My 2023 intention to surrender has been put to the test lately, and recent challenges only highlight how important it is for me to keep learning and practicing this concept.
Do you remember the book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? How he wakes up with gum in his hair, and his best friend tells him he’s chosen a different best friend, and there are lima beans for dinner and he hates lima beans? And he keeps saying that he’s going to move to Australia? The book ends with his mom saying, “Some days are like that…even in Australia.”
This is my idea of surrender. Constantly reminding myself that some moments or days or weeks are hard…even in Australia. It’s the Buddhist concept that pain exists in the world, but suffering comes from all our judgment of and resistance to what is happening. The longing for things to be different than they are layers suffering on top of the inherent pain of existence.
My recent challenges have not been anything major. Far from it! It’s been more like death by paper cuts, but without the death, although there have been two funerals involved, so I guess some death. Two trips to Iowa to say goodbye to aunts I loved. A few difficult conversations, over and above my typical therapy sessions with clients, which don’t even count as difficult conversations to me anymore, although they do take a toll after a while. Life feeling generally chaotic, with an overabundance of moving parts and reconfigured plans, making me feel run down. Feeling both overwhelmed with tasks and disconnected from people. Culminating in getting locked out of my office the other night and spending an hour trying to figure out how to solve that problem and missing my book club, which I was really looking forward to. I sound like Alexander, right? Which I hate, and brings me to my next point.
My annoying shame gremlins telling me I’m being a baby and have no right to complain because my life is good. Those gremlins getting all riled up with these shoulda, woulda, coulda messages. Those ‘you aren’t doing this well enough’ and ‘you aren’t doing that well enough’ internal narratives. The self-criticism about losing focus and letting some of the good habits I’ve established slide. Losing connection with the self-compassion necessary to actually move skillfully through the rougher patches of life, even when those harder moments are simply really annoying and not devastating. Alexander does have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I had a crappy couple of weeks. And some days and weeks are like that. Not terrible, but also not ideal. And I want to be better able to accept that ebb and flow without blaming myself or others for it. This is surrender for me.
I woke up yesterday and journaled about my visual of surrender being like floating down a river and allowing the current to direct me, and how that’s easy when the water is calm and peaceful, and it’s harder when there are rocks and rapids. Yet it doesn’t mean there’s a better choice, just because the water is rougher. I got up and took a walk and paid attention to the sunshine and birds chirping away, celebrating spring. I listened to my Sarah Blondin “Learning to Surrender” meditation. I got some of those overhanging tasks completed. And today I feel better. Lighter. I’ve let go of something, surrendered to something else, and I feel good.
Some days are like this too.
This post reminds me of a model that we use in occupational therapy. It is called the Kawa Model and talks about life using a river analogy. Here are a few basics and a link to explain it better:
Water in a river: the flow of a person’s life
River banks: natural contexts, including social and physical environments
Rocks: barriers to function and life flow
Driftwood: assets and resources that promote function and happiness
I have talked to clients and students using this model to help them see that rocks/ barriers are not personal but are to be expected in a river/life.
This webiste explains it better. Check it out.
Great post! So easy to “layer suffering”. How mean that we do that to ourselves — and how human. Thank you for the reminder and the perspective.