Life’s Disappointments

I’m finishing up the first draft of Book Two in my Lord Julian series (links starting to populate for Book One–yikes!), and having great fun with my main character, Lord Julian Caldicott. In a mystery series, it’s often said that the main character doesn’t really change from book to book. The investigation of and solution to the puzzle are what rivet reader attention–but I’m not finding that to be exactly so.

Just as Lady Violet took eight books to sort through widowhood issues, re-evaluate her relationships with family, and end up with a re-marriage based on love and respect, so too is Lord Julian having to wade through some Stuff.

Wartime service has left him broken in body and spirit, and what wrecks him the most is that he has disappointed his family. In the eyes of society he’s a traitor (some memory problems make untangling that question complicated), but the greater wound is that he failed his brothers. Disappointed them with a bold, capital D. His brother Harry might have survived captivity, if only Julian had been smarter, faster, more determined… something.

Arthur, the Caldicott family duke, is too well mannered to call Julian a bungler, but Julian hears what isn’t said. As the series unfolds, Julian will have to get this business of disappointing his family squared away, and deal with the equally tricky turn of events when family disappoints him.

I disappointed my father with the books I publish. He was proud of me for other reasons–four academic degrees went a long way with that guy–but publishing romance? Without having read a single one of my books, he decided they were “disgusting.” (And oh, boy, did my mom ever let him have it when he let that one slip.) Dad’s narrow-mindedness hurt, but I wasn’t about to stop writing happily ever afters just because he didn’t respect them.

One of my riding instructors was so disappointed in me for not competing at horse shows, that he pretty much told me he didn’t want to be my trainer if I wasn’t going to show. I competed at a show to shut him up, but in hindsight I wish  I’d flipped him the bird. I’d competed in any number of shows with previous instructors, and all showing did for me was take one part of my life that was supposed to be fun and turn it into work. More work, and expensive, public, exhausting work when I have never been the Energizer Bunny to begin with, and courtrooms and genre fiction are quite public enough,  thank you very much.

My father’s disappointment earned a shrug–he wasn’t threatening to disown me, and by God, I’ve been disappointed in dear old Dad a time or two–my riding instructor’s shade got me to do something I didn’t want to do.

And that soured our relationship. I’ve never asked him why he pulled that power play–that’s how I see it–but I probably should. We’re both older and wiser now, and in many regards, friends.

Another friend recently sent me one of Luvvie Ajayi Jones’s newsletters, and therein Luvvie states: “Disappoint whoever you have to in order to honor yourself more and betray yourself less.”

Lord Julian must learn to be more nuanced in his handling of disappointments. If a relationship is so fragile that disappointment will destroy it, then how much of a relationship is it, really? If disappointment is expressed to manipulate us, how much of a relationship is it? Why did my relationship with Dad have the spaciousness and resilience to weather disappointments, but with my riding instructor–whom I’d worked with for years–no such luck?

I don’t know as it will take me eight books to noodle through these issues with his lordship, but two books in, and we’re still gnawing on the questions.

Has there been a time when you’ve persisted even when others expressed disappointment in you or your dreams? A time when you caved to their disapproval and in hindsight wished you hadn’t?



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10 comments on “Life’s Disappointments

  1. There’s probably no way to talk about this without sounding conceited, but based on my standardized test scores, several people in my family, including my partner, were always pushing me to be the head of something (even a CEO type), because I was just “too smart not to.” I was just not that ambitious, mostly because I’m lazy and would rather enjoy my life that work that many hours a week. I’d rather put in my 40 hours and go home and not think about work until the next day and have free time to do what I really love (mostly reading, of course). So I told them so, repeatedly, usually with “I work to live, I don’t live to work.” I’m now retired and while I wish my retirement income was a bit higher (like it probably would have been if I had pushed my way higher up the ladder), I have enough to get by and I’m pretty happy.
    I cannot think of a time when I caved at the moment, though I’m sure I did, being an eldest child and not wanting to disappoint people too much.

  2. Yikes. Tough question. Yes. The biggest mistake I ever made was when I listened to someone else instead of doing what I knew was right for me.

  3. Oh my goodness! Both Grace’s essay and Karin H’s response were thought provoking. I have been disappointed mostly in people, rather than by choices made or events. People whom I thought I could trust have betrayed me, either by word or deed, some seriously and some that I could shrug off. But generally I am content with the choices I made in life. I have only two degrees, but that’s enough. I worked as a secretary for a law firm for many years, and one of the comments the lawyers used to make was – Jeannette, you are really smart. You could have been a lawyer! Hahahaha, wild laughter – as if a smart person MUST be ambitious and striving, and becoming a lawyer was just the only thing possible! I much preferred to go home and read at night instead of struggling until 2 am on the brief due the next day. I had a little house, but it was enough, made one trip to Europe per year, but that was also enough. I have always thought it was wise to be content and peaceful, which I realize I am lucky to have been able to do.

  4. My dad was also very disappointed in my career choice, and boy, did he let me know! I went ahead with my choice, though, which was absolutely the correct one for me. I would have miserable in the profession he dictatorially decreed I should pursue, so nuts to him.

