, we often absorb beliefs from sources we align with, cementing them into our identities. This phenomenon extends to politics, religion, and even sports loyalties. (By the way, if you can't see the merit of my Buffalo Bills, you're unequivocally wrong –accompanied by a sheepish grin.) Sadly, the Bills have been a source of disappointment throughout my lifetime.

Setting aside discussions of capitalism versus socialism, the chasm between the rich and the poor looms large. A recent experience struck this reality home. During a wonderful hike along the Mediterranean, Sylvie and I encountered a private enclave inhabited by the ultra-wealthy. This gated community boasted security akin to the White House – guarded entry points, fences, and surveillance. However, French law ensured public access to the Mediterranean, and our hiking trail ran alongside their electrified fences. As I swam in "their space," I grappled with the notion that their wealth, whether earned or inherited, couldn't justify denying others that contributed to their success access to parts of the Earth. While I value the right to secure our families and our possessions, these extreme divisions are disappointments.

Amidst these disappointments, there is hope. We remain masters of our lives, regardless of possessions or bank account balances. We needn't blindly accept information from biased media outlets. Our identities are not shaped solely by others' perceptions. We learn and evolve through disappointments. By introspecting and challenging our beliefs, we uncover authenticity and derive happiness from it. While the Buffalo Bills have often let me down, their success or failure doesn't dictate my happiness.

The tragedy in Ukraine brought about by Russia is incomprehensible. While I won't ignore the issue, I refuse to let it consume my thoughts and imprison me in despair. The world is as it is, humanity as it is. The most impactful change we can effect is within ourselves. By examining our beliefs and embracing vulnerability, we discover our genuine selves and reframe our place in the world. This transformation, rooted in self-assessment rather than external influences, yields authentic happiness. I've found this process quite surprising and believe it can do the same for you.

As for the Buffalo Bills, time will tell. Regardless, I'll find happiness, irrespective of their performance this year.


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