Getting, owning and letting my disappointment be sets me free!

Doing more of that which brings joy and human connection into my life is part of the game I have created for myself called ‘Playing BIG’.  Coming from that context I booked a table-tennis table at the sports centre for 9:30 am today.  I was so excited at the thought, picture, of my sons and I playing table-tennis together on a proper table and in a room with lots of space to move around freely – as opposed to playing table-tennis in our lounge.

This morning I rang my son at 8:30 to let him know that I’d pick him up from his friends at 9:15.  And that is exactly what I did.  My son appeared to be in good spirits and I took that to mean that all was fine and I could expect a great experience: playing table-tennis with my son who enjoys playing table-tennis!  We got there, I paid £5 and headed to the table-tennis table.  When we got there delight was present for me: single table set-out in a large room (lots of space) just for us.  This is great and this is going to be great – that is the conversation that I was having with myself.

We got playing.  First my son said that he had to hit the ball harder (than home) – he occurred as being surprised and put out by this.  After practicing for five minutes or so he told me he wanted to play a game.  “Fine, let’s play a game” was my response.  When we got playing he kept asking me if I was playing my best and I kept telling him “Yes”.  He was not happy with this – he seemed to be convinced that I was taking it easy on him.  What was happening in my world: “How the heck do you expect me to play better given that you cannot cope with the level that I am playing at right now?  And yes, I am playing the best that I can play given the circumstances.  Quit asking the same stupid question and just focus on playing!”  On the outside I was calm because whilst i was getting activated by what occurred as a ‘poor attitude’ on my son’s part, I was in control and able to transcend i.

I won the first game – no surprise, no significance to it. We started playing the second game.  Now the room was too hot for my son – he kept saying how hot it was.  I offered to open the double doors – he refused. Then he kept telling me he was thirsty and so I offered him money so that he could go and get a drink – he declined.  All the time I kept calm and simply played table-tennis when there was table-tennis to play.  It soon became obvious to me that the table-tennis that we were playing did not match the ‘table-tennis schema’ that my son had in his head and so he did not want to play table-tennis.  Actually, there was no genius on my part – he kept repeating that he was bored.  At 10am – half an hour in reality yet an eternity in my experience I put a stop to it.  I simply said that I could see that the situation was not working for my son and so we should go home.d

What was there for me?  What was happening underneath the surface?  I noticed that I was disappointed and i (my automatic machinery) was disappointed and angry:  i kept wanting to blame and criticise my son; i felt betrayed; i felt that it’s time had been wasted; i did not approve of people who quit especially when that person is my son – i was brought up to finish whatever it started or it got punished big time.

Yet, I stayed calm and did not let i run me like it usually does.  How did that come about?  I was present to the fact that reality was perfectly OK (just great the way it is and the way it is not) and i noticed that the disappointment was a natural result of how i works.  i had jumped into the future and mapped out how it would be (a great game of table-tennis and a great bonding exercise with my son).  And when reality was reality and it did not match up with what i had expected then i had got upset.  I could see that i had created and was continuing to create my disappointment.  When I got this I owned that i was creating this disappointment and not my son.  I noticed that I soon as I got that and owned my disappointment and let it be without resisting it, it vanished.  And I was left with everything is OK – just the way it is and the way it is not – and that set me free to get on with what I needed to do this morning in complete peace!

How about you?  Are you owning your disappointment and thus setting yourself free?

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

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