You Don’t Always Get To Choose

Late July, 2011

It’s dark outside the window, even at 4:00 in the afternoon.  We’re getting just the smallest glimpse of a break in this Texas drought, as a meager rain sprinkles across the backyard.

That rain reflects my mood today. 

I’m not desperately sad or fantastically happy.  I’m perhaps some shade of soft blue crossed with gray; not sinking, not soaring, just being.  I’m on the down-swing of my summer, and it’s been a summer wrought with change and surprises and go-go-go.  But now the wheels are slowing on this raucous ride, and I’m looking back at what I’ve learned.

Earlier this summer, I wrote about wanting to savor every moment, and I’m happy to say that I think I’ve been doing that.  I’ve absolutely been living in the now.  For the last three months I’ve kept a bathing suit, towel, and my giant blanket in my car at all times, knowing that I could find myself at Barton Springs at the drop of a hat.  I lost battery power on my laptop frequently, went through three journals, and survived on minimal sleep and an excess of caffeine.  I realized that I ate an almost entirely vegetarian diet, because I generally ate raw food on-the-fly.  I tried new things, jumping—or rather, madly flinging myself—at every opportunity that arose. 

It’s a wonder, really, that I’m not more tired!  Just the opposite, in fact:  I feel energized and alive.

But reality will set in shortly.  I’ll begin a new job and move into a new house.  My Ultimate season will kick into high gear, demanding many of my weekends.  I’ll see the freedom of summer dissipate as I’m bound by a structured schedule.  So the real challenge will be to appreciate every moment, even when I don’t necessarily have the final say over what I’m doing with my time.

A former colleague recently said to me, “You don’t always get to choose your opportunities for growth.”  And she couldn’t be more right.  I like to have control; I like to strong-arm all of the factors in my life.  But life just isn’t like that.  It’s a slippery character, and we can’t always anticipate or manage all of the variables that inevitably come about.  In the last eight months, the universe has surprised me at every turn.  It’s thrown me curveballs and it’s helped me out.  Fate has been a wicked trickster as well as a fairy godmother.  Every time I thought I was going to stumble, I managed to stay upright.  I may even be standing taller.

But another friend argued that he doesn’t believe in fate.  “Things happen for a ‘reason,’” he said, “but that reason comes from the things you do (or don’t do).”  And so maybe I’m leaving too much to the universe.  Maybe I’m giving fate too much credit.  Perhaps I’m just doing just what Valeri said—seeing these twists and turns as opportunities to grow and learn about myself.  I’m using them as such, even without realizing it.  It isn’t about fate or destiny at all, but about me and the choices that I make.  Especially the difficult ones. 

How often do we sit comfortably in routine, taking the well-trodden path?  I’ve done that very thing many times, and found myself in painful, sticky ruts that leave me feeling empty and flat.  The tremendous shake-ups in my life right now are teaching me about myself partly because I’m embracing them.  Sure, I could dwell on how difficult change can be—and it is hard, make no mistake—but it feels so much more productive to live in the moment and be an active participant.  I’m not sitting around, waiting for life to happen to me.  Surrendering to the unknown is a new thing for me.  It’s typically uncomfortable.  But I’ve learned that fighting against it is so much harder.  I’m realizing how validating—how life-giving—it is to allow these moments to be a part of the person I am.  To throw my arms around the unpredictable future and give it a big, welcoming bear hug.