Like the ocean, life never stops or even slows down; it just keeps moving. And when we’re not paying attention, life has a way of carrying us along, like an ocean carries a ship with a captain frozen at the wheel. Some days may be smooth sailing; but inevitably, storms will arise with life’s attempts to teach us the lessons that we need to learn. If we’re not staying alert and aware of our life’s big picture, we’re betting on luck to keep us safe. And, to me, that doesn’t seem a safe bet.
Until we shake ourselves out of our stupor and try to steer our ship, life will continue to have its way with us and throw us about. And as long as we remain paralyzed by our fear of being tossed on the waves and remain unaware of the lessons and opportunities that are right there in front of us—to help us—we will be victim to the storm, likely to repeat the same mistakes, to go down difficult routes that can look astonishingly similar to those we’ve traveled before.
Sometimes we get angry and blame external factors in our lives for causing us unhappiness and pain. After all, it’s not our fault if a big storm comes up, right? But here’s the thing: no one said life would be easy; no one said it would be fair. Blaming someone or something else never makes anything better. As Clint Eastwood’s character said in Unforgiven, when the other character said he didn’t deserve what he was about to get (a fatal bullet), “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.” But somewhere along the way, we started to expect life to give us what we think we deserve. We began to expect only days full of sunshine and smooth sailing. That’s what really causes us unhappiness and discontent: the fact that things don’t go the way we think they should.
Well, life goes as it does; there’s no “should” about it. Getting swallowed up in our discontent or our fear prevents us from seeing what we may be able to learn from our experiences. It keeps us from being able to react quickly and intelligently, to be able to navigate those storms. As writer Ellen Glasgow said, “What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” And as I said in my post about starting over, we always have a choice… a choice in how we respond to a situation, in what we make our next step. That, my friends, is power. We all have an amazing power in determining our own life’s journey.
Of course, sometimes even when we are paying close attention, life still takes us in directions we don’t want to go. Storms still occur. And, yes, we may still get frightened. But when we’re alert and willing to be aware of and accept the storm’s role in our life’s big picture, we can respond intelligently, in a much more peaceful way, a way that’s healthier for us, a way that allows us to grow stronger… a way that may allow us to shorten that painful detour and steer ourselves closer to the direction we want to go—perhaps even in a direction we had not yet imagined for ourselves, to a destination even more wonderful than we had ever dreamed.