I’ve never been good with disappointment.

Like most of us, I’ve had both big and small disappointments in my life. The one where I spent months working on a coaching program and no-one signed up. The one where we bought a ridiculously expensive beef joint for Christmas and I burnt our special meal. The one where I realised my first marriage wasn’t going to be for ever. The one where I had a dream of living in Italy and running retreats and ended up coming back to the UK.

Disappointment stings me. I find it so difficult to sit with. First, it wrenches at my chest; twisting around, and then, when I’ve finished being angry, it sits, heavy, wet and sickening in my abdomen.

And, usually I head straight to, “It’s me, I mess up all the time, I’m hopeless”.

A clear case of confusing guilt – “I did something wrong” and shame – “I am the something that is wrong” (thank you Brene Brown!).  Still…you can tell me that a million times; theorectical understanding is a whole lot different from habitual reaction.

Interestingly, this incompatibility me and disappointment have, hasn’t stopped me hoping and damn well attempting to get there. Desperately longing to be a Mum, yet not having had periods for 5 years, I refused the rigours of IVF and stepped forward hoping I could heal myself naturally. 18 months of trials following the birth of my son, in a literal heap on the floor, not knowing how to pick my life up again, I whispered to my then boyfriend (now husband), “I think I wanted to have a go at painting”, and we went out to buy canvasses.

So, you think with having looked disappointment in the face many times and carried on regardless, I’d be better at handling it, right?

I’m not.

Let me give you an example from my recent creative practice. I’d made a gorgeous, energetic piece from my dripped, left-over mineral paint. Here’s a bit of it:

…and I loved it. It made me smile. It made the little girl me in giggle and jiggle.

A day or so later, I decided I wanted to add some flowers. I’ve not drawn many flowers, but I’d just finished a piece where I’d done something similar and I liked it.

So I painted.

And it was horrid.

Really horrid.

I was hugely disappointed. I felt like a balloon someone had popped. I’d ‘spoiled’ this beautiful piece. Why had I been so stupid? What made me think my attempt at flowers would look good? Why had I been so impatient? Why couldn’t I have just practised first? It all came out…

And then, from anger, the disappointment moved to the sad, heavy, wet feeling. I became quiet. I ended up sitting on the bathroom floor opposite Rob, my husband, crying.

The piece, on my easel, saddened me every time I glimpsed it, so I turned it around. I felt defeated and lacking in my usual playful confidence for severals days.

…but as time went on the disappointment was replaced by glimpses of ideas, visions and thoughts.

And 4 days later I was back at the piece, cutting the remaining parts into petal shapes…and I love them! The colours bounce off the curvy shapes and they’ll make a fab collage. And, in addition, the ‘discards’ look like they’ll be just the ‘seaweed’ I need to finish the piece I’ve been crafting for my son Gabriel’s room since December last year!

Each disappointment brings us something; an opening, a chance to reflect, a lesson that’s there to be learnt, another option that we couldn’t see before.

Without my ‘failure’, I wouldn’t have discovered this beauty and I wouldn’t have found an answer to a riddle I’ve been working with for a few months now.


When we mess up we are given an opportunity to unknowingly move forward…if we can stay open to really feeling the disappointment and to the new ideas that might come forth.

And what better place to do that than with creativity?

Creative practise gives us the chance to fail without it being life-threatening. In this arena, we can work with disappointment. We can practise really feeling it, staying open to what might happen next, allowing ourselves to loosen our grip on the desired outcome we originally had.

And that’s what it’s all about really. When we’re disappointed, we’ve been too attached to the outcomes of our actions.

I strive to live more lightly; to let go of control, to play and allow intuition and curiosity to be my guide. They know much better where I should be heading than my strategic brain does.

So, with that in mind, let me fail and fail again. Grace, give me disappointments so I may become the person I truly long to be.

  1. Ali, thank you for opening your heart and sharing perfect timing. It seems like everything I have tried I too have failed, I get disappointed and afraid to make a new decision. You are an awesome role model, I love your creativity thank you for being so open.

    Your art is just beautiful it opens me up and I feel joy looking at it.



    1. Thank you Yvonne, for this message and for your sharing. I’ve failed so many times…seriously, I’ve looked back at all the different careers I’ve tried and it could all be seen as failure after failure. But I know it’s actually been everything I needed to get me to this place where I am now – in the joy of my art. Being courageous is what’s opened this up. Still, there are loads of disappointments in my life now, but life blooms around them. I wish you luck – be brave! x

  2. This is amazing!
    We make up failures when we loose hope, when disappointed. It’s all just learning outside of the stories we tell ourselves. We can always start again, and try something new.
    I love seeing your discovery and process.
    How boring would art: life be if we got it right the first time all the time? Haha! I love that we can go on this journey together from such a far distance! ❤️

    1. Thank you! I agree that it’s amazing to connect even though we are far apart geographically. Sending love your way.

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Alison faith Kay

I am an artist
who creates with
foraged nature,
natural pigments &
hand-made paint.

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