Camila Batmanghelidjh, one of my favourite women – she works tirelessly to rescue unparented street kids and give them opportunities to change their lives – was in the Q&A spot in the Guardian the other day.
Asked “What has been your biggest disappointment?” she replied “I don’t get disappointed; I go with the flow.”
I spluttered breakfast tea all over the colour mag. Yeah right! Everyone gets disappointed, don’t they? Especially me. I’ve been specialising in it lately. I’m disappointed with work, disappointed with people, disappointed with the weather.
It makes me sound like a gloomy spoiled brat. Well maybe I am – a large helping of brat but whoa there, hold the gloomy. Control freak, then? Um, perhaps, a little control freakery around the edges, but even a control freak will admit it’s impossible to be objective as we are all convinced we do know best and probably for the best possible motives. Insufferable.
But why can’t people take pride in doing things properly, as they are supposed to, without cutting corners, making mistakes? Beats me. Why can’t people be more fun, co-operative, imaginative, enthusiastic and available?
People let you down, they disappoint, they fudge, they obfuscate and fail to live up to the expectations. Not all the time but sometimes. The expectation/disappointment ratio is bigger where the expectation is quite high in the first place.
So ok, I don’t know anyone who spontaneously turned into a looter but it did happen to some; the criminal and the suggestible. I’d be severely disappointed if I had a teaching assistant at my school, for instance, who took advantage of the riots to go help themselves to several pairs of JJB trainers. Actually, if I was a looter, I’d be the one the police find sitting among the shards of smashed window, trying on my fifth pair and moaning “No, these pinch a bit on the toes and they have no arch support whatsoever…. If they just had something between a six and a half and a seven. A six and three quarters would be ideal..”
What kind of person do you have to be not to be disappointed? Someone who doesn’t mind, I suppose. Someone self-contained who doesn’t require anything of other people? Perhaps someone saintly like Mother Theresa who recognises that human frailty is widespread and everyone has shortcomings and immediately forgives them.
It’s really hard not to feel disappointment if you mind strongly about something.
Martin Luther King junior opined “There can be no deep disappointment where there is no deep love.”
There is also a view that the more children are sheltered from disappointment, the greater the impact of disappointment in later life.
So, hey, I could blame my parents. Perhaps they didn’t arrange enough disappointments for me as a child. But hang on… they didn’t get me a pony (bloody Valerie Singleton on Blue Peter blew the gaff on how much they cost to keep) they didn’t get me a dog, they didn’t get me a new bike and I was one of four children in primary school who didn’t go on the school cruise to the Norwegian fjords. My best friend brought me back a consolation pencil from Bergen.
So it can’t be that. Those are more than enough disappointments for any child. Of course, for the sake of convenience here, I’m forgetting the million good things they did do for me. Dad bought me a pair of proper birdwatching binoculars when I was only nine years old, bless him, which was a thrill even bigger than my Birds of the World book.
I suppose the trick is not to think too critically of others because, if truth be told, I’ve been greviously disappointed with my personal achievements this year but I somehow manage to bury all that and concentrate on other people’s shortcomings – much less painful than examining one’s own frailties.
Ever heard of the Despair Calendars? They’re amusing/ironic/true/wicked. I’ve bought several for my nearest and dearest over the years. “Here at despair, we have a dream; to help crush yours.”
Under Disappointment, the calendar says “The only consistent feature in all of your dissatisfying relationships is you.”
Ha! So that’s telling me. I will henceforth adopt enlightened Voltaire’s philosophy: “What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity.
“We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature. “
Although, if Voltaire had been the struggling owner of a little powdered wig shop (the shop being little, the wigs being full-sized) which was looted by wig-hungry plebs (unlikely, I know but stay with me) , I bet you a franc to a farthing he would have dropped the pardoning thing in favour of kicking some ass.
Postscript: Anyway, I’m beginning to doubt whether Camila Batmanghelidjh was being totally serious with her answers.
Her response to the last question “Tell us a secret” was “There’s a hedgehog living under my turban.”