Desire and Disappointment
As we transition into the fall season, Dan and Becky Allender take a moment to reflect on their summer: the desires they had, the disappointments they felt, and the surprising lessons learned when things didn’t go as planned.
Dan: Well, the fall is upon us and I have the great privilege of being with my beloved wife, talking about the beginning of the fall and the end of the summer. It’s sort of that transitional period where at least in my body, I’m not really ready fully and completely to give up the summer, but the fall has come, September has arrived and it’s time to live into a different season. If you know much about the weather of Seattle, in some ways, July and August, September bears, some of the greatest beauty, sun, light, et cetera. But as we move to October and November, it does begin to alter. So there is a degree not fully yet in which I am sort of relinquishing one season kind of putting on slightly different clothes for this, but this transitional period, we just find it so important to not just move on, not just kind of go okay, okay. Time for the school, school clothes, binders et cetera. But it’s really important to, in some sense, let, go and put on, take off, put on not only clothing, not only attitude, but in some sense to be able to go from one season to the next, with some degree of ownership and appreciation. So if I can ask it this way, Becky, how was your summer given that I lived a good portion of it with you? I’m still quite curious. How was your summer?
Becky: Oh, our summer was good and we had some low points, but yeah, I, it’s so hard to like say goodbye to summer. It just is. And I think for some reason this was harder than normal for me, cuz in some regard I get ready for the fall and have… I like routine. So I look forward to that, but yeah, we’re still kind of in between the two.
Dan: Yeah. So if I ask it a little bit more, what were the low points? What were the high points? When we think about trying to move from one season to the next, I think there is some level of putting words to the experiences of highs and lows, goods, things that brought, some degree of disappointment or heartache. So from that vantage…
Becky: Well, I think some of the highs were the same as the lows. We had the opportunity of hosting our son and his wife and their two children, age 5 and 10 in our home all summer, which had great joy and also great complexity. And then when other families, our two daughters, when they would come with their children and their husbands, it just makes for a very complex weekend or evening. It just that’s my disappointment that I just can’t hold it easily.
Dan: Yeah. To underscore as much as we love delight, in having our family with us, I’ll least use the word, I’m exhausted and I don’t know how much is their growing age and complexity my and our growing age, but there is that sense of, we love when they come and we love when they depart.
Becky: That’s true.
Dan: And where were the points of complexity for you that opened the door to what we’re really wanting to address, is that part of letting go? I, we think it requires some engagement with disappointment and the moment you open up disappointment, you’re opening up the issue of disillusionment, of demands, uh, of in many ways the things of our own, will just say our own struggle with life itself, let alone the particularities of time and people.
Becky: So you’re, that was a long question. I’m just saying how I was disappointed. And how well it’s usually I’m disappointed in myself cause I’m very much of a doer and I need order for my head to feel on correctly. So I always long or to have been able, just to sit with a child or sit with children and not, worry about the chaos of the house or the kitchen or the yard even. So I’m pretty hard on myself that way and I don’t have to stay completely in that because there were victories, but I’m more aware of, the downside of myself.
Dan: So I’m assuming that disappointment also has to do at least in what you’ve put words to some degree of identity, like how you ought to be with regard to a child sitting and reading versus attending to the kitchen that feels like a tornado has ripped through.
Becky: Yes, yes. I wanna be more of that grandparent that sits on the porch swing and reads or lets them read to me. I wanna be that more and I never seem to be that enough.
Dan: Well, and I, I think this is a good point of contrast. I’m just more aware of the disappointment in others. I can easily tune in to the reality of being disappointed with that. I was not patient. That I didn’t take more time to like this morning, with a few days left before the full-fledged arrival of fall, I was out with two grandsons, actually three but two in particular to work on their casting, to help them, shall we say progress in the eventuality of fly fishing together some time this fall and it’s not an easy sport to learn. But there are some basics that if you simply follow a core rule or two things will work out. Okay. But I could feel myself saying again and again. No, no, no, no. Don’t break your wrist. No, no. Bring the rod up to your ear. 10 o’clock one, o’clock. A few core rules and their patience waned after I’m gonna say 90 seconds.
