Disney and the Art of Disappointment

Last night, it was much easier to begin writing a post because we had a curve ball thrown at us that had us back in our room earlier than the previous few nights.

Tonight, we were sitting down waiting to watch Disney’s Fantasmic show at Hollywood Studios. I was super excited because neither Maya nor I had ever seen it. We managed to get to the theater early and lucked out with seats that were pretty much perfect – just high enough to see everything clearly without being too far away and dead center with no one sitting in front of Maya, so she didn’t have to peer between adults to see what was going on. The Goldilocks Zone of event seating. The show began and it was, well, fantasmic fantastic. All of a sudden about 20 minutes into the show while Jafar is whirlpooling down to be trapped into his lamp prison the video projection on the water freezes… a collective gasp/groan/sigh emerges from the hundreds of people in the amphitheater, and a moment later blinding house floodlights come on and an announcer informs us that due to technical difficulties the show is unable to continue. Maya bursts into tears.

I gather her up in my arms and squeeze her, wishing I had a Disney magic wand to wave to make either the show go on or Maya’s disappointment disappear. I carry her out of the theater (no mean feat – she’s getting HEAVY and there are a LOT of stairs!) while she sobs and I’m trying to soothe her, apologize for the cancelled show, and assure her it’s going to be alright.

Sidebar Background

Quick note to provide a little more context prior to this evening. For those who are tuning in for the first time, we’ve been planning this Disney trip for three years, and had to lock down a lot of details a year-plus in advance to make this all work. In order to get guaranteed seating at the show, we had to buy a special dining package at a pretty expensive Hollywood Studios restaurant. Without this guaranteed seating, people begin lining up two-plus hours ahead of time to get in. Seating is guaranteed, but not assigned, meaning the earlier you show up the more likely you are to get good seats. That we timed it as well as we did to get these seats was nothing less than Disney magic. Furthermore, after getting our seats, we still had to wait for 45 minutes for the show to start. For anyone with a very fidgety nearly-six-year-old, you can imagine what we were up against. It seemed the stars had aligned and we were due to get our perfect Disney magic memory for our little princess and us. Sigh. So, beyond the initial setup I mentioned, this was years’ worth of planning and additional expense in the making, so needless to say we were disappointed as well.

Disappointment Deconstructed

While carrying Maya out and feeling her shuddering sobs against me, I reflected on how disappointed I felt given all of the circumstances I mentioned above. Yet, somehow, my disappointment seemed…less. Bearing witness to Maya’s reaction (caveat: she was clearly exhausted as well and does not usually cry at the drop of a hat) made it somehow easier to make space for, recognize, and not get lost in my own feelings of disappointment.

Yet our (read: my) reaction to disappointments much smaller than this are often merely a (slightly) more mature version of the meltdown I was carrying in my arms. In particular, when we have a specific situation we have been working toward for a long time, and have a specific vision of how it should and will be that goes sideways – we lose our $#!+ (pardon my %).

Disappointment is totally understandable given the Action/Inspiration/Motivation cycle articulated by Mark Manson in his book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.” If we have enough emotional inspiration, it motivates us to take action to achieve the vision (inspiration) desired. According to Manson, each piece of the cycle reinforces the others. No matter where you begin on the cycle, momentum continues to build, meaning that as you take more steps to make your vision a reality, it increases both your motivation and your inspiration over time. When a vision is realized, it can release this built up motivational and inspirational energy as positive feelings ranging anywhere from satisfaction to utter ecstasy. When this increasingly built up vision suddenly comes crashing down, all of that pent up emotional energy washes over you instead in a negative way: disappointment, anger, frustration, etc.

This is an area I struggle with as a person trying to live mindfully while still living in everyday life situations. On the one hand, the hope is to neither cling to good things nor avoid bad things. On the other, if we went through daily life trying to have neutral feelings about everything from winning the lottery to accidentally chopping off a finger, it seems like a pretty colorless existence. Our innate nature is to change and improve our circumstances, so the challenge lies in using the Action/Inspiration/Motivation cycle to do so, while not becoming so invested that disappointment threatens to overwhelm us.