  5. The times that come to mind when I resisted disapproval were during home renovations. In our last house, we contracted for two huge additions, one at the front of the house and one at the back. Lots of times contractors suggest a path that is easier for them, not necessarily what is best for my family. But as I am paying the bill and I am the one who has to live with the changes long after the contractor has moved on to their next job, I want what I want. I also have some knowledge about building and construction, thanks to my Dad who was a Jack of All Trades (and master of most!). He was an incredible carpenter, plumber, mechanic and electrician. Given his example, I am unwilling to settle for less than the way I think a job ought to progress. The results were that we had house that we just loved for over 25 years after the renovations were done, and I regretted nothing! Stay safe. Stay well everyone!

  6. I learned very early in life that caving was the only way to survive and protect myself.
    I am loving the quote from Luvvie Ajayi Jones!.
    But a BIG cave was my choice of major when I first tried college. I was not successful the first time through in that I just didn’t finish. I think it wasn’t all the fault of others, but I also was not given the freedom to express myself. I tamped down any joys or desires because all they got me was a big bag o’ hurt.
    Another part of my issues with this BIG Disappointing Failure is that I like learning, but not doing more than learning. Like you said, the things I learned went from fun to work and I didn’t like that. It can change expression when that happens.
    I am working harder now at not caving to EXPECTATION. And I have older people in my life who continue to believe they get to tell me what I _should_ do.
    It’s just annoying and I wish they would respect my agency, but they are boundary jumpers! oy!
    (A BIG help for me has been a book called “Codependency for Dummies”. Well written and informative.)

    I’m glad you and your Mom stuck up for you against your Dad’s hurtful words. If he had read just one of your books, he would know how much more they are about humans, reactions, personalities, and, most importantly, about relationships! I just sorted through all my physical books and I have 2 bankers boxes worth of The Great Grace Burrowes! They are keepers for sure! I am a huge fan and am grateful for you sharing your talent with us!!!!!!! Thank you! 😀

  7. Most parents bring at least some baggage to their being parents, and unfortunately it takes most of us growing up, marrying and/or being parents ourselves to ‘get’ a lot of where our parents were coming from. I could write a book but, no thank you. I alternately caved and persisted in my own ways countless times over the years of childhood and on into adulthood.

    When told I would only ever become a secretary, get married and have kids (me outraged) I took both secretarial and as many pre-college courses in school as I could telling myself I’d get to college no matter what. I felt Mom was saying she never expected much out of me and those weren’t isolated instances to back up my opinion there. I did make it to college, part time and never finished. Another story for another day.

    When I did finally marry a wonderfully brainy guy, my hero of 46 years, and have a child I met with plenty of suggestions on how to be the parent of my son. Like Karen H stated about bragging is going to be my fear here, but I had a gifted child. It would be so easy to assume that would be so much easier than having a child who was challenged in any respect. But without support from the school system who didn’t have the infrastructure in place to provide for him, we did everything within our own financial resources that we could. Of course anything we did for him would have seemed quite different from the way we were raised as kids, when it was safe to let us loose and on our own all over the neighborhood since there were 40 other mothers watching what was going on in their vacinity. Not so for our little family. I cannot tell you how many times I heard ‘why don’t you just let him be a boy?’ That was most often when we would speak of one of his music lessons, or a concert. Sigh. You know your own child the best even though yes, it’s helpful to get input from a third party. Music became and is a huge part of our son’s life even if it is not his vocation. He, like also like Karen H’s response prefers that he works to live and not live for work (very unlike watching his Dad while growing up.) Our Son has many avocations which bring him pleasure and which work beautifully with his wife’s lifestyle.

    I never went back to college after we married and moved to a different state, by which time we had our baby son, but I did keep going back for some education of one kind or another until I found fulfilling work I loved.

  8. Boy, what a question! I deeply disappointed my father. Turns out that I am not him and his choices were not right for me, and I am forever grateful for my contrary nature because I do not see any part of his life I would have been happy replicating. From this vantage point looking back over my life, I don’t know if my insistence on making my own choices was harder for me or harder for him. Had I thought about that when I was younger I don’t think it would have changed my choices but I think I would have been a lot less angry about having to push.

    It sounds like there may be touches of your dad in Percival. I always imagine that coming from a large family must be an asset to an author, that you know intimately many personalities and relationships by being in the middle of so many but I strangely haven’t thought about the parental relationship as much as the siblings, cousins, extended family etc.

  9. I caved to my parents’ desire to send me (at my expense) to my father’s alma mater, a school then known for its vet school and dairy herd. I disappointed them there by taking a literature degree and traveling summers instead of working. So maybe we were even.

    I disappoint myself with my lack of discipline and follow-through. I’d rather escape into a book…

  10. My goodness, Grace Burrowes: not an energizer bunny? With your huge catalogue of brilliant books on top of your law career? Please expunge dear old dad’s criticisms from your psyche. You are a marvel and a delight, and I cannot tell you how much I look forward to each and every offering of yours I can devour, usually in the publication day.
    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful talents with the world.