“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “My life shouldn’t be this hard!” or “My life should be different!” When this happens, I start looking around the room. I am looking for the person that told you that life was going to be easy or that your life would go as planned. I want to find that person and tell them to stop talking.
This is the awful truth: life will most certainly be hard sometimes. In fact, it might be so incredibly hard, that it feels unbearable. In those moments where you feel like you are drowning in all the awfulness of life, I encourage you to hold on to your support system for dear life and keep swimming.
Life will also be incredible sometimes. If you allow yourself to ride the waves without a lot of expectations and shoulds, you will find that life will bring you amazing moments and gifts. In my experience, these fantastic moments and gifts were never what you planned. If you are open to what life has to offer, these moments will come about as surprising little offerings of joy.
I wince in pain when I hear people map out their lives, “I want to married by 25, have a house by 26, have two kids by 30, and be financially established by 35.” I again, look around the room for the person that told you that you get to map out your life that way.
We get so caught up in what we think our lives should look like or what we think we deserve, we fail to notice those little offerings of joy. In fact, so few things in our lives go as planned, that it is best to only refer to our map as a general outline.
“All human plans are subject to ruthless revision by Nature, or Fate, or whatever one preferred to call the powers behind the Universe.”
― Arthur C. Clarke,
It is important to have a general idea of where you want your life to go. But I promise you, you will spend much of that time being sad, disappointed, and resentful if you plan out the details of your life and hold fast to that plan. You will feel like someone did you wrong when it does not go that way and it most certainly will not go that way.
That is both scary and incredible.
When that happens, it is best to pause, refer to your map, and find a different course. Basically, find the next step. It is a waste of time and energy to feel like it should have gone the way you wanted. It didn’t and you were never promised the life you planned. Also, you might not really want that life once you arrive at those decision points. I also hear people say “But I made the right choices and I’m not happy.” and I respond “Maybe you made the choices you thought you should rather than the choices you really wanted to make.” (we will talk more about that in a later post)
If you find the person that is going around telling people that “life is fair”, or “go ahead and plan out the details”, or “you’re entitled to a good life”, please tell them I am looking for them.
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön