Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year you will know the UK had a referendum yesterday, to decide whether or not we stay in the EU. I woke up this morning to news I didn’t want to hear. I don’t have to scroll far through my Facebook feed to see a huge range of emotions being expressed. There is some celebration and joy, but mostly I see anger, anxiety and a lot of disappointment. I am not going to talk politics, there have been enough words said good and ill on both sides. The decision has been made, like it or not the country has exercised it’s democratic right to vote. We have to live with the result. But what do we do with the difficult emotions some of us carry today? How do we deal with our disappointment?
None of us will be strangers to disappointment. The older we get, the more disappointments we will have built up. Sometimes it’ll be life’s circumstances that lets us down, perhaps the job we apply for is given to someone else, maybe we have to leave a house we love and struggle to find somewhere better, or we may be disappointed by illness changing the course of our lives or those of loved ones. Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we would have planned and whilst we are left disappointed, there isn’t really anyone we can blame.
But other times it is people who let us down. Whether it be a friend or family member, a colleague or manager, or a stranger. People often do not act the way we would like them too. They will fall short of the expectations we have for them, and we are left with a sense of disappointment. But when people have failed us, it can be easy to attach the disappointment to the person we feel is responsible. We allow that disappointment to fester and feed it every time we see that person. The blame and resentment builds and harms our relationships.
If we are not careful we can let our disappointment grow and change into something bigger and ugly. As we keep holding onto it in our hearts it can give way to bitterness and anger. We become trapped in the past. We’re dwelling in the land of ‘what ifs’ and ‘might have beens’. It ties our hands to being involved in the present.
I am well aware that this was a vote that has had some immediate consequences. We wake up to reams of articles about the crash of the pound. People are scared about what this could mean to their lives. I share the sense of anxiety and trepidation. But if the conflicting ‘facts’ of the campaigns taught us anything, it’s that the long term affects are far from certain.
This vote has shown that just over half of the country hold a different view to my own. There are people I love and respect on the opposing side. We are each unique individuals who think about things differently and have voted for a wealth of different reasons. We can choose to let the differences between us divide us further, and give into the messages of hate designed to push us apart. We can hold onto our anger and stand primed, as the consequences of this vote unravel, to say ‘look what you’ve done!’ to the ‘leave’ voters if things get worse. Or we can choose to be part of a different narrative.
I was thinking about this my eyes fell on a necklace that arrived this week purchased from To Write Love on Her Arms.
It struck me that the other choice in front of us is simple: We can choose to hope.
Hope helps us to do the things disappointment doesn’t. It allows us to step away from the hurt of the past and look to the future with optimism. Hope gives us strength to persevere and celebrate the good whilst looking to bring change. Hope lets us believe that beneath our great differences, we are all people and we can find common ground.
This does not need to be a passive hope where we shut our eyes and hope for the best. But a hope that moves us to be active participants in improving our world. We have to put aside our differences to work together. Our voices will be needed in the days ahead
So I may be disappointed today but I choose not to stay that way. This country does not need my anger and bitterness, it needs my hope.