She clicked her blue ball point pen twice and looked at me. I curled a loose piece of hair over my index finger and smiled. I like her, she seems to get me; unlike most people. A bunch of papers in her lap gather information about me, including my limiting beliefs and my date of birth. We both know that the papers don’t mean much. Nothing is as intriguing as sitting in front of an honest person who is wiling to tell us everything about their experience. So i embody that and listen intently to her. Tell me about a time when you overcame something you didn’t think was possible, describe the situation exactly as you remember it she said as she sat up straight and square in her chair. She usually does that as she prepares to alter my perspective about something. I answered her giving a simple example and chuckling, I quickly followed it up with a statement to discredit and undermine my triumph.
She then gathered her breath and spoke, you see? We don’t give ourselves enough credit. We tend to remember our failures, our weaknesses and our pains more readily than we do our triumphs. We think we fail a lot more greatly than we overcome. Notice your ability to respond and adapt; you will learn to pay attention to that. Know that you are capable of so much more than you think.
That was our last meeting, after that, life changed forever.
What is an experience that you overcame against all odds? What does your triumph story look like? How does it ring in your ears? Does it have a special taste on the bitterness averse buds of your tongue? Do you tell it to yourself more often than you dwell on your misfortunes and failures? Or do you shy away from the victories and lean in a little too closely to the victimized self?
There are some things that we cannot fathom happening to us, but they do. People we love can die, people we love can leave. Worse yet, we can live despite those things. We can still breathe even though we think that the only way through is out and under, suffocating beneath the immense weight of our exploding hearts. Yet, contrary to what we may think, we are not wired to die out of heartbreak and heart ache; we are made to live through it and thrive because of it. Our human experience must not be limited by the temporary comforts of our existence. We must expand and explode into billions of pieces of who we used to be and gather again. We must mend because that it is the only way.
We ought to live like stars floating in a dark universe, we ought to collide with one another and implode like big bangs dispersing love and light and sheer tragedy into nothingness; only to experience rebirth in form, spirit and depth again and again. That is the continuity we can aspire to and not immortality...
Fear can only be met by experience, as unfortunate as that sounds for my anxious self. The only weapon that can completely obliterate the fearful is deep living; and nothing is more contradictory. Yet, all it takes is a deep breath in, and an acceptance of the impermanence of being here right now.
Imagine your temporary existence as a simple coin, with “You are here now” engraved. There are two ways of responding to that; heads or tails.
What does temporary existence and a tossed coin have in common? Well, both require a choice and a response. What is your primary choice when faced with life? Expansion or contraction? What is your response after the outcome presents itself? Fear or courage?
Fear is one way to respond. It is the nod of understanding that we can simply die, things can easily end and living is not to be taken for granted so our minds meet that with cowardice, with contraction and the need to preserve the sanity and safety and comfort we have in the split moment of being. We make believe that if we contract and limit our experiences then maybe nothing will happen to us and we can live much longer. The truth is however, the coin is being constantly tossed, comfort isn’t so comfortable when you are always meeting every toss with the fear of losing it all. Its like you are always betting against yourself, and holding your breath.
The other side of meeting that toss of the coin however, is living so unapologetically wild and open. Meeting life with courage because everything can end in a split second; our lives can change and twist out of control and we, the most vulnerable of beings can only respond with embracing the experience no matter how complex, terrifying and extraordinary it is. We accept our odds, we enjoy the comfort but we don’t get attached to it. We take our chances and we acknowledge that this is the game. We meet every toss with a deep breath and an exhale, and we believe in our ability to respond and experience living in our own unique way.
Just don’t live in fear of that coin getting tossed; trust in your ability to respond to the outcome no matter what.
One reply on “What if the only thing in life you can control is your response?”
Really a deep perspective. I went through similar thoughts but was not able to express my inner-self as eloquently as you, so thank you for bringing your inner being out for a moment. I liked the last part as well metaphoring our life experiences with tosses of a coin, though in this specific perspective I myself introduce my religious convictions in to the picture to take the tossings’ results with a peaceful rather than an anxious spirit. Positive psychology comes in strong to support the brightness of hope amid the darkest possible thoughts that may explode after tossings.