Here in California’s Mother Lode foothills, there are thousands of abandoned gold mines, as well as creeks, rivers and gulches where treasure hunters worked and panned in days of yore, dreaming of riches.
A few – like the Murphys brothers – actually struck it rich and left before they lost it all in the brothels and gambling halls. But most of those doing the dangerous digging and back-breaking panning did not become wealthy.
Many became disappointed.
I’ve been thinking about disappointment lately. Thinking of how it can grind one down. Disappointment and discouragement seem to go hand in hand, don’t they. And if we dwell on our disappointments and discouragements, we can easily slip into a sense of despair.
From reading local history, I know that there were lots of Gold Rush hopefuls who despaired and whose lives were marred by alcohol and violence as a result.
But others, with the same kind of disappointment, did not go the route of self-destruction.
Henry Angel, who failed at gold prospecting, re-thought his priorities and decided to open a trading post to supply other prospectors and panners with what they needed to pursue the beautiful yellow metal.
His trading post was so successful that a camp grew up around it and eventually a town. Today, Angels Camp, the only incorporated city in Calaveras County, is named after him.
Henry Angel’s "happy ending" illustrates one way to deal with disappointment, a way that might change life for the better.
Disappointments can very likely be opportunities for growth, self-reflection and even (believe it or not) future benefits.
If you’re disappointed in someone or something, give yourself some recovery time – a little pampering time in which to catch your breath. For me, a bubble bath or a massage, does the therapeutic trick. For someone else it might be a walk in the woods, a bicycle ride or a swim. Or it might be dinner with friends or family.
Following the pampering, it’s time to re-evaluate. Disappointment is a painful nudge to take a second look at our circumstances, expectations, and priorities.
Henry Angel took a look at what he was doing – trying to make money in the gold fields – and concluded that he wasn’t going to succeed. Like thousands of others, he was failing at what he’d come to California to do. He may have considered returning to Rhode Island. He may have considered other options. But it’s clear he decided to change his plans. Although he might not be able to make his fortune in gold, he saw an opportunity he could take advantage of. And take advantage he did.
His story shows me that setbacks and disappointments don’t have to end in misery. They can lead to happy endings.
And that’s good news.
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