At the End…?

I wish I had a silver bullet or a specific action plan to get to that magical point, but others far wiser and more enlightened than me have struggled to do this. What I can tell you, is that I did have a conversation with Maya the next morning explaining how her disappointment was shared by us and everyone else in the theater. I used the fact that we’ve been planning this trip for years (she’s been aware of this) means we were particularly disappointed because of the cancellation; however, sometimes, this is what life throws at you. You work hard and have a plan and a goal, and sometimes the plan and/or the goal don’t happen the way you thought. It’s okay to feel sad (disappointed), but it’s also (ultimately) okay that what you planned didn’t happen. Sad but still okay. I hope she got it. Stay tuned to find out I guess…?

Consistency Is the Key

I swear this isn’t just a rip off of the title for @RyanHoliday‘s latest book (which I haven’t yet had a chance to read yet, but am so looking forward to); however, it is the truth for beginning to build a habit.

I probably picked one of the worst times possible to begin this new odyssey into blogging and writing (even if the main point is to begin by doing it for myself regardless of audience or lack thereof). I was heading off on a very long family vacation with very little downtime (even less than I originally thought possible) followed immediately by the holiday season, which can take on a life of its own.

I’ll be honest and say that writing this post is about the last thing I want to be doing after getting five hours of sleep last night (on top of four the night before and four the night before that…) combined with walking over 25 thousand steps today according to my Fitbit, and prepping for another day of doing pretty much the same if not more tomorrow.

BUT……if I’m really going to try to build this habit of writing consistently to try to improve the skills I’m trying to improve and seeing where it goes, tonight was probably the best shot this week, given the schedule we’ve got going forward.

That doesn’t mean this will be the magnum opus I’d love to present in blog form, filled with wit, humor, poignancy and prepped to go viral. In fact, this will end very shortly after this sentence.

The fact is, getting in the reps matters when you’re talking new habits, and this post is that rep. Not a great rep, but a rep nonetheless. And, sometimes that really reluctant, objectively terrible rep is what makes all the difference.

Disney!

Today we head out on our first family trip to Disney World! We’ll be there for almost 2 1/2 weeks [sidebar: don’t be too jealous of us – this is literally the first non-driving family trip we’ve taken that wasn’t centered on visiting extended family and definitely the longest one we’ve ever taken].

A little background

I’ve mentioned before that our daughter Maya is five years old. We had originally planned on taking the trip last December, but for a number of reasons decided to push it off to this year. I keep telling people we were lucky we did! She is on the smaller side for her age, so had we gone last year, there would have been a lot of rides she couldn’t ride, and she would have been super disappointed. Now there are maybe two she won’t be able to do.

The other thing to note is that when I tell people about our trip and how long we’ll be there, I’m usually met with one of two reactions:

First, the “oh wow!” reaction of people who are excited for us, can’t believe we’re taking her for the first time, that we are going to be going for so long.

Second, that “oh wow!” reaction of people who follow it up with some version of “that sounds like the seventh circle of hell.”

I need to clarify that both Michael and I are Disney people, so for us, this was not a “grit your teeth and bear it for the kid” trip. We are excited in and of ourselves. We’ve actually been laying the foundation for this trip for awhile. About four years ago, we began showing her the Disney full-length animated feature films beginning with the first one – Snow White, from 1938 – and made our way through the Disney canon over time. It was actually a great family activity, which worked out even better than we anticipated since we realized that the simpler stories Disney used early on were great for Maya when she was young, and as she grew up she was able to follow the increasingly complex stories in the movies over time.

image of Cinderella's Castle made of legos

Also, “Santa” had been told of our upcoming trip last year and he brought her a Lego set of Cinderella’s castle. We started in January and our goal was to put it all together by the time we left for our Disney trip. Not gonna lie, it seemed like we might not make it toward the end, but we made a real push in the last couple of weeks and managed to get it all completed.

