Facing The Disappointment That Was Our Book Launch

olive chan —  April 4, 2013 — 8 Comments

How do you face disappointment? When a relationship falls apart, or a friend lets you down, or something you were looking forward to (like getting pregnant or clinching the next promotion) doesn’t happen, how do you respond? I don’t handle it very well. My instinct is to run from the pain, to numb myself with distractions and to avoid that awful feeling at all cost. It’s too uncomfortable, unpleasant and painful for my liking. So I scroll through my Facebook feed for the tenth time in four minutes. I lose myself in a certain online game of matching coloured candies. I text my friends to see if anyone’s around to chat. I search for something, anything, to soothe the aching hole in my soul where my dream used to be. Then I come to my senses and I sit down to blog.

Facing Disappointment

Last week we launched our second book with great hoopla and fanfare. For four months, we had laboured intensely over the piece. We wrote, edited, got feedback, re-wrote and re-edited. We worked hard on the cover, gathered a book launch team, and even filmed a trailer. We passed up movie nights for the sake of the project and it was finally ready for the world to see. We had high hopes for a warm reception of our work. In one sense, we did. Many friends congratulated us and some even shared our book with their friends. Hundreds of people watched our book trailer. Those who’d received copies as gifts from us all gave us positive reviews. But when it came down to it, by the end of the week we sold just over 30 copies.

Seeing the low number of book sales, we were tempted to think that our writing is so terrible that nobody wants to read our stuff. That we’d somehow failed. And that we might eventually have to move our family into a cardboard box. All of which are not true.

Still, the feeling of disappointment was real for both Tim and me. Although we went out for a nice dinner date to celebrate the completion of this project, we did so with a slight sense of grief. Tim tried to relieve the pain by taking Allie shopping (retail therapy being his numbing agent of choice.) When we shared our disappointment with some of our friends, they tried to help us feel better by reminding us that we needed to give it time, that people are busy, that our strategy might have been better, or that maybe our expectations were too high. We understood their reasoning and appreciated their explanations but we hadn’t been looking for consolation.

Because in the midst of it, what we realized was this: Disappointment was good for us.

You see, the night before our book launch, Tim and I had prayed that God would help us to receive with gratitude whatever was in store for us the next day. Had everything turned out amazing, we would have easily been thankful. But because things didn’t go “our way,” we had to really exercise our gratitude muscles. We had to ask ourselves, how do we continue being thankful in the midst of disappointment? We had to practice courage by saying, “I feel disappointed, but I’m still going to be grateful for…”

Being thankful wasn’t merely an exercise in positive thinking. It wasn’t trying to replace the negative feelings with happier ones. It was learning to engage the whole of our emotions; to acknowledge our sadness and also to remember the parts of us that remained hopeful. Brene Brown, in her book, “Daring Greatly,” (affiliate link) talks about wholehearted living which involves “learning how to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions.” It wasn’t an easy thing to do and it certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience to go through. But as we learned to sit with our disappointment, we were reminded that our worth was not attached to our performance or achievements. That who we are is not defined by what we do or how others receive us. And we were challenged to have courage to go “all in” once more with our next project instead of holding back a little in case we are disappointed again.

When I consider our experiences this past week and contrast the life-numbing vs. life-giving ways of facing disappointment, I’m actually thankful that our book launch wasn’t more “successful.” Because of it, we’ve learned how to be more fully alive.

What have you learned about facing disappointment?

  • Sue

    Really appreciated your post today. Sorry that the launch was not what you were expecting, but I am glad you’ve decided to consider it a “blessing in disguise.” It is tough to sell anything in today’s market. A good friend of ours from college wrote a book into which he poured his heart and soul, and unfortunately, had a similar experience to yours. Hang in there! You already have quite a following – perhaps it will suddenly “catch fire” and sell like crazy. Or, perhaps it won’t . . . . Either way, it seems that you have a wonderful marriage, a beautiful blessing of a daughter, a mulitude of ways in which God has gifted you both creatively, and folks like me who enjoy reading your blog, even though I am past the early years of marriage and little ones. (our “babies” are 21 19, 16, 14). I hope you find encouragement and cheer in the 30 that did take advantage of what you offered. Thanks for all that you do to promote Godly marriage and parenting!

    • olivechan

      Thanks, Sue. It’s true, God has blessed us with a lot! Thanks for reading and for cheering us on. We appreciate readers like you!

  • Hey Olive, I admire your courage to speak so honestly about things. Disappointment is a great topic! Yes, not everything always goes the way we hope or expect, and it’s definitely an uncomfortable experience. Through my recent ‘disappointments’, I’ve really had to wrestle with the question of why it’s causing me so much stress and unhappiness. One thing that I’ve been reflecting on is whether I really believe that God has the best plan for me, and am I willing to continue trusting in that, waiting on His timing and provision. Way easier said than done! But, I do see how I’m going to God more as a result, speaking to Him throughout the day when I feel sad or anxious. So that’s been a good thing for sure. And, I do feel that I’m gradually getting better at this waiting game and finding joy in my life, rather than just sulking and being engrossed in my anxiousness.

    1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

    James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

    • olivechan

      Thanks, Grace. You’re so right that it often boils down to whether we truly believe that God has our best in mind. It’s a grace to be able to keep pressing into Him in the midst of the hard times. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Jessica Chan

    Hey Olive and Tim, you have both been an inspiration to Felix and I for a long time! We greatly appreciate your vulnerability in just letting the world know you are human! :-) Thank-you. Thank-you.

    I sincerely believe that what you are doing has a purpose beyond what is seen.

    Here is a prayer and about 6 years ago I swore I would do my best to humbly submit to saying it as sincerely as I can, and as often as I can. I think you are living examples of this kind of surrender.

    John Wesley’s Prayer

    I am no longer my own but yours,
    Put me to what you will
    Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
    Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you.
    Let me be full, let me be empty.
    Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
    I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal
    And now glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
    You are mine and I am yours. So be it.
    And this covenant now made on earth, let it be satisfied in heaven.

    Amen

    • olivechan

      Thanks, Jessica. You know, whenever I encounter hard emotions, I inevitably end up back at the question of “Do I really trust God?” and come to a place of re-surrender. Thank you for that prayer. It’s a hard one to pray truthfully, but it certainly leads to Life.

  • JDHoogenboom

    Such a brilliant blog post.

    We had to practice courage by saying, “I feel disappointed, but I’m still going to be grateful for…”

    Being thankful wasn’t merely an exercise in positive thinking. It wasn’t trying to replace the negative feelings with happier ones. It was learning to engage the whole of our emotions; to acknowledge our sadness and also to remember the parts of us that remained hopeful.

    Love it. So true and words to remember in the midst of disappointment and sadness.

    • olivechan

      Glad it helped you!