Becky: Yeah. It wasn’t very long…
Dan: And I could feel that, come on, you guys, you’re gonna have so much fun if you’ll just learn these few basics, that’s what’s internal and I could feel that coming across. So I’m aware of disappointing myself, but somehow I’m more clear of the disappointments of, our family that we thought would be with us for a week, but ended up spending time with friends and ended up spending time with other family members. And we got so little compared to what I thought we would have. Those are the kind of moments that just sort of linger as what do I do with desire. That seems to be at war with my own heart and with the hearts of others.
Becky: It’s so much easier just to kill that desire. Cause I think I didn’t set myself up to think, oh, they’re gonna be here for a week. Because it was more like two and a half days spread apart over seven days. And, and that’s just so little time. So I think that I actually kill desire a little bit to monitor my own heart so…
Dan: Well, and again, the bind is for most of us, we either diminish or kill desire as you put it or desire becomes a movement toward resentment, a movement toward, it’s just not right. It’s not fair. Why are we not getting more than what we thought we ought to have? And in that, it’s where I would say almost all disappointment helps us enter into illusions, how we think life ought to be. And again, so often those illusions feel so legitimate that to even put it into the category of illusion, it’s really the word expectation. But in the word expectation, you have not only demand of what should be, but you’ve got this often fantasy of how the world or how a visit or how an interaction with fly rods, and a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old ought to go. All that leads to the reality of it’s so much, so much to actually tend to disappointment and not quit or feel indulgent and demand. So if I can come back to you, my beloved, where did disappointment lead you as you have come into a bit of this transition for the fall?
Becky: Well, I think it just comes back to just being impatient with myself and that’s such a circular roadway down to the bottom. And so I would think I would be better at this by now.
Dan: Ah, that’s that’s back to the word illusion.
Becky: Yes. Yes. It’s like haven’t I felt that loneliness of having cleaned up while they were around and I need to let that go and ’cause things do need to be finished. They do need to be, kind of straightened up. But I, again, that’s my tendency to find fault with, this dealing with chaos.
Dan: Yeah. Well, and again, to ask the question again, what are the illusions you find actually being exposed through facing disappointment and that’s, again, something that we’re going to try and evolve a thought process for you for us. And that is it’s if disappointment only leads to damnit, it didn’t work again. Why do I even bother? You have in one sense, leaned into an approach to desire that annuls, at some level annihilates and will not in one sense, intensify your own growing capacity to be human, to be alive, to be rich with desire, but also free from demand. So that framework of asking, so where did disappointment with yourself? Where has it begun to move you?
Becky: Well actually it’s moved me to Philippians in particular just to have a new beginning just to get my eyes off myself and to trust in so many promises that Paul, speaks to in those four chapters.
Dan: Anything in particular?
Becky: Well I happen to read Philippians as I was pondering this podcast and I coming upon chapter four where rejoice in the Lord, always, this is chapter four, verse four. I will say it again. Rejoice, let your gentleness be evident to all the Lord is near, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. I mean just reading that, it encourages me. It takes my eyes off my failure off what off, what I would want to have been as a grandmother, wife, mother. It just settles me. It’s like, yeah, it gives me hope.
Dan: Well, and what I find in that passage at least initially is, it almost seems to justify not doing the work we’re asking people to do.
Becky: Well, I didn’t intend for that.
Dan: No, I think it’s, it’s, it’s a good issue for us to explore. And that is, you know, when you own disappointment, it does not look like rejoicing. When you are indeed engaging something of this intersection between disappointment and disillusionment and demands. It feels like the spade work. It feels like you’re digging into the dirt. Why can’t we just go to the good fruit? And I think in some ways what you’re ending with in Philippians four, required a whole lot through the first three chapters of, in some sense, doing the hard work of digging, of owning that the conflicts that he’s dealing with in the city of Philippi, basically boils down to huge conflicts, huge disappointment, a failure truly of living out something of the wonder of the gospel. So you’re coming, I think, beautifully to where we need to land, but the labor to get there requires, shall we say the contextual labor of entering into, conflict disappointment in some sense, the reality of the fly fishing lesson didn’t go well. Some of the visit of our family this summer did not go as we desire. And I think my inclination, uh, as somebody who likes to solve problems is how can I do it better? How can I do it different? What got in the way, what can be done understanding to resolve versus just allowing myself to experience that there will be some degree of disappointment with everything. Nothing will be as we desire and I can choose to limit what it is I desire and therefore make it appear that I’m rejoicing, when all I’ve actually done is thinned out desire so that I don’t have to face something of that gritty, dirty complexity that comes whenever you’ve got, at least in our case, 10 people living in the same house, between the ages of two and 70. And I mean just trying to decide what we’re gonna watch.
