Being okay with the unknown.

Googling for inspiration among the thousands of quotes about disappointment, I found one that seemed empowering instead of fueling a sour grapes letdown.

“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream, and how you handle disappointment along the way.” (This is attributed to Hercules, but I doubt it.)

After three months of waiting… while working exceedingly hard, fueled by determination and lots of encouragement from the grantor, our non-profit was not selected for a grant we were certain we would receive. The 7 stages of “grief” began immediately- (awareness attributed here to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.)

I will name them here:

Slight return to blaming

We are too small. We don’t have the capacity for growth that would make us a good candidate for investing. We are passionate and powerful in our testimonials about our work, but growth and financial stability seem insurmountable tasks. Our constituency does not impact 51% of the Denver Metro area. We aren’t sustainable without a payroll. And on and on. As I said, I became instantly embroiled in the Fury stage upon receiving the news.

As the Blaming stage emerged, I noted that the individuals who had wooed us in the early stages of the grant application process were now turning cold towards us. With discomfort and embarrassment, they implied that mistakes were made in assessing our application. They loved us, but they just couldn’t fund us.

We work inside prisons. We work despite the presence of deeply rooted issues and dynamic and complex challenges that make light work of food pantries and puppy mills. We impact far more than 51% of the Denver Metro area if you consider that when a man or woman goes to prison, their whole family goes with them. We serve the hearts of those left behind by letting their family members know they have not been forgotten. By letting their loved ones know that more than a horrific moment defines them in time. We work to bring literature and enlightenment, hope and humanity to those individuals who are doing long, hard time to life sentences and have few options for education. At the Questioning stage, I asked myself repeatedly, “Why won’t they take a chance on us? We can and will do great things. We have fertile ground for impacting reform and social justice, one reader at a time. Ah, how easily Resignation does a U-turn back to Blaming. It’s understandable.

If “disappointment is the action of your brain readjusting itself to reality after discovering things are not the way you thought they were,” then we’re making progress.

Our small but mighty team of volunteers, facilitators, and Board members suddenly rally round: “We will forge ahead. We will find the money. Think of the book group participants.” It’s time for a wine and whine party. Empowered once more by purpose and determination, there’s work to do and books to buy. Pages to be read, important issues to explore. Personally, I’m working with being okay with the unknown. A hard task for a planner and I’m-going-to-control-the-universe type, but there’s a softening happening, a definite Acceptance. And from whom will I gain the absolute greatest compassion; support and brainstorm fueled next steps? The 12 men who sit in a circle to discuss a novel, through which they see the world and a new perspective every time they finish a book. Not getting this grant- it’s peanuts.