Disappointment or “Missing the Northern Lights”

Picture by Betony Coons at Reykjavik Art Museum.

Betony and my first day in Reykjavik, Iceland was a long and incredible one. We arrived in the country at 6 AM with no sleep on the red-eye and saw amazing sights all day.

By nightfall we were shot. We asked the college students staying at our Air B & B, “Please, PLEASE, wake us if you see the northern lights! We’re in room 6!” as they occupied the hot tub out back.

The northern lights showed up. They got drunk and never woke us.

It was the only time the northern lights were visible the rest of our stay.

Here’s the thing about disappointment. It stays with you. The rest of the trip was unreal and wondrous. I’ve shown pictures in a previous post and you can see it. The time was fulfilling and centering for Betony and my marriage. I hate it, but this disappointment of missing the northern lights has stayed with me. I’m still working on shaking it. It is not a tragedy at all, by any means. It’s just a disappointment; it’s just hopes and dreams not turning out the way you’d really wanted it.

For me, I’d traveled half-way across the world with a longing for this wonder (ever since I was little). It’s one of the reasons we chose the destination. And I can’t get this out of my head: as I sleep and they are dancing in the sky outside my bedroom. And I am asleep. And they are right outside…

What a terrible story I’m telling myself. How ungrateful I sound. What a strange thing that in the midst of the special experiences of the whole trip, this stays with me like a splinter, tarnishing the memories.

The rest of the week I stayed up each night, listening to music and walking through our landscape; waiting, watching. I kept hoping the sky would clear and the aurora would show.

Why has it been such a lasting sting?

As I’ve processed it with Betony, it began to be this strange “mid-life crisis metaphor” for me. The meaning was quite despairing: I’ve missed the northern lights. I will never see them before I die. And I will never get to such and such place with my music before I die. And I will never have such and such experience with my wife before I die. And so on. It wasn’t really about missing the aurora borealis. It was about getting older and all the things I’d never do, achieve, experience. ALL the disappointments.

Again, what a terrible story I’m telling myself.

So what do you do when these types of disappointments occur? How do you move on; let go? The miracles of a Resurrection Sunday have happened and they resonate within your memory. Yet you still can’t let go of the shock and pain of Good Friday. People are telling you get over it, move on.

And you try, but there’s this wound. And anytime anyone mentions it a deep sadness is triggered and a sick feeling in your stomach appears.

And so,

I’m continuing to focus on the wondrous and miraculous I’ve experienced; the Sunday mornings. And I’m continuing to fight against the larger despair of the “mid-life crisis metaphor” meanings. I want to leave them and head towards hope and the truth of the great moments I’ve had. I’m being intentional, reading through journals, reclaiming memories.

Somewhere within me I know if I don’t keep heading towards Sunday it’ll effect my ability to hope. How many of you know just what I’m talking about? I’m worried it’ll embitter me towards future adventures, making me callused, not trusting to dream.

But for now let me be honest in this post that sits deep in Good Friday, at the risk of sounding quite ungrateful, and say,
“It’s certainly not easy.”




3 replies
  1. Diane
    Diane says:

    As someone who is older and passed all the supposed “mid-life” crisis points. Let me say this, when you start thinking of you will never do such and such again. Change the way you think about it. Instead of never say I haven’t yet, or someday I will. When we put the negative in our head it begins to color everything. Yes, you went to Iceland to experience the northern lights. Instead you had this magical time with Betony. I am not by any means down playing the disappointment you feel. Just questioning the words you use to describe it! Take care with words Tim you know how powerful they can be!

  2. Etta
    Etta says:

    When I look at what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for me by dying on the cross for my sins how can I do anything but run around and tell everyone else He died for them as well? By giving and helping others we do more than tell of Chit&rs#8217;s love for us we live it by example.


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