If your life is anything like mine, then it is a string of constant changes and random events. Welcome to my boat! And don’t worry about bringing any oars, we won’t be needing them.
When I married my husband, almost twenty years ago, we embarked together on a wild ride that is the military life. Holding hands and ready for a thrill, we signed up for an experience that has indeed been thrilling, and at times quite chilling. More than anything, it taught me very valuable life lessons. In fact, I find that many of my clients go through similar experiences, in a different form, of course, but they still arrive at the same realization.
Imagine for a second what happens when you go whitewater rafting and the power of moving water throws the boat off course. You automatically reach to grab on to something, to maintain your balance and, preferably, to remain safely in the boat. The same thought patterns geared towards survival are wired in our brain pathways for all circumstances in life.
As our plans and dreams get thrown up in the air, due to external circumstances, or sometimes, divinely orchestrated events, we subconsciously tighten up our grip, to make sure that we retain at least some kind of control over the circumstances, including, our safety and stability.
In my case, if we were told to move to the place that was not anywhere on the list of our moving preferences, I would immediately fast-forward in my mind to the next action step I should take, to bring this uncontrolled environment into something I could grasp.
If you are depressed, you are living in the past, if you are anxious, you are living in the future, if you are at peace, you are living in the present ~ Lao Tzu
My first thoughts would be that I need to find a job as soon as possible. Then I need to find the best school as soon as possible; make our new house into a home as soon as possible; and make new friends as soon as possible.
I would lose my emotional peace and equilibrium in dedication to re-creating my new reality. Connecting with other military spouses gave me external validation that most military spouses also retract the same steps over and over. It is our innate instinct to look for comfort when we are uncomfortable.
Well, after several relocations, I finally noticed one day that when things I planned for did not go as well, or as fast, or exactly as planned, a lot of stress and resistance to new experiences would creep in. In that moment, I realized that my desire to control my life was so great that I completely stopped living in the present moment.
My life had become a never-ending series of expectations of when, and if, and how. I finally understood that while my life was indeed subject to shifts and changes that were beyond my control, there were things that were absolutely up to me!
It was up to me to seize a moment in time, for example, when my son was born, to really enjoy the first year of his life, soaking up all the cuddles, giggles, and sweet snuggles, while my husband was deployed. Instead, I missed a lot of these special moments by rushing out to a new job in a new state.
It was also up to me to seize moments of joy exploring new places, when some people have lived in the same town their entire lives and were closed off to trying anything new or different to what they were used to.
Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Don’t get me wrong, I am not judging myself for things that I should, or should not have done. I am just thankful for the realization that, despite what life throws at us, we are in charge of searching for, and finding our own inner peace and joy.
These days, I find so much happiness in simply riding a bike in the morning, like a crazy woman, on the country roads of the hot and humid state of Alabama. I now appreciate the beauty of the countryside, and relish in the sweet smell of blooming cotton fields, that I can recognize with my eyes closed. I enjoy feeling warm sunrays on my skin and hearing singing birds in my private backyard.
And I am grateful for the lessons. I learned to etch in my heart good laughs and cries with special friends I have found, and will continue finding on my ever-winding journey. I also learned to be okay with letting go of people who were not meant to stay in my life. I learned that we come into each other’s lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, and whatever the amount of time we spend together, it is not a measurement of the depth of a friendship. I also learned to spend time in my own company and be happy with who I am.
You see, joy and inner happiness are little gems that are hidden in the gaps of all the ‘major’ happenings and life events that are often beyond our control. While it is our human nature to get stressed and uncomfortable with uninvited changes in our life, it is up to us to recognize and seize those fleeting joyful moments in the now – those moments that feed our soul and fill our heart!
I hope that sharing my lesson will inspire you to take a look at your life from a new perspective, and find gratitude in precious moments you may currently overlook.