Balancing Action and Surrender During Life’s Storms

I am at the foot of my altar. A table standing two-feet tall, placed just under my bedroom window. I am prostrated in what is called in yoga as “balasana” or child’s pose.  My forehead is cushioned by fluffy, beige carpet. My body is pressed into a ball before a landscape of deities from many religions: Hindu, Christian and even Buddhist. Marking territory between the photos and figures: crystals, a sound bowl and other mystical, western objects.  

After holding them back all day,  tears flood my eyes. My heart.

I had been using all of my centering strategies this week: yoga, meditation, journaling, breathing and reframing techniques. I have even resorted to applying cool water on my wrists when I can catch myself about to get snippy with someone.

I’m trying so hard.  Nothing is working.

Over the course of the week, challenges had piled up in my life like a 10-car collision on LA’s 405 freeway, causing panic, gridlock and delays in every direction of my life. 

It started with news that I would have to relocate from my home, having to move within weeks in a market ripe low inventory and bidding wars.  Then, my babysitter gave notice that she was looking for a long-term opportunity to swap for my short-term one.  Shortly after this, and most devastatingly, I received a phone call about a family member’s health crisis. I had to brace for an imminent cross-country visit and for possibilities I could not bear to confront. 

All of this, in the middle of an on-going pandemic.

‘“God will never give you more than you can handle.” That’s the saying, right?,” I journaled.  “Instead of going into panic, how can I interpret this moment as one to rise to, using all my training? Because of Covid-19 and life, there are fewer people to lean on for help. I must figure this out on my own.  I have to be the emergency vehicle that comes to my own rescue, ” I wrote.

I can do this.  

Upon reflection, I created an action plan for securing a babysitter, a new home and support in case I needed to travel.  Knowing the power I had as a co-creator and in taking action to drive my circumstances, I chose to interpret these next few months as a test. I knew not everything would be in my control.  So, ironically, I planned to be nimble. I had all the tools to do so.

I’ve got this. 

Two weeks passed in this “can-do” state. I pursued every opportunity I could to solve my solvable problems. At the same time, I tried to mimic Lord Shiva, staying detached, steady with the aid of meditation.  

8 open houses later, without any response to my babysitter ad, and with an emergency trip on the horizon, I was losing faith.  Stress and anxiety were filling in its place.

My coping strategies were inadequate. Most nights, I was awake at 3am toggling through Zillow, Urban Sitter and Mayo Clinic search results. 

During the day, my racing mind hummed with worry.  My body robotically rushed through tasks like making dinner and being smart and peppy on TV.  In my brief steps out of denial, I would cry with worry about my family member’s health. 

It was clear that my emotions, even-ness, ability to focus were under siege.    “The work” and “my tools” didn’t smooth out emotional swings. My efforts and hard work were not enough to solve my issues. My sense of external security was crashing. It was clear that, deep down, I was wholly dependent on my circumstances changing to release me from my prison.  

This is what brings me to my altar.

What am I doing wrong? How am I going to get through this?  I am doing everything I know to do. 

Helplessness floods my body.  My invisible, worry-filled backpack is strapped to my body, its weight pressing me deeper into the beige fluff. .  

I place my worries and decisions here. Tell me what to do.  

I physically act out taking off the straps of this heavy, uncomfortable backpack.  Over the right shoulder first.  Then the left.  I pull it away from my body and place it on the ground in front of me. What comes to my mind next is the word: surrender.  

I surrender this load to you

After a few moments, some realizations. Like, that in my empowered process, my acknowledging the possibility of other timelines, processes and outcomes was absent. But now, in this moment of expansive freedom, I was able to appreciate that my efforts had been an attempt to control outcomes and end my problems.  The Universe was now telling me to give those actions away and surrender to the moment. 

I could also compassionately see my misguided use of various coping mechanisms, including meditation, thinking them to be ways to avoid rocky emotions rather than being used as a life preserver by which to cling to survive the waves. Rotating through them was my anxious attempt to rid myself of uncomfortable emotions.  

And in those fleeting minutes, I did.  I could feel peace, ease and a deep sense of trust running through my body. 

There is much that is unresolved. I am still stressed and snippy. I still crawl the web for solutions, while buried under my blankets at night. I am still worried for my family, though we are out of crisis territory, into benign territory that will require travel in July. For this I am grateful, another emotion I try to land on more frequently to reframe perspective.

Occasionally, during my reflective time, journaling and wrist-cooling attempts, I can tap into that moment of peace and trust that I felt at my altar.  Trying to be present in those fleeting moments allows my life, my journey to momentarily detour from the jam-packed 405 to the expansive, spectacular, ocean views one can only see by diverting your trip onto the Pacific Coast Highway.

Photo by Dorka Hegedus Lum

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