The Fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday. My hometown of Pittsville, Wisconsin, has a population of 800 that easily quadruples for the festivities. We have a quintessential celebration with a parade, fireworks and numerous unique traditions. The event mixes community fun, with the ideals of service, democracy and freedom. Though I now live hundreds of miles away, I always look forward to going home for the festivities.
However, this year that was not in the cards. Last week as I watched combines roll through our wheat fields, my anticipation faded with the recognition that harvest would continue through the Fourth, and we would have to cancel our trip to Wisconsin.
That is the thing about farm life. It is incredibly unpredictable and often disappointing.
No farmer wants to be roused from a warm bed in the middle of a cold night in February, but she does it to care for the newborn baby calves who might not make it without her help. The farmer who invests time and effort to grow corn has no guarantee he will have a crop, but he balances that risk with his need to feed his family. Farm life encourages selflessness and annihilates entitlement.
Life on the farm is filled with frustration and disappointment. Countless nights when dinner gets cold because fieldwork took longer than expected. Trips canceled or attending events alone because an irrigator got stuck or a pump broke down. Waking up in the middle of the night because something on the farm needs attention and just can’t wait until morning.
In these moments of disappointment, I take a breath and try to get perspective. No life is easy or perfect. Why waste time and energy being upset about the things that go wrong. I am blessed in so many ways and this is the trade-off for the life we have dreamed about and are working to build.
Disappointment is not fun, but that is OK because it reminds us to appreciate the good things in life. I have learned to be grateful for the pain of failure, regret in rejection or the sorrow of loss. They keep me grounded, hungry for the next opportunity.
So many people seem petrified of disappointment. Parents work tirelessly to prevent their children from failing. Schools hesitate to recognize achievements of exceptional students because others might feel bad. Technology has created an expectation of instant gratification and easy access to information. We are working so hard to avoid disappointment that we are missing the important lessons that come from being disappointed.
As you fail, get frustrated or face challenges, choose to grow. People who learn from disappointment have empathy, gratitude, wisdom and humility. It makes us better, stronger and more resilient.
Life is not fair. We will suffer disappointment and heartache but those can become some of the most impactful moments.When you find yourself faced with moments of disappointment, take a breath, get perspective and embrace it.