I’m writing this from an airplane, on a flight from San Diego to New York City. I was “supposed to” be on this same flight on Tuesday. And then when it got canceled as I was walking into the airport, all packed and ready to go, I turned around, re-jiggered my plans, and then I “should have” been on this same flight again on Wednesday. But life had other plans for me Wednesday, too – and I couldn’t make it to the airport.
With all the travel around the world that I’ve done in the past few years, I’ve never had to reschedule my flights so many times in one week. It was quite curious, quite peculiar, definitely had something to do with my current energy state (they say the world you experience is a reflection of your internal state…right?)
But finally, I’m actually on the plane. Having to let go of all the plans I had for the past couple of days in the city, and just go with a new plan that I didn’t consciously create. (Maybe subconsciously, but how can I really be sure…?)
I took the opposite flight 2 months ago when I left NYC for sunny Southern California. A lot has happened in 2 months, and many containers of Bitchin’ Sauce have been consumed (cilantro chili flavor, I’m a slave 4 u), but one of the main themes for me has been SURRENDER.
Surrendering my plans, my expectations, my timelines…surrendering everything I thought life would look like or feel like, in exchange for what actually is.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
Ah, that quote makes it sound so easy, like just opening your hands and “poof!” letting your little cloud of perfect expectations rise into the sky and drift away, in exchange for a sparkling scroll with the details of “the new plan.” But in actuality, this kind of letting go does not come so naturally.
We can be pretty stubborn when it comes to wanting to “make things work” the way we expected them to work. We hold steady to our plans and ideas and we squeeze everything into these little pockets with buttons that are neatly labeled and in a certain order – and of course, we expect that each of these experiences will feel a specific way. And then, when life veers “off track” (or so it seems) and our feelings aren’t matching the labels we had assigned to the experiences, we start to feel untethered and out of control.
Letting go of expectations and actually listening when life tries to show you a different way of living is not easy. In fact, in the moment, it can feel practically impossible. How could it be, that our genius little minds couldn’t figure everything out, and instead there is this other plan, one that feels so foreign, so much different than the one on our carefully-laid blueprint? We have this illusion that our plans represent some kind of control in our lives, yet every day continues to unfold with new and unexpected twists. It’s pretty wild, and a little humorous, that no matter how much we plan, we wake up each day actually having very little idea of what will occur.
I think our bodies tell us first, when something’s off. We can push and prod and force and drown ourselves in logistics and planning, but our bodies know better. When something’s not right, it can manifest as a physical symptom before our minds can catch up.
“All the soarings of my mind begin in my blood.”
Anxiety, depression, lowered immunity, stress, digestive issues, disrupted sleep, irritation, uneasiness… that feeling that an elephant is stepping on our chests, or like there’s a full-sized hairy coconut taking up space in our stomachs. Some days, maybe it might just feel like a little pin stuck in the tiny pin cushion of our hearts.
But yet, we don’t listen. We fight it with our logistics and we stay militant in our pursuit of THE PLAN. We keep pushing along and ignoring our bodies and we eventually exhaust ourselves trying to swim upstream. At some point, we will hit a bottom, and we will have absolutely no choice but to do the thing we’ve been fighting against most…
Stop holding so tightly. Release the white-knuckled grip you have on your life.
And let go.
It’s the most terrifying and most relieving thing you can possibly do.
Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream
It is not dying
Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void
It is shining
That you may see the meaning of within
It is being
The Beatles, Tomorrow Never Knows
Control is an illusion. Of course we have to take action in the direction of what we think we want, but as far as all the little details of how everything is going to unfold…all we can really do is ride the wave of life and stay open. And listen. And stay awake. And stay curious.
As far as “how” to let go of the control you’re attempting to have on everything in your life, I can’t write that prescription. I can say, however, that simply setting the intention to surrender and allow life to guide you can be the first step. Saying a prayer, asking for help with surrendering gently, asking to see the gifts when they’re presented to you. Considering that, hey…maybe there’s another way. You know, as your trusty GPS says when you make a “wrong” turn – “recalculating.”
I walked by someone’s door the other day – a little house on the boardwalk of Mission Beach. The person living inside had taped this quote to the door, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I keep repeating it to myself over and over.
“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart – and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.
Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
Rilke (so many more good Rilke quotes here…)
And this from Kate Northrup, that I’ve always loved — It’s not going to turn out the way you thought.
Keep your eyes open. Hold on loosely. Have patience.