There a million reasons disappointment creeps into our lives. As a teenager, I was so hard on my parents, especially my dad. I wanted him to be kinder, and to listen to me, really hear what I was saying. I never thought how disappointed I could be in myself until an experience that shifted my perspective like only life experience can do.
One morning I was eating some breakfast before going off to do my chores. I like to stand to eat breakfast. I'm not really a sitting type person. I was standing in the kitchen, eating my toast and looking out the window when I saw my dad hit a dog with a broom. I didn't see happened prior to the act of violence I just witnessed. I only saw the broom hitting the dog and the dog trying to defend itself by snapping at my dad, which in turn, made my dad smack him again. I stood at the kitchen sink, instantly furious. Every ounce of my being wanted to go out there and smack my dad with a broom. I couldn't believe the guy that I looked up to in so many ways would lower himself to that kind of behavior. I thought he was smart enough to do things a different way. The way he taught me to be kind and quiet around horses. Well, why couldn't he do that with dogs? Several minutes later, I heard the screen door open to our kitchen and it snapped me out of my thoughts. I jumped a little and looked over to see my dad coming into the house. "Hey, Shmitty." he said. The look on his face was little tired, a little worn down. He came inside and put the broom in the corner of the kitchen.
I stared at him and felt the anger boiling up inside of me. He paused at the door and didn't move. "What?" he said.
I had several choices at this moment. One, I could say, "nothing" and walk outside like it was just another morning. I could act like I didn't see what I just saw and try to forgive my dad. I could go check on the dog and make sure he was ok, but I also knew the damage wouldn't be physical. The damage was more about trust and how the dog would now fear my father and possibly any human being. Two, I could let my anger turn into yelling. I could say mean things and call my dad names. I could rant and rave about how terrible he is to animals and he shouldn't be allowed to have a dog at all. This was the way my mother communicated with my dad, so that was always an option. My third choice, the one I chose to take was to say this:
"Daddy, I am so disappointed in you." Tears welling up in my eyes, I held his stare for as long as I could and then ran out the door.
I cried all the way to the dog house where this beagle sat in the opening of his worn down house. He looked at me as I quietly came over and sat down near the house. The dog cowered at the entrance. His head was low, his eyes to the ground. I looked at him for a long time and wondered about fear and pain and how easily it is for someone stronger than us to strip away our confidence, our ability to believe in ourselves. How easy it is for moments to change our life. I reached out my hand and smiled a little. The expression on my face, changed the expression on his. He lifted his head a little and took one step out of his dog house. One tiny step. Granted, this dog was a hunting dog, so he probably was a little confused with why I was spending so much time with him. Somewhere in the moments of me reaching out my hand and him taking that one step, the energy around us must have changed because his tail started to thump, thump, thump on the floor of the dog house. My face responded with a bigger smile. I looked down at the ground and then he came right over to me like we were best friends who hadn't seen each other in a long time. He trusted that I was there to be friends, not foes. I rubbed his head and around his ears. I patted his body and he pressed his body next to me as if he just wanted to get as close to me as he could. I looked into those soulful eyes that all dogs have and responded with as much love and healing energy as I could for this animal that was tied to a chain, that no one really respected at all unless he did a good job, hunting rabbits out in the field. At one point, I looked up into the sky and then over to our humble little farm house. Sometimes I wondered how I managed to find myself with this particular family, this particular situation where love and kindness seems to be absent at every turn. None of it matters I told myself. All I can do is try my best not to disappoint. Not to hurt others. And then something occurred to me that was a huge revelation. Something that has stuck with me since that day when I was brave enough to speak up to my father. The day my dad's heart was broken by me. There is no way to not disappoint and no way to not hurt others. In that moment, I realized I hurt my dad terribly. I hurt him because he was so shocked that I said that to him. He was literally speechless. My dad was a quiet man, but he also was a straight shooter. He told you how it was. Maybe I shocked him into a new awareness about what he was doing. I don't know. I do know that I regret saying that. I wish I would have said something else. I wish I would have said something like "Dad, just stop."
We all have to pay very close attention to our words and the meaning behind those words. If they are meant to hurt, I guarantee you they will. The worst part is we may think we want to hurt that person, that they deserve it in some way, but it simply isn't true. Our whole purpose in life is to love - not punish, only love. There is punishment enough in this life, naturally. Disappointments hurt and then create strength and wisdom. I am so thankful my dad forgave me for those words. I am so thankful he chose to allow my own mistake to be punishment enough. He knew that I would learn. He had faith in me all the way. Faith that I would learn that disappointments hurt, and also bring us closer together.
On a lighter note, he also had faith in me to learn how to ride, fall off, get back on, fall off again, and never said a word to me, accept, "What the hell is the matter with you?" when I was dusting myself off. :) I can still hear his voice. It will live on forever inside of me, up in the stars, and wherever horses and I meet. Thank you, daddy. I am forever grateful for the kindness I couldn't see at the time, but very clearly see now.