As the emotions which I experience change from one thing to the next, it triggers memories of past experiences and of family stories I have read or heard. This week, my thoughts and memories are reliving the euphoric feelings of anticipation and of its antithesis, disappointment. Why do these two extremes always seem to go together? Is it possible to experience one without the other?
Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I have learned (quite well I think) to mask how I am feeling on the inside. While the crowd goes wild at the great performance or unbelievable feat, I am quietly taking it all in. It doesn’t mean that I am any less impressed or excited. On the contrary, all my senses are absorbing and storing the experience. Long after the cheers and applauds have quieted, even after the stadium or stage is dark and empty, the experience is still vibrating inside of me like when it happened. I guess I am more of a storage device than I am a reflector.
However, it seems to me that this high is inevitably followed by a low in equal proportion. It breaks my heart (though I don’t show it on the outside) to watch one of my children, bursting with excitement for a new toy, but then discovers that it isn’t as fantastic as was portrayed on TV. As I watch their body language change, and I see in their eyes, the realization of being deceived, I am thinking that this is a hard but good lesson for them to learn. But is it really? Is the low feeling of disappointment really required as an offsetting balance for the high of anticipation?
Back when my Great-grandpa, Christian Haraldsen was a young boy living in Norway, he heard wild tails of how wonderful and easy life would be when they could live in America. Life was hard in for him in Norway. His childhood memories include frantically running through the streets of the city looking for an orange, so he could fulfill his sister’s dying wish for a taste. That was a bitter memory. There wasn’t an orange to be found. At the same time, missionaries were telling Christian and his widowed mother how good life was in America, and more specifically in the Zion of the west. Christian envisioned a life free of the religious persecution which he knew in his home in Risor. Later in life he related that after listening to the missionaries talk about Zion, he expected to see “a roasted hog with a fork stuck in its back, just walking down the street waiting to be eaten.”
I can only imagine the great anticipation Christian felt when as a 12 year old lad, he and his family boarded the “Monarch of the Seas” with almost a thousand other immigrants. The reality of life in the American west was a big let down. Not only was food scarce and hard work plentiful, but persecutions continued. Apparently, those missionaries forgot to mention that sinners also lived among the Saints. In the Hyrum, Utah of 1875, lifting your hat to a passing lady in the street was reason for laughter and ridicule. Christian had to quickly adapt to the less refined ways of the west. I wonder how long and deep was his disappointment of real life in the American west. If I were Christian’s father, observing his disappointment of the real American West versus the advertised American West, I know my heart would ache for him. But then would I think to myself, “That is a hard but good lesson to learn,” like I do when I see my own children go through disappointment?
While going to college, a friend and I made plans to cross the United States on a bicycle tour. After talking and researching and planning for several weeks, he said something that really took me back. “We’ll probably never go on this trip, but it sure is fun planning it.” Until then, I had totally planned to follow through with the plans. But it wasn’t long after that, I met a Beautiful Redhead who later became my Beautiful Wife. Needless to say, my priorities quickly changed and my college friend was completely right in his prediction. Of course I was too distracted with my new interest to notice the disappointment of not taking the tour.
Guess that I can store up the emotions of disappointment as well as excitement. This week I wish I were more of a reflective device and less of a storage device. I guess I need to go find something new to anticipate.