In Defense of the Disillusioned

In Defense of the Disillusioned Image by Donnie Nunley
Sometimes your life doesn’t work out how you planned it,

line by line,
promise by promise,
heart beat by heart beat.

Sometimes the vision that dances in your head like sugar plums and happily ever afters and smart, successful, contributing citizens called your children, turns into a puzzle you can’t solve or a missing piece you can’t find under the cushions…

or that thud thud in your chest…

. . . a persistent “something’s not right, something’s not right” that clicks with your heels and follows you into the grocery store.

Sometimes the ideal shatters through no obvious fault of your own (though you wish it were, so you could fix it, naturally, like you fix everything else)—someone else’s implacable will thwarts/harms/crushes yours or finds happiness in someone else’s.

Sometimes your body succumbs to germs or cells that won’t stop growing and they take over your organs and ruin your chance to do all you had planned for forever and a day. Sometimes the out-of-control cells live in the body of your dearest friend and deepest love, or precious child.

Sometimes, no matter how diligently you protect them and worry on their behalf, your children stumble into tragedy or crime unimagined and never planned.

Sometimes one of your precious kids is violated horribly while you were pinning new kitchen photos to Pinterest and having devotions.

The disillusioned suffer twice and three times.

Not only do they face the excruciating pain of tragedy, at night, and in the middle of the afternoon. They also face the natural tendency of those we love most to assign blame for the failure.

Pain, loss, divorce, disease, violation—to the not-yet-suffering, these are as contagious as mumps or the common cold. All who are not afflicted look for the cause so they can stay safe and not make the horrible mistakes you’ve made.

You didn’t do it right.

You didn’t pray enough, go to therapy, read the right books, get the right doctors, eat the right foods, follow the right advice, use these steps, take this tone, follow this practice, behave in that way, honor this code, believe that set of precepts . . .

The list goes on endlessly and no protestations of how much you tried calms the advice-givers. They want to believe they have identified the one or ten key ingredients that you missed, that they can embrace, to avoid your fate.

They don’t try to figure out your failings to be cruel. Know that. It’s desperation. To avoid your tragedy.

But you can face this disillusionment—this failed bargain with God or life or nature—differently because these awful conditions are real for you. Not theory. Not avoidable. They’re here now, waiting for you to deal with them, not with what you “might have done” or “could have done differently.”

Disillusionment is the beginning of new chances—a chance to find a new way to live or love, for however long you have.

It’s the beginning of asking real questions rather than seeking iron-clad answers.

It’s your chance to take some risks, to explore some forbidden secret ideals you had overlooked before in your safety.

It’s your chance to have an authentic, self-created journey rather than the second-hand one the books and leaders tell you to have.

It’s a chance to pay attention to people as they actually are rather than as you wish them to be.

It’s often your first real chance to ask yourself: Who am I? And then another better chance to become that person in a whole new way.

I love talking with disillusioned homeschoolers because they are closer to being good at educating their kids than the ones who think they have a “system that works.” If homeschooling has failed you somehow, if your marriage is not working, if your children are reacting against you and you don’t know how to bring them near, you are much closer to having a life built on a foundation of truth and reality than you’ve ever been.

Hold on. Face life on its terms: the pain, the disillusionment. Don’t judge your life. Pay attention to it. Let it tell you what you need to know. And by all means, find others who’ve walked similar journeys. They will have wisdom to share.

You are not bad, wrong, or a failure.

You are not foolish, uncommitted, or selfish.

You are human. Everyone, by the time they get to 50 or 60, will have experienced the humbling realization of being time-bound and planet-dwelling among germs and people.

That you would attempt (for example) to be married (till death!), to have children (to home educate!), and to love your life (despite cancer!) is brave and optimistic.

Draw on those resources as you face your disillusionment squarely. Then see what happens. You might be amazed.

One Response to “In Defense of the Disillusioned”

  1. Cara says:

    Thanks, this one brought a lot of tears for me