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First the Grief, Then the Surrender (And Other Four Letter Words)

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With each new week that passes, I’m not only reminded of how close the end of the year is getting (I mean, hello, Thanksgiving is NEXT week, like how in the world did that happen?), but also how close it’s getting to this new little boy entering the world and I feel like I have so much left to do.

We spent the weekend organizing the junk drawers – you know the ones – where you open them up and there’s an assortment of pens that don’t work, business cards people have left in your door, keys to who knows what, spare light bulbs (or that may just be my husband’s obsession), markers that have run dry, loose change, a paper clip or two, and in the case of my motorcycle riding hubby – yellow foam earplugs galore!

So, now that two of those are down and out of the way, which by the way, we used to only have ONE of these drawers and now somehow have three, it’s onto the big stuff like getting a nursery together, moving my office into a spare bedroom, and finally creating a playroom for the soon to be boy(S) also known as the room where I can shut the door and leave their toys however and wherever they lay!  Hooray!

So, you might say there’s a lot of transition happening over here.  A lot of preparation, moving things around, speeding up in some ways and slowing down in others, which actually brings me to our topic for today – SURRENDER!

 

Whew… and it’s a big one!

 

You know, we’ve been talking about the practice of surrender in Wild & Holy Truth this past week, and although I like to think I have so much wisdom to offer in this area, I’ve found myself really struggling with this one lately.

This past year has been full of big leaps for me and milestones.  I’ve grabbed ahold of the Wild & Holy train and showed up in full gear for whatever it’s needed to grow.  There’s been a dynamite vision in place, heart-centered ideas and ways to guide others to their own Wild & Holy truth so they can live braver, and there’s been all kinds of beautiful moments shared at the retreats.

For the first time in a long time, I’ve felt like I finally knew where I was heading and how I was going to get there and all of it has felt SO good until about 6 weeks ago.

Everything that had once felt expansive and delicious started to feel tight and constrained.  And as soon as those feelings moved in, my immediate reaction was to go, “no, no, no, no, no”, we can do this!  Don’t stop now.  Keep going.  We can make space for it all” because I knew what was coming – the reality that it wasn’t time to keep moving ahead at lightening speed, but instead…. It was time to start slowing down.

I’ve never been a “slow down” kind of person.  I’ve had a need for speed for as long as I can remember. In fact, by the time I started college, I already had my whole life planned out.

I was going to graduate when I was 22, start grad school when I was 23, be married by the time I was 25, and have put away a large amount of money for retirement by the time I was 30.

Did you have a plan like that too?  It’s funny isn’t it?

Because if you’re anything like me, life didn’t exactly go that way, did it?

By the age of 19, I’d withdrawn from school, decided to take a year off to get my bearings and get some partying out of my system, decided to get out of a toxic friendship situation, moved states, transferred schools, become 100% financially independent from my parents, and kind of start over.

And of course, this put a whole wrench in the “graduate by the time I was 22” thing.  I’ll never forget calling my dad one day in a complete meltdown during my junior year of college when I realized even if I took every single summer session that was offered, I was still going to graduate a whole semester late behind the timeline.

In tears fueled by stress and fear of how this was going to ruin everything, my dad asked one simple question that literally stopped me in my tracks and I come back to it over and over again.  And all he asked was, “what’s the rush?”

What was the rush?  Why did I feel like I needed to go 90 mph all of the time?  What was I running to?  And why in the world did I think I needed to get there so fast?

Life back then felt a lot like I was on a hamster wheel trying to cram as much in as humanly possible.  And I’d love to tell you that so much has changed since then and it has and it hasn’t.

I still get attached to visions and deadlines that I create for myself, timelines and timeframes that I love to measure myself on.  I love having goals that I’m constantly working toward.  It’s like it’s part of my DNA and part of what makes me happy.

You know a few years ago, Breck and I took a vacation with my parents up Lake Lure, where they filmed the iconic Dirty Dancing.  We stayed in a Smoky Mountain Cabin a few miles from Chimney Rock and at that time, my mom had her heart set on buying this monstrosity of a fixer upper.  It was an old plantation home in my dad’s hometown with an old barn, a smokehouse, and about as much historic charm as you could imagine an old Southern plantation home could have.  She’d been dreaming of restoring an old plantation home forever.  Literally in her diary that she kept while she was pregnant with me, she talked about this dream and it was finally within her grasp.

