To say that 2020 has been complicated is the understatement of the year. It seems like every day I hear someone say, “I cannot wait for this year to end,” as if the clock will strike midnight on December 31st and suddenly life will return to some sense of normalcy or at minimum, it will markedly improve. Without a doubt, I have encountered my share of challenges this year. Yet if I am honest, 2019 didn’t win any awards either. In fact, the overall quality of my life throughout the last nine months has actually upgraded in terms of flexibility and space to recognize my authentic priorities. This year has also emphasized various lessons for me, not the least of which is to respect the laws of time and nature.
Last weekend was (literally) a perfect storm of events that reinforced this perspective. As a rare November hurricane named Eta advanced towards South Florida and I watched the news showing at least 10 different spaghetti models for its potential path, I was mildly aggravated as its wet and windy effects coincided with a visit from my mom. Noting the irony of the name, I caught myself wishing I could have the ETA (or Estimated Time of Arrival) and exact location of the storm’s impact. Paradox aside, I know that having certainty of the storm’s path would not actually have given me control over the outcome, but my ego likes to pretend otherwise. I was lamenting the unfortunate weather for my mom’s short stay and how it would disturb our plans and her travel home, until I realized the aptness of the metaphor. Attempting to resist or negotiate with nature is undeniably futile.
As the wind and the rain intensified outside, it set the stage for the extraordinary gift of presence with my mother as she recounted experiences from her life as a young adult into the present day. I lay curled up on the couch listening intently as she spoke and it brought into stark focus what I admire most about her: like nature, she lives in integrity with her essence. She generally does not allow the “should’s”—the usual suspects behind my own anxious thoughts—to infect her vocabulary or her power of decision, especially in her relationships. She is like a kite that flies according to the wind of her soul. Yet remarkably, she is the also the one holding the other end of the string, grounded at her core with the spirit of a child at play. As she related her stories, it was evident that at times her string was shorter and more restricted; however, she ultimately heeded her intuition when it was time to release the slack that she required to survive and thrive.
In speaking about relationships in particular, like a flash of lightning, I was struck by a meaningful realization. To grieve the possibility of what could be or could have been is to neglect the gift of the present. Although I have not personally been among those counting the minutes until 2021, I have spent more than enough time mourning past circumstances that I have no power to change (just like the weather). My revelation in speaking to my mother is that those seemingly innocuous could’s andshould’s are draining me of my joy today. I have been attached to a past condition and projecting it onto my future as if I might somehow preserve it forever. Perhaps I am no different from the masses – wishing that I could either revert back or fast forward to a “better” time and space. The reality is that our forever afters are not a single, fixed destination. They are fluid like the wind. Some days are calm and light, and others are aggressive and strong enough to destroy entire cities. Nature does not try to maintain itself in one form or another – it just is. So why should we be any different?
Ultimately, I have nothing but gratitude for the profound lessons that this year has offered. Notably, nature’s essence is ephemeral (global pandemic included) and it ebbs and flows in cycles. Nothing is ever static. No two clouds or snowflakes are alike for a reason, just as no two days, weeks or years are ever the same – thankfully. Every challenging circumstance and relationship shape our eternal regeneration, just like a forest fire cultivates new growth. We are all just a combination of nature’s elements with the additional power of consciousness to observe and decide to continue forward or change the track we are traversing. To truly harness that power is to transcend the attachment to the past or future that never was; instead, it is a recognition and respect for our lack of control in the first place. I tip my proverbial hat to the divine forces that gently help me forge the path, and very often re-direct it when I am clinging adamantly to a particular narrative of what “should” be. To quote an unknown author’s poignant suggestion, “let go of the illusion that it could have been any different.”