Sooner or later, people are going to disappoint us, it’s only a matter of time
They’re only human after all
I used to date a woman who was always late. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t show up on time for me.
One day she was late for our date because she got held up cleaning the piano. Another time she showed up three hours late because she ran into a trio of banjo players at the park. And another time she cancelled at the last minute because she took LSD on a sailboat with some friends.
I’m laughing about it now, but I wasn’t then. I was devastated and I couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t show up for me.
Needless to say, that relationship didn’t last, but it wasn’t her fault.
She was just wired differently.
I’m always on time
If someone is picking me up at 7PM, I’m sitting on the couch at 6:55PM, ready to go.
I’m rarely ever late, and if I am, I call ahead as soon as I know I’m going to be late. I factor travel time into my arrival estimates and check local traffic to plan ahead for possible delays.
I clean my apartment before I go on vacation because I love the feeling of stepping into a clean apartment after a full day of travel.
This makes sense to some people, and not to others.
Some people can barely get to the airport on time to catch their flight, let alone have time to tidy their house first.
We’re all wired differently. We have different priorities.
It has a lot to do with role models
My mom cleans the house before we leave on vacation. That’s where I get it from. She’s always cleaning the house, or weeding the yard, or painting. I joke that when she’s done painting all the rooms in the house, she starts over.
That’s why my house is always tidy. I don’t feel good when my house is messy.
When I’m feeling shitty and my house is a mess, I just tidy up and I almost always feel better. If I don’t, it’s because there’s something else that needs tending to. Usually it’s my body, my work, or my relationship with others.
My dad is always on time. Mom says he likes to cut it close sometimes but cutting it close is on time if you fall on the right side of it.
We learn a lot from our role models.
I was always disappointed
Whenever I had a date I was excited about that would get cancelled at the last minute. I was so disappointed.
Or when I asked my dad to be more like a dad and less like a friend and he said he didn’t know what that meant. I couldn’t understand that he couldn’t understand.
When my brother and I were fighting and he’d just hang up the phone in the middle of our argument. That drove me crazy.
These are just a few examples, the list goes on.
I lived in a constant state of disappointment. It seemed like those closest to me were conspiring against me at every turn. I took everything personally.
I had to find a different way or else I was going to live a very disappointing life.
I went to see my therapist and this is what he told me
People are doing the best they can with what they have, and sometimes the best is really shitty.
This single line has saved my ass more times than I care to admit. This principle now guides my understanding of why people do what they do.
Even when someone does something fucked up, I now know they’re literally doing the best they can with the tools they have. And sometimes their best is really shitty. And that’s OK.
They learned to do what they do and act the way they act through their role models and their life experiences.
Knowing this has transformed the way I interact with people.
Here’s what else I learned to keep from being disappointed:
1. It’s not personal
When people let me down, it’s not personal. We’re humans, we’re made to fuck up. It’s amazing we don’t fuck up more than we do. It’s amazing we don’t disappoint more.
I don’t take it personally when someone cancels on me anymore. If they cancel on me multiple times, I stop hanging out with them.
2. Have low expectations
Having no expectations is best but that’s really hard to do, so instead I have low expectations.
If someone says they’ll pick me up at 7, I’ll be ready at 7 but I won’t be surprised if they show up late. Show up late enough times and we’ll probably have a conversation about it.
3. Accept people for who they are
Everyone is wired differently, had different role models growing up, has different values and priorities, and is doing the best they can.
We’re mostly good people trying to be kind to each other. We’re gonna fuck up every now and then and that’s OK.
4. Let them off the hook
There’s something incredibly powerful about letting people off the hook when they fuck up. I do it because it’s the right thing to do, and because I want them to let me off the hook when I fuck up.
It still happens, because I’m human.
5. Find your people and toss the rest
This sounds nastier than it is.
Prioritize the relationships in your life that nourish you and deprioritize those that don’t. Spend the bulk of your time with people that you love and that love you back. You’ll get the most out of these relationships and you’ll be a happier person.
Still kinda shitty
It still feels terrible when someone does something shitty to me, but I have a way of dealing with it now. I try to accept people for who they are and keep my expectations low. I try to forgive them as quickly as possible because I want people to forgive me too.
I’m no longer disappointed by people and by life because I know that people are doing the best they can with that they have, and the best is sometimes shitty.
I hope that people can remember that about me when I do something shitty. I’m doing the best I can with what I have too.
We all are.