My dad, on the otherhand, nearing retirement, didn’t exactly find the idea of restoring an old plantation home or taking care of its grounds a relaxing adventure.  And so they were going toe to toe over who was going to get their way as Breck and I sat in the back seat wondering who was going to win.

As my dad put his foot down for the hundredth time in this four month long conversation, my mom said something that Breck and I still laugh about to this day and it’s funny because it’s so very much my mom, but also because I think it’s so very all of us.

Through gritted teeth and frustration, she said to my Dad…. “Jimmy, if you don’t have a dream, you might as well be dead.”  And she meant it with every single bone of her body.

That little phrase has informed a lot of who I am and who we all are because dreams are those things that keep us going, keep us growing, and are the birthplace of hope, determination, bold action, imagination, and creativity.

I come from a big dreamer so it’s no surprise that I love having big visions and accompanied with a strong work ethic I get from my dad, it’s also no surprise that I love throwing myself wholeheartedly into achieving them.
Yet, I know we’ve all been in this place where we’ve had to realize ambition can’t be the only thing that’s driving the car.  If that were the case, we’d literally run ourselves into the ground and us humans don’t function going 90 mph all the time like ambition would like.

We have seasons of fast movement and seasons of rest, seasons of integration and seasons of implementation.

And what I’ve had to realize is that I’m entering into a different season right now, a season that’s asking me to slow down, which isn’t my nature, and start creating a beautiful little cocoon for this little boy who’s about to enter the world.

And what that’s really meant is that the dreams and visions that I had for Wild & Holy next year have had to shift substantially as I’ve come to terms with how I want to feel, what I want my family life to be like, and knowing I can’t hold space for it all.

There’s been surrendering to the season and I don’t know about you, but surrender doesn’t exactly come easy.

There’s something about slowing down that makes me feel like I’m giving up.  There’s something about surrender that makes me feel like I’m giving in.  And there’s something about resting in the natural season of things that is so obviously the right choice, that it makes me feel somewhat crazy for resisting it so much.

But that’s the path of surrender – full of ease and rest and being held once you get there, but usually full of anger, fear, resistance, and resentment until you’re fully ready to let go.
And that, my friends, is exactly the process of grief.  And although I’m sure there’s a much easier way to get there (and there is), I usually don’t take the easy way because maybe I just love the torture.  I’m kidding!

But truly, there aren’t many people I know who surrender easily and I think that’s for a few reasons:

1.  We’re really attached to how things should go.  From my “life plan at 18” not working out to making space for babies in the grander vision in my 30’s”, learning to flow with life is about having a vision, but being flexible.

  1. We usually have a lot on the line attached to our vision meaning we make our visions (or more importantly, achieving our visions) mean something about us. When I do X, then I’ll be Y.   Or when I reach X, then I can be Y.
    3.  We love, love, love to be in control and letting go means we let go of that.  And I have substantially gotten better at this over the years.  I know I’m always taken care of, somehow, someway.  I know the world doesn’t fall apart if you let a vision go because it always comes back together the way it was intended.  I know I can be okay in the unknown because that’s the practice of vulnerability.

Yet, letting go of visions and dreams is one thing.  Surrendering the outcome of relationships is another.

We often forget that everything in our lives is a co-creation.  Our visions and dreams are a co-creation with God.  Our relationships are a co-creation between ourselves, another person, and the Divine (and we often forget that last part).

I don’t think anything is as difficult as surrendering the future of a relationship because relationships are such a big piece of our life story.  We make decisions based on the people we love.  We create life fulfillment based on the wellbeing of our relationships.  And when there’s conflict here between you and another, it can take a good long hard street fight before you’re willing to recognize you’re not in control of what someone else does or doesn’t do.  And if there’s anything more vulnerable than that…. Let me know because what’s usually at stake here is a big piece of your heart.

 

This is probably where I hold the deepest space for my clients – how to find the bravery to surrender the outcome of a relationship, how to continue to put forth effort that comes from a place of healthy love vs. manipulative love, how to continue to be hopeful while also not attaching too much of their wellbeing to their desired outcome.  And let me tell you, the journey there can be so incredibly hard.

