Allowing Life to Unfold
“If you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans” ~Woody Allen
Do we tempt fate with our desire to have a fixed path?
Each and every day we have a plan or at least an expectation of how our day is going to unfold. In most cases the main things remain the same with a few challenges. In other cases, things divert in a big way, and more often than not, the diversion is something we don’t like.
This is what happened to me in the last few days. My routine got disrupted first by my computer’s hard drive giving up on me (meaning loss of data and having to replace the drive). The next day my father screwed up his lab test, so it had to be done again (meaning two more trips to the lab) and hours later, my mother called to tell me she chipped one of her front teeth (meaning an expensive couple of visits to the dentist).
My reaction to each situation was calm at first. I started thinking about what I needed to do to solve the issues. Then my mind kicked in. I started freaking out about the data I might lose on the computer and all the time it would take me to deal with the other stuff.
The truth is I didn’t want to deal with the problems. I wanted to go about my business as usual. I felt reality slapped me in the face and I wanted to slap it back by resisting.
On an intellectual level I knew that I couldn’t fight with reality, it’s going to win no matter what. But on an emotional level I didn’t care. I felt angry, frustrated, scared and overwhelmed. I started feeling the pain in my body—a knot in my stomach, shortness of breath and pressure in my head.
How can I feel better when I know I have to deal with unexpected and unwanted interruptions?
I’d like to share with you my experience. Maybe it will be of help to you.
Don’t fight your emotions and resistance.
I have this notion that the more enlightened approach is to accept the challenging situation without resistance.
I felt bad about feeling angry and frustrated. I wanted to feel calm; but I didn’t. Fighting the feelings made them worse. It was time to go deeper.
Observe, feel and invite.
Instead of arguing with emotions—another battle you can never win—go into your body and notice how you feel. Where is the pain in your body? Pay attention to that area.
You will notice at first that the pain intensifies as you focus on it. But after a while it will subside. Keep at it until there is nothing left for you to feel.
Then talk to your pain and ask if there is any more. I asked my fears to show up right now. Again something will come up and you will feel it in your body. And as you continue to observe, it will ease.
I found this to be the most effective way to deal with emotions and resistance.
We are more capable of handling setbacks than we think. The best guidance in these situations is your body—which is a magnificent mechanism for sensing and dealing with danger. When your body is okay, know that you are too.
It helped me tremendously to keep reminding myself that I can handle all of that stuff and more. I’ve been through worse before and managed to survive. This is not really that bad. Things could be worse.
I found it important to let trust come after processing the fearful thoughts and emotions.
The reason is most of our responses at the basic level are illogical and tend to fight and argue with anything that diverts from the drama. So it’s better to let the drama flow through and clear it out, then move to the calmer more logical approach.
Take small action.
And by small I mean the smallest. In my case, the first thing was to try to salvage some of the data that wasn’t backed up. I managed to save part of it and lost the rest. And that’s okay—it didn’t kill me. Then my partner ordered a new hard drive.
Realizing how much I rely on my computer and that I can’t wait for a couple of weeks, I got a small laptop as a backup for our household.
Next my father’s lab work was redone. It took about an hour. My mother’s tooth is going to be dealt with next week. I booked the appointment. And now I’m back to my normal routine.
It’s very tempting when we’re in the midst of dealing with interruptions to keep racing against time. The best way to overcome the compulsion to keep going is to mindfully stop. Do something else or better yet, do nothing and just be still for a few moments.
A brief break will broaden your perspective and might give you insight on what to do next.
The setbacks I was faced with slowed my progress. I wrote this post later than anticipated and other stuff got pushed back. I’m fine and life goes on.
Life is messy and can be crazy sometimes. We can either go with it and do the best we can at the moment or stomp our feet and keep fighting.
From years of fighting and avoidance, I can tell you that things got worse—the problems got magnified and fear grew into more fear. It’s a losing battle and one that drains the energy out of us with no positive outcome.
It’s much better to enjoy the ride as much as we can, and try to accept the bumpy parts. As we learn more to allow what we don’t like, we surrender more to life, and this is where we grow the most.