Becky: Oh my goodness. Yes. Yeah.
Dan: So back to that question of where has disappointment opened the door for you to rejoice?
Becky: I think what, well, I’m still thinking of an incident that might fit into what you’re asking, but I think when we were all going to go to the beach together and how we’d waited hours, or it took hours to finally get to that moment, there was a lot of packing. There was a lot of organizing, there was a lot of towels cars. It was, it was seemed overwhelming. And then at the last minute, when most everyone’s in the car are headed that way. One of our granddaughters, well, Grace, she just kind of crumpled on the floor in our hallway and started crying. And to me, you know, it’s like, do you pick her up, get her in the car seat, let’s make this happen. This has been our, you know, this is our last chance, but it was so clear. I just, as if I heard Jesus say Becky, just get on the floor with her. And it was like, God, and then looking at you in the doorway and just saying, I’m staying here, I’m staying with Grace. And it’s the very thing. My heart longed for was time with one grandchild without the chaos of the other people. And it wasn’t, it didn’t start out great. It ended up wonderfully, but it was treacherous territory for a while with a six-year-old on the floor in our hallway. And, the goodness of, pursuing her attuning, my heart, my eyes, my body towards her, allowing her to be silent for a while until she could begin to say what, what she was feeling. And I think that was one of the highlights of my summer. And I think this is part of the disappointment. I feel as a older woman, because I’m like, was there a grandparent that attuned to me at one of those moments where I was outta sorts and you don’t know, but I think the older you get you long for that you long that, that you had had that and you even, I mean, or longing never goes away. Unfortunately it’s always there. So longing that even as a 70-year-old, that attunement, those times are fleeting where we get what our heart yearns for. We don’t even have words or awareness that that’s what we were yearning for.
Dan: Yeah. And I don’t want to be a word critique here, but you say the word, unfortunately. I say fortunately, because you read that child’s desire and it was disruptive. I mean, that moment, I think for both of us, uh, you know, I’ve, I, I had some fishing that actually was pretty spectacular this summer. So I’m not gonna say this was the very best event, but it’s one of the top three moments of the summer where I’m sort of looking at you and grace on the floor and it’s like, get up, let’s go. This is what we’ve been planning and the disappointment of you not coming and of, you know, a plan being derailed. And yet in seeing that choice of you being with her on the floor of tending to her and her parents, having the wisdom to not push at that point, we gave up going to the beach. We went to a local coffee shop where there are some fountains that our other granddaughter Parker could play in. It was a moment in which the illusion of this is what a good day will be and you can hear in that illusion, the demand of, dammit, we need some significant time with this family alone without anyone else. And all of a sudden, it’s being disrupted by this contentious six-year-old, and then a compliant grandmother who’s going along. I mean, I am sad that that went through my mind at all. Yet there was in the process, not only from the vantage of what happened for the two of you, but a goodness that was there in that I had a chance to be with my son-in-law the longer conversation without, shall we say the sand and chaos of a beach. So I would go back to say, what do you take from that moment as you go into the fall?
Becky: I think the major thing I take is to slow down, to read the room, to read you, to read my own heart, I think, to slow down, cause none of that would’ve taken place on that afternoon if I hadn’t slowed down. And if Grace hadn’t melted down and it was so clear to me as the afternoon wore on that you were in the perfect place to be with our daughter and her husband and Parker. It was perfect. Certainly not at all what we had planned, but how it unfolded felt. So holy. It felt so good that Jesus gave us that afternoon so different than what we had planned.