Michael had gone to Disney World many times before both as a child and as an adult; however, his last trip was in 2001 (another story for another day, but he was actually stuck there when they grounded the flights after 9/11 and had to take a bus all the way home!).

I had gone to Disney World once with my family years ago, but at that time there were only two parks: Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. Growing up in San Diego, we often went to Disneyland, so my parents’ perspective after that trip was “why should we fly across the country when Disneyland is right in our back yard?” Can’t say I blame them.

Since Michael was last there and certainly since I was last there, Disney has added a lot to the parks, so we’ll both be getting a ton of new experiences ourselves. But I think the most exciting part will be seeing Disney through the eyes of our daughter.

That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.

Walt Disney

Zen and the Art of Disney

Fortunately for me, Michael’s a Disney planning ninja so the itinerary is well mapped out, pretty balanced, but full. This means, as a friend mine says, “it’s time to put your patience pants on.”

Family unity can get tested all the more on a vacation, for no other reason than the sheer inability to get away from each other. Think about it: you spend most of your daily lives apart from each other. You’re off at work, they’re off at school/afterschool/activities most of the week, meaning face-to-face time is often a pretty small chunk of the day. Even worse, much of this time is functional – getting fed, ready to get out the door, getting bathed and so on. Imagine going from that relatively small amount of time to suddenly spending every waking (and sleeping) minute together for weeks? The irony is, we plan vacations to gain back the quality family time we lose on a daily basis, and it can sometimes blow up in our faces.

I write this less as an instructional “how to” and more of a talking myself through what I’m about to jump into. It’s not something I had given much thought to before writing this post, but the simple exercise of anticipating the challenges and gaming out potential coping strategies is very therapeutic.

If you think about it, this is exactly the kind of exercise or planning we do with so much of our lives – work projects, home projects, personal improvement – but we often fail to do with the things that matter most – friendships, relationships, and parenting. I’ve been trying to apply this strategy more and more to these areas with the aim of deepening the meaning and making the activities and the time more intentional. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post diving into this more)

So let me leave you with the question I’ve been asking myself:

What is your intention for your relationships, and how are you going to make it a reality?

Hello, world

Hi all. My name is Matt, and I’m – you guessed it – a parent. I have a 5-year-old (going on 15) daughter named Maya and this is my first attempt at a blog. My aim is to build a few habits and see where they take me.

First, I’m attempting to build a consistent writing habit. I had been attempting to do so in private Word docs and found that I just wasn’t being consistent with the habit. By creating a public-facing blog and working to set a schedule for publishing posts (stay tuned for that once I’ve had a chance to wrap my head around what I’ve just jumped into!) on a regular basis, I hope to add a little accountability to this habit. (Also, it’d be nice to actually get better at the actual ACT of writing)

Second, I’m attempting to put to words some of the daily struggles I have as a parent. I feel too often in this Instagramified world we are constantly bombarded by posts from parents that make their lives look amazing and perfect, and make parenting look easy. This has not been my experience, and I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to share some parenting realness. Let’s be clear – my daughter is actually pretty amazing. All told, she’s actually a really great, and a really easy kid. This blog will NOT be a bitch-fest or a nonstop outlet for complaining about parenting, since much of the time I have great and wonderful stories to share and will do so. However, because Maya is usually such an easy kid, it makes it all the harder for me when she suddenly goes into meltdown mode since it’s not something I’m grappling with all the time. Hopefully putting out there the good, the bad, the mistakes, the lessons learned, and most importantly the wins will help me make sense of this crazy endeavor that is parenting.

I won’t bore you all (and by all right now, it’s likely just me talking to myself for now!) with more at this point, since future posts will fill you in more on who I am, who my family is, and what we’re up to. In the end, just taking a leap online to say: “Hello, world!”