Not only is the journey filled with anger that the other person won’t do or be who they need them to be, but there’s fear and sadness, resentment and feelings of helplessness at times, as we, as humans do, wrestle with what’s in our power to control.

And this is grief – grieving over who you thought someone was supposed to be, the relationship you thought you were supposed to have, the future you thought you were signing up for, and you add on layers of empty promises with no follow through, and not only are you grieving the relationship you wanted and dreamed of, you’re grieving the repeated disappointment of this other person not showing up for you.  But more than anything, you’re grieving the limits of your own power and we often miss this ONE BIG PIECE!

It’s painful.  And instead of surrendering in that moment, what many of us like to do is try harder.  We try to fix ourselves so we can fix someone else not realizing that the more we try and “fix” the situation, the more we’re trying to control it and the more we try and control it, the angrier we become that we aren’t getting our desired outcome.

 

We end up feeling like we’re beating our heads against the wall, right?  And I don’t know about you, but I like to beat my head against the wall for awhile before I realize that wall isn’t moving and maybe there’s another way.  Some may call it hardheadedness.  I like to call it determination.

Either way, first we grieve, then we surrender.  And once we do, we wonder what in the hell took us so long to get here in the first place because surrender is peace, surrender is trust, surrender is like being held by two big strong hands that are protecting us and our situation and are already working out the best outcome for all.

There have been times in my life where surrender has come easy.  I’ve felt the grief coming and known that surrender would be on the other side. I’ve gone willingly. I’ve actually moved through the acceptance phase of grief quite quickly and handed it all over and when I can do that… oh my goodness, there’s so much less suffering.

But either way, grief is an important piece.  It’s necessary.  It’s human.

As life shifts and changes directions, as it often does, we have to grieve what once was, what we most wanted, and sometimes what we didn’t even know we wanted until we realized we weren’t getting it.

I’ve talked about this on Facebook, but haven’t mentioned it here on the podcast, but when I found out I was having another boy instead of a girl, I cried my eyes out for half an hour straight…. Straight up sobbing and snot bubbles as I sat in the parking lot realizing that a little girl wasn’t in my future.  And all kinds of thoughts went through my mind.

I should be happy I can get pregnant because not all women can.
I should be happy the baby is healthy because not all babies are.
I shouldn’t expect the sex of a baby to determine their gender and who they’ll become.
I shouldn’t put so many stereotypes and gender norms on a little soul.

Yet, I can’t deny the very real reality of knowing there would most definitely NOT be certain things in my future.

And at the bottom of all these feelings, I knew that everything was perfectly designed.  I knew this would all make sense one day.  I knew God knew what She was doing.

But I couldn’t go there right away.  I had to grieve what would never be.  Grief was the path to surrender.  It was the path to acceptance.

And some of those journeys are easier than others.  Some are far harder.  But recognizing first the grief, then the surrender is a lot like recognizing first the pain, then the rising.

We can’t go around the things that hurt or pretend the visions we had never existed.  We can’t pretend letting go is always easy because it isn’t.

But what I do know is that surrender offers us an opening.  It offers us ease and resting in something bigger than us.  It offers us less pain and less suffering once we arrive here.  We realize we can be out of control and still be at peace all at the same time and what a blessing that it is to know we can find peace within the chaos because P.S. there’s always chaos and there’s always the availability of peace.

So, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  Is surrender a street fight with lots of four letter words for you?  Do you surrender easily?  Are there things that are easier to surrender than others?

The reality is there is very little that is in our control.  The more I’ve deepened into trust and faith and created a relationship with the Divine on my own terms, the easier surrender has become.  But I’m not sure surrender is a natural first choice for us humans.  We often forget there’s a Divine timing to all things, a real limit to what we can hold space for simultaneously, and that we are always in flow with our own seasons.

As I shift into this next one, I’m reminded that every season has it’s end and it’s beginning.  This little cocoon I’m creating will make way for baby soon enough and then it will be the season of adjustment and transition as a mama of two and then adjustment and transition to finding the harmony between dreams and littles, myself and marriage, and with each new season, there may be grief, there may be surrender, and most likely four letter words, but I can be determined and detached at the same time, which is maybe one of my next lessons <3

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