This morning I was milling around the house, stewing about some problems that have popped up recently, when I decided to read Sulelika Jaouad’s latest Isolation Journals installment. It is about shifting expectations, and how allowing all sorts of outcomes to be okay, from lowering them to hoping for the best, can foster the ways of being that help us live as fully as we can within the life experience we’re dealt. She writes about dealing with illness: “But I know I can’t hold off on living my life until I’m “well enough,” because there may be no such time. Instead, I thought about something someone said in the comments of this newsletter a few months back: that true wellness is living as fully as you can within your circumstances.” Whether it’s someone dealing with unemployment, or a daunting home project, or difficult parenting situations, or relationship struggles…even those navigating the grief of losing a loved one—no matter what the circumstances, true wellness means living as fully as you can within the experience that’s yours.
This is not easy to remember, or practice, in the moment, of course: Just earlier this weekend our basement flooded (again), a cherished project was accidentally damaged enough to be dismantled and part of it shipped off for repair just weeks after finishing it (after years of planning and months of work), work conditions are tenuous, and another big home repair project looms large on the calendar right as a new school year starts up. Life went from feeling pretty okay to feeling overwhelmingly hard within about 3 hours. I found myself suddenly stuck in worry about what else might go wrong, instead of focusing on what is within my control to do next.
Later in Suelika’s newletter, she shares a writing prompt from her friend Holly Huitt, who writes about how she’d been rejoicing in how great the garden was looking right before leaving for a vacation, just to return home to find her fears of it going downhill founded: she was slammed with overwhelm by how weedy and neglected it looked after her time away. (Which is something I can relate to, as I had the same experience back in June. The garden looked spectacular the day we left. Not so ten days later.) After tumbling out of the car, her little boys got her out there in the weediness when they wanted to see what was ripe, and as she started pulling a few weeds, she found it wasn’t as hard as she thought to reclaim. (Same for me…I wanted to give up and let the weeds win at first glance, but the evening of the day we got back I went up to pick some of the kale forest. I pulled a few weeds, which came out fine. Which led to pulling more and more and after awhile, things were under control again.)
Holly ended her prompt with, “Some of the hard things I had been worrying about might just turn out all right. Instead of hunkering down and bracing for impact, I could, just maybe, hope for the best.”
Bracing for impact has its place, of course — sometimes that’s necessary. But sometimes hoping for the best serves us better. My work in the coming days is going to be to allow what has already happened to be what it is (instead of getting stuck inside the “if I’d only’s…” and the “why didn’t we’s”), and to allow space for hope that things will go better from here. My work is to allow myself to live as fully as I can within the circumstances that are. And if I can do that, true wellness is within reach, no matter what happens next.
Consider the lily flower, or the lotus – they literally grow and bloom in the mud. May we all embrace our inner lotus and use our agency for change to take a step toward what we need to thrive in the conditions we have – even if it means putting on our mud boots.