Dan: Yeah. So I think for the, the framing of how we take the summer into the fall, it’s fascinating to me that I have a moment, again, a little too extraneous to go into, but a moment at the end of a day of fishing, where we were, Steve and I, getting the boat on the top of our car, we’re finished, I’m exhausted, but there’s that sense of, oh… I can let down now that the day is over and in that process, I stepped off the car backwards, something of a push, and literally stepped on a boulder that I saw as clearly in the beginning as literally in my face, yet I forgot. And in that forgetfulness another way of saying it and the rapid movement without the awareness of my body and my world, I hit that Boulder and flipped. And took a really significant fall. So when I think about where I bear a kind of, oh, damnit, it’s that moment, and I think that’s an important phrase. There are, after a whole summer of, of a slew of wonderful and difficult events, it’s nearly impossible to hold them all. But the question of what moments linger either of sweetness, at least in this case with regard to you and Grace, and/or, like failure. Like a failure of awareness that brought, still brings a little bit of physical pain as a result of that. And I think those are moments where instead of just going, what did I learn, but can we enter them and say, what about our humanity has come to the surface? What about desire? What, what can we do to honor, grieve? But at some level, bless what those moments have brought us, even when they have brought us some level of disruption or in my case, physical pain. And that for me is what it means to slow down, not to move rapidly from that into, well, you just need to be more aware of where you’re at, which is equally true.
Becky: Yeah. Well, in that slowing down, what I hear you saying is there is, a kindness. There has to be a kindness to have that gaze, as you look at your own self. And without that kindness, you could have ruined the last two days of your fishing trip and it seemed like you handled it really well. Cause you did take a day off because you did call me. And that was shocking cause you’re usually without cell coverage. So then there was that, oh no, but you were a joyful man on a hunt to find ice. And you seemed to have no regret not to be in the river that day. And I just saw so much maturity in you. I felt it. I just, was cheering you on. And that, that goes back to the kindness. You must have had kindness to your failure of stepping to a flat service.
Dan: Well that, that’s why I would take us back to that Philippians 4 passage. It was not something like, oh, I’m disappointed. My day has been somewhat ruined because of this fall. Oh, I’ve got demands. I’m going to have to repent. What all that’s good work. We’ll spend more time talking about the process, in our next time together. But to at least come back to what was at core, there was a sense in which Jesus was present. And in that I, I don’t wanna make it hyper spiritual. I don’t wanna deny the spirituality that, that Jesus was saying to me, there are things I want to tend to. Now that day Steve was fishing and said it was one of the best days that we had ever seen. I didn’t see he had. And I didn’t find any degree of like loss or disappointment.
Becky: Oh, that’s so good, Dan.
Dan: But because Jesus was literally going, there are things I’m asking of you to tend to that this fall, literal fall, has in one sense, brought to the surface. And I think in one larger sense of our disappointments are not to be ignored. What’s there in terms of the illusions that are driving something of that disappointment, shouldn’t be escaped nor the fundamental demand of I expect this to occur, and when it doesn’t? Damn. But there is something in that desire that actually opens the door to a deeper desire. We wanted to go to the beach. We wanted to have time as a family with our larger family, yet, as it ended up, one of the sweetest parts of your whole summer is this several hours of interacting on the floor on a trampoline. Eventually Grace asking you to read a story to her. I know there is something of the tender glory of Jesus somehow in the middle of that. And when we can begin to get a sense of that kernel, that core, the seed that’s there that will actually produce even greater fruit. Then the result of having what our hearts desire, then there is something that can hold the desire and the disappointment without judgment, but also know there’s something else happening that we need to be able to tend to.
Becky: Yeah. Yeah. It was like looking down as God was with a greater, circumference of focus. It was like, I was lifted up, to see Jesus, his goodness, his orchestration of the day. It really was stunning. And I want to do that more. and long to do that more.
Dan: Well. And then the question is then without trivializing the process, how do we, how do we grow? Especially as we move into the fall, how do we grow to take all that we have gained through the summer, into a new season and that’s what we’ll address in about a week. Thank you, my beloved.
Becky: Oh, thanks for having me on.
Dan: We will be chatting soon.