I am listening to one of my favorite speakers.

I hang on every word.

My body wilts with relief as stress exits and a sense of optimism bubbles to the surface.

There is nothing like a dose of ‘positivity’ to water down the fears.

Yet this particular moment in time, I am struck by the power of this person’s words yet the absence of true suffering. He has not experienced significant loss and there have been a few career roadblocks not necessarily career setbacks.

I am a motivational junkie.

I love all things inspirational. 

The kitschy little signs, the books, quotes, speakers – all of it.

In fact, I always joke my overt dream was to be a writer and my covert dream, a motivational speaker. 

Yet, I always knew I did not have the street cred to be an actual motivational speaker.


Because in my life I had known disappointment, not true suffering.

Some would disagree.

How could your father leave when you were just five years old? An alcoholic who would reappear a few times in our lives but abandon his family physically, emotionally, and financially. And then at the young age of twenty-eight, you would lose not only him but the single mother who raised you? And to anyone raised by a single mother and absentee father that loss represented both your parents.

Yet, I never viewed that as true suffering.

Perhaps because my mother never presented it that way.

And because as children we chose to focus on the extraordinary blessing and love of each other and the one parent who never left us.

I am not candy coating an unfortunate outcome. The mess and muck of my dad leaving did impact us and my mother (as I would later do) made her fair share of mistakes. But we tended to dwell on our blessings.

I have written before about recounting an instance in my twenties where a woman turned to me and said, “I feel sorry for you having grown up without your father.”

“Don’t” I replied with a smile. “I never have.”

As I listen to this particular motivational speaker I arrive at an epiphany.

The profound difference between disappointment and suffering. 

Sure, others have probably arrived here before me.

But there is a difference between not getting a coveted job offer and unimaginable loss.

There is a difference between not being able to afford a vacation and not having money to feed your children.

There is a difference between not getting a promotion and losing your job. 

There is a difference between not getting into a certain college and a child suffering devastating illness.

All these years later I do know the difference between disappointment and suffering.

A father I couldn’t count on was excruciatingly painful and it certainly shaped my life. But it was a disappointment. I still had one parent. A mother who filled my life with love, security, and faith. I was not orphaned.

Too much has happened throughout these past years to recount as well as some which will remain personal. Meaning I speak not only of divorce because that one can recover from.

I do now understand suffering.

And the profound difference between that and disappointment.

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