This holiday season, we are bidding farewell to 2020, and welcoming 2021 with a series we are calling The Conversation: A collection of brief, but meaningful insights and reflections curated and shared by members of the Domain7 team centering on themes that help us reflect on a tumultuous year, and move forward into the future we are exploring change, resilience, community, transformation, and grounded hope. Today’s host is Charlotte Taverner-Whelpton, engagement strategist at Domain7. Just a note that we are—like many of you—working largely from home, and that these recordings may have a homemade flavour. We hope you enjoy joining us in our work and neighbourhood environments for a little audio visit. Here’s Charlotte.
Hello and happy holidays. Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from the book Consolations by the poet, David Whyte. I first encountered David Whyte through the recommendation of my colleague, Ceri Rees, and the book Crossing the Unknown Sea, which is significant in shaping my own understanding of how our work in the world shapes our identity. I have particularly appreciated Whyte’s words and perspectives in this recent year, and hope that they might bring you some comfort and light in this season.
“Disappointment is inescapable but necessary; a misunderstood mercy and when approached properly, an agency for transformation and the hidden, underground, engine of trust and generosity in a human life. The attempt to create a life devoid of disappointment is the attempt to avoid the vulnerabilities that make the conversations of life real, moving, and life-like; the attempt to avoid our own necessary and merciful heartbreak. To be disappointed is to reassess our self and our inner world, and to be called to the larger foundational reality that lies beyond any false self we had only projected upon the outer world.
What we call disappointment may be just the first stage of our emancipation into the next greater pattern of existence. To be disappointed is to reappraise not only reality itself but our foundational relationship to the pattern of events, places, and people that surround us, and which, until we were properly disappointed, we had misinterpreted and misunderstood; disappointment is the first, fruitful foundation of genuine heartbreak from which we risk ourselves in a marriage, in a work, in a friendship, or with life itself.
The measure of our courage is the measure of our willingness to embrace disappointment, to turn towards it rather than away, the understanding that every real conversation of life involves having our hearts broken somewhere along the way and that there is no sincere path we can follow where we will not be fully and immeasurably let down and brought to earth, and where what initially looks like a betrayal, eventually puts real ground under our feet.
The great question in disappointment is whether we allow it to bring us to ground, to a firmer sense of ourself assure sense of our world, and what is good and possible for us in that world, or whether we experience it only as a wound that makes us retreat from further participation. Disappointment is a friend to transformation, a call to both accuracy and generosity in the assessment of ourself and others. A test of sincerity and a catalyst of resilience. Disappointment is just the initial meeting with the frontier of an evolving life, an invitation to reality, which we expect it to be one particular way and turns out to be another often something more difficult, more overwhelming, and strangely in the end, more rewarding.”
When I look back on the past year of 2020, it has been marked intensely with the experience of disappointment. As February came to a close, I set off on a two month sabbatical in which my husband and I had planned extensive travel around Europe as a way to mark the end of our living abroad. Of course, we all know how that story goes. The reality of that dream and those well-laid plans were disrupted by the global pandemic. And we quite quickly found ourselves back home in Vancouver, attempting to make sense of our world turned upside down.
When I reflect on Whyte’s words and the experience of disappointment, I’m first reminded of the permission I have to embrace and grieve this emotion. Disappointment is a part of my human reality that has the potential to make and shape me. It points towards a life fully lived and embraced where I choose to make plans that may be broken, to hope for things that may never come to fruition, to cultivate relationships that may indeed be lost. In my response to disappointment I have the choice to turn towards it and participate in it fully exploring what is over, around, and through this space. It is my opportunity to reorient myself to my own being, to my relationship with others, to my work in the world, to be reminded of the goodness of this life in which I have risked vulnerability and learned resiliency.
I want to leave us with the great question that Whyte asks at the end of this piece. Will we allow disappointment to bring us to a firmer sense of ourself assure sense of our world, and what is good and possible for us in that world? I’m Charlotte Taverner-Whelpton with Domain7 wishing happy holidays to you and your family. Thanks for listening.
Charlotte read an excerpt from David Whyte’s book Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, published by Many Rivers Press in 2015. We encourage you to seek out this and Whyte’s other books and publishing at davidwhyte.com. The Conversation is a special edition of Domain7’s podcast Change is in the Making. Our audio producer is Kurt Wilkinson and our designer is Ryan Martinez. Music provided by James Boraas, leadership and editorial support provided by Sarah Butterworth, Kevan Gilbert, and myself, Veronica Collins. Please tune in each weekday for the first half of December to hear more from our team on moving from 2020 into 2021 with hope and purpose, or visit us at domain7.com for more ideas, resources, and podcasts. Happy holidays.