Life loves to throw us crashing into the dark once in a while. Tides come in and then go out. Good times roll up to our front door and then go washing out the back. Their arrival brings joy and happiness, only to eventually fade and pass. Hard times too. We hate to see them come, and breathe sighs of relief when they recede. Life seems to be in constant motion.
And in a way, it is. Constant movement and change happens all around us every day, and we get used to it. We become acclimated and adjust and normalized. I call this being grounded. It’s that feeling of being centered and calm deep inside, when you are firmly anchored. When your vessel isn’t floating free, bobbing helter skelter at the mercy of the wind and sea. Being grounded feels like you are in command and everything is going according to plan. It’s that feeling of calm, deep inside.
Sometimes, things in life change, or we change, and then the dreaded unknown comes visiting. Right up to our door like an uninvited and unwelcome guest. Ugh. I hate that. What to do? I always want to know what to do.
The biggest secret I’ve learned is that the times of transition, when there is so much change going on that I’m sitting in that big black space of WTF, are times to “do” absolutely nothing. When I try to change something and every effort of trying ends up making things worse, it’s time to sit down and wait. And breathe.
Staring straight into the mouth of the unknown can be terrifying; and yet it can also be exhilarating. It’s that wonderfully, terrifyingly, exciting time of not knowing if our next step will be our last, or will be the first step towards wonder and amazement. Will we cross the ocean only to fall off the edge of the earth? Or will we discover new land?
There are times, when visiting the land of unknown becomes a bit too scary, and the best thing we can do for ourselves is stop and breathe. I also advocate having a good cry if it comes up. It helps me wade through the muck all that much faster.
As the voyage of my life presented times of change and transition, I’ve seemed to weather many of them well, knowing that they were stepping-stones in my life. But there were definitely times that I lost faith in the journey and became terrified of monsters below the sea. Expecting them to rise up and capsize my ship at any moment.
Not only was I terrified of monsters, but winds of change picked up and whipped the seas into a frenzy I thought might never calm. Fortunately, time has shown me that eventually, the winds die down, seas calm, and I find port and securely anchor again.
My most terrifying and most rewarding journey has always revolved around raising my son. From the day he very suddenly and unexpectedly entered the world, it’s been a series of ups and downs. When he had difficulty with what felt like every transition in life, as a very little guy, the amount of discomfort he experienced really rang my bell. There was nothing harder for me than seeing my son struggle and suffer every single day, and often multiple times a day, for years.
Trying to fix things that often couldn’t be fixed, wore me out.
Trying to control him taught me quickly that I really can’t control another person.
And pushing him too hard, ended up with him crashing on the rocks.
There were times that as much as I might have wanted to make progress forward, maintaining bare steerage, navigating each wave as it came, and actually losing ground, was the most prudent course of action to keep the ship upright.
And then there have been the moments when weeks, months, or years of consistent effort paid off. The day I dropped him off to preschool, and he didn’t cry and cling to me, was about seven months into the school year. He finally tied his shoes when he was eleven. And just the other day, he talked himself down from a panic attack. HUGE!!
I was thinking about why it’s harder to see my child struggle than it is for me to deal with my own hardship, and it finally hit me. As much as I know that he has his own journey in life, and he’ll have his own adventures and storms to weather, a big part of me didn’t trust that he’d come out the other side without a severely damaged hull and rigging.
These days, we are going through the teenage years.
It’s my child who is changing and venturing out into a new and different phase of life, and as much as I want to impart all of my life wisdom into him as quickly as I can, I must wait until his ears are open to hearing it.
Because it’s such a huge time of self discovery for Little Man, my job as mom is taking a back seat, morphing into teacher and mentor. It’s time for me to turn the helm of my son’s life gradually over to him, and be ok with watching his journey unfold.
It’s so easy to write those words on paper (or screen, as the case may be), and yet, when it’s 1 am and my son’s brain is bound up with anxiety and panic over something in the future that isn’t even going to come to pass, not allowing his body to sleep, I try to fix him. I try to make it better. Those are the times when it’s beyond hard to let things go. The times when I can’t see how he’s going to make it from what I see in the moment, to the amazing future I know he’s going to have.
Facing the unknown can be as hard as looking at the biggest and baddest sea monster of all, who is circling the boat, and you’re sure it’s ready to move in for the kill. Having faith that by the last possible second, the monster will be taken out by a harpoon you didn’t even see coming, can be a tall order.
Believing that things will always work out for the best can be a stretch. But looking for the silver lining in the clouds is something I’m getting good at. And the more I look for the silver and glean gold from our voyages, the richer we both become.
I don’t know what sorts of weather my son will have to handle during his own journey, navigating from port to port, but he’s building skills to navigate whatever comes up. And with an astute lookout on the bow, angels on both beams and winds to push him ever forward, he’ll make it through, one voyage at a time. And so will I.