When Dreams Come Crashing Down

I stuck the thermometer in my son’s mouth and waited for the beep.

He watched me with hopeful eyes.

I pulled it out and read the number. “You have a fever of 102.”

His shoulders sagged and he blew out a weary breath.

“I’m sorry, honey.” I brushed the hair from his hot forehead. “I know how much you were looking forward to this tournament.”

The state basketball tournament, the games he’d looked forward to playing all year, the last of the season. As point guard, his team needed him. But how could he help his team now?

Disappointment. Aching, gut-wrenching disappointment. My son felt it. We’ve all felt it at one point or another.

We’ve been talking about reaching for our dreams this week, first believing in ourselves, and second doing the hard work necessary to make those dreams come true. The fact is, even if we’re reaching high and doing everything right, sometimes we get punched in the stomach.

Heartache hits us, deflates our high hopes, and sometimes even knocks us to the ground. A rejection letter from the agent we really wanted. A “no thanks” from the editor who’s had our proposal for months. A contest entry that doesn’t final. Critique feedback that glares with all our faults. A stinging review on our book. An unfriendly reply from a fellow writer.

Our shoulders sag, we blow out a weary breath, and we hurt with the sharp stab of frustration. In all my years of writing, I’ve had plenty of painful moments—too many to count, actually.

I’ve learned to approach disappointment in several ways:

1. Allow hard times to keep us humble. If all I ever experienced were happy, high moments, I shudder to think how prideful I’d grow. I’m pretty sure God allows me moments of utter embarrassment and failure to keep me from thinking I’m “all that.”

2. Remember life’s not all about what we accomplish. When I get so busy striving after my dreams, sometimes the disappointment slaps me in the face and forces my focus back onto the things that matter most—particularly my relationships with others.

3. Don’t forget there’s always next time. When Olympic skier, Lindsey Vonn, crashed into the fence and lost her chance for a medal, she picked herself off the ground, brushed off the snow, and said something like, “I hope I can do better in the next race.” And that’s the same kind of attitude I want to have. I don’t ever want to give up hope.

4. Let the difficulty spur us to improve. After the blow, I allow myself a few seconds of pity (or few hours!). Then I remind myself that I believe I can do anything I set my mind to do. The key is to figure out a new way to move forward. Maybe that’s buying a new craft book and studying harder. Maybe it’s starting a new book and making that one even better. I challenge myself to move beyond what I've already accomplished.

Disappointment is a reality. In fact, the more we risk and the higher we reach for our dreams, the more crashes we’ll likely have. But we can’t let those tumbles define us. We have to pick ourselves back up and keep hoping and believing.

Yes, I agree, there may be times when we need to step back from our writing, take a break, or re-evaluate our goals. But all too often we let despair knock us off the writing path, when instead we should be persevering.

Perseverance is downright hard. But without it, how would we ever know what we could have accomplished if only we'd kept going?

Have you ever experienced broken dreams or crashing disappointment? How are you keeping the pain and frustration from weighing you down?

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