For the past year we have all been struggling to adapt to the changes imposed by the viral pandemic. Having our international wings clipped, missing physical contact with family and friends back home, and experiencing a very distorted settling in process for those who ‘landed’ at their new location at the same time as corona.
While it is a challenge, I have found that times of transition and change are always a good time to exercise your flexibility muscles. Internationals and expats, globetrotters and third country kids are often masters of adaptation. And yet, when it comes to personal times of transition, uninvited, asked and more often than not, unwelcome, we forget to apply the lessons of flexible adaptation to our personal crisis.
I initially planned to call this reflection ‘rolling with the punches’. Changing the word punches to waves comes from my understanding that it is my own mental attitude at times of transition that largely determines how I experience upheavals in my life. The word punches feels more like something we want to avoid, resist or fight off, whereas waves conjures up a more accepting and flowing attitude. A gracious ability to let go and experience the experience as best you can. Making the conscious choice to step away from control and expectation into a lighter place of surrender and curiosity.
Life is transition
If you think about it, our entire nature is about transition. We grow rapidly from infant to toddler and then trundle ever more slowly towards middle and old age, renewing each cell in our physical body every seven years. We literally ‘are’ change and yet we fear change. And the changes we fear most of all are the things that are out of our control. Which is pretty much everything.
Really? Surely we haven’t been given free will for nothing. Surely we need to take charge of our lives, stand at the wheel of our own ship and steer it to a safe harbour of our own choosing?
That’s certainly have I have been raised. And it is certainly how the world thinks it should operate. But as we’re seeing all around us in these deeply transformative times, our control is a fallacy and our safe structures and so called civilised behaviour deteriorates in line with our growing sense of helplessness.
Choosing what you didn’t choose
Some changes and transitions are, at least we like to think, inspired by our own choices and thus under our own control. And although we may feel butterflies in our tummies, we feel secure that we are doing the right thing. We have certain expectations of the outcome and look forward to seeing our plan unfold. When these choices turn out differently from what we expected; the new job is boring, the new country too hot, the (new) partner too distant, we may regret having initiated the change and the disappointment can throw up internal barriers to ever taking such a risk again. And if it all works out the way we expected, and sometimes it does, we might feel more inclined to take another risk, only to find our lesson now is to be surprised. I’ve lost track of the amount of time I needed to gently give my international and expat clients permission to express how much harder everything turned out to be.
Where we find we really struggle is with the unchosen changes and transitions such as this now year-long restrictions on our freedom. Somehow we find those harder, feeling like a victim of circumstance, and in others it awakens the survivor. Instantly our precious illusion of control is taken out of our hands. If we have a lot of time to anticipate the outcome we may fall into the trap of ruminating ourselves into an early grave. Because catastrophizing, ruminating, worrying, is a trick the mind uses to trick you into thinking you have control.
The inner controller will fight you
The inner controller loves to create this false sense of control by imagining every possible scenario and dealing with it (in the abstract mind) before it has even happened. As soon as our status quo is threatened she jumps in. That’s not a bad thing, we need control in our lives, but the inner controller often has illusions of grandeur and a faulty belief that a conflict free life is a good life.
Pandering to its unhealthy sense of power often stops us from getting in touch with a deeper and more profound energy; be it your life force, your ability to learn and survive, your memory of a secure base in childhood or the memory of the Source that we’ve incarnated from. When we connect with that deeper memory of being securely ‘held’ we can surrender and look at the events unfolding with a little more curiosity.
Control and expectations march exhausted to the beat of their own drum, while surrender and curiosity skip along in the rhythm of life.
So when the storm clouds of change alight in our lives we can batten down the hatches and take a firm hold of the wheel, while at the same time watching with a profound sense of curiosity where these winds want to blow us. In hindsight we can often make sense of a direction our lives took. So use that insight to give up the need to ‘know’, to ‘understand’ in the middle of the storm. It will help you to surrender to the process. You may not like it, you may get seasick and throw up, that’s fine, let the controller make sure you have a bucket ready. You may even raise your fists to the heavens and shout “this is too hard!” But find the rhythm where you control what’s within your grasp, most often just your attitude, and let the events unfold that will take you to new and exciting shores.
Roll with the waves, let the winds of change breathe through your hair. Be curious and without expectations.
Embrace the creative chaos of change and enjoy the ride!