Last week we all had spring flashes and this week it’s welcome back to winter. As usual, our weather here in the Black Hills is an adventure. Wherever you are when you are reading this, my guess is you could say the same for your area. Weather is a great example of how circumstances beyond our control affect our lives. We can worry about it or get angry with it or defy it. But in the end there isn’t a thing we can do to change or even influence it. We can play with our clocks and give ourselves the illusion of control, but no matter what the clock says daylight will arrive and retreat on it’s own time.
Are there other areas of our lives over which we have no control? Of course. We dislike admitting it, but, for the most part going out into each day is an act of faith. We might have a daily routine or what we imagine is a well-laid plan for the day, but in reality we will be lucky if things go the way we planned. Yup – lucky. Everyone wants to think that it is their own genius responsible for things going their way, but ultimately there is always at least a little luck involved. Of course, we can prepare ourselves to take the best advantage of chips falling our way. But ultimately no one – not even the most careful and detailed planner – can predict the future.
So how can we move forward when everything is really uncertain? We could approach each day with trepidation and fear, worrying about every possible detail in hopes that worrying will somehow make a difference in the outcome. Unfortunately, that never works. Can you think of a single time when worrying about some unwanted concern actually prevented it from happening? Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn’t, but either way the worrying you did in advance didn’t change anything. All it did was stress you out. And if what you worried about doesn’t actually occur (which is most often the case) then you stressed out needlessly. And what about events occurring that weren’t even on your radar screen? You didn’t even have a chance to worry yet here you are, having to deal with it anyway. It might surprise you to see yourself somehow managing the challenge, whatever it is. All of us can look back through our lives and find examples where that was true. We’ve all had the experience of living through something we never would have thought we could handle. Yet somehow we did.
Of course, I do my share of worrying, too. And this is not to say that events shouldn’t make us angry or sad. It also doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t bother planning. But a plan is like a path through the woods. You don’t always know where it’s going to take you. Have you ever had the experience of following a route on a map but ending up someplace completely different from what you expected? Outcomes can be unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean that the journey wasn’t worth taking.
Life is so full of uncertainties and none of us really knows what it’s all about. In the end, though, it all comes down to learning to go with the flow. Which for me is a practice. Not something I’ll ever be perfect at, but something to keep striving for and working at. Accepting the good, the bad and the ugly of whatever life hands you and doing the best you can with what you’ve got to work with at any given time. We can’t change the past or predict the future. And as much as we’d like to imagine we can control the behavior of others, that, too, is impossible. Most of us can barely control ourselves. Think of all the times you’ve said something you didn’t mean to say or done something you didn’t mean to do.
As Joni Mitchell writes in the song “Woodstock”: “I don’t know who l am, But you know life is for learning”. Treating life as an adventure is not always easy, but it might help to remember that nothing ever stays the same. Everything is always changing. Remember the weather. As Mark Twain (or whoever it was) said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. It will change.” Have a “Plan B” whenever possible, but no matter what happens, being kind to yourself and all those around you is always a good plan. Focus on the things you can control like your attitude, your own behavior, your actions and reactions. Attend to the journey and let the outcomes be what they are.