Browse Front PageShare Your Idea

When the universe throws you a curve ball, catch it

2 Heart it! Lindsay Ratcliffe 144
October 17, 2018
Lindsay Ratcliffe
2 Heart it! 144

We’ve all heard the old adage ‘Give up control to get control’ but what the heck does that really mean and how do you apply that when the universe throws you a curve ball? For some it might be the perfect excuse to give up and roll-over, become the victim of circumstance and wallow in the misery of it all. For others they might be able to catch that ball and find a new opportunity with a new perspective.

Life is full of ups and downs. The downs are mostly at a time of change in our lives. The more unexpected and the bigger the impact on our perception of up, the steeper the plummet and the lower score on the graph of happiness. We are often reminded that ‘change is constant’, nothing ever stays the same. Yet we are often so ill-equipped to deal with change when it hits us up side the head.

It’s partly because when we are up, it feels like we are in control. We create our ideal expectations of the outcome and we shape the journey to get there. When we arrive and everything matches our vision, we congratulate ourselves on a plan well executed and our ability to control the variables along the way, and revel in the moment.  

But if things don’t turn out as expected, then we are fraught with regret and anxiety. What could I have done differently? Why is this happening to me? I have failed! I have let me/them down. Why is this happening to me? It’s not fair! If only X hadn’t got in the way? We’ve all probably experienced this, to some greater or lesser extent at various times in our lives. At the extreme, such experiences can become a deep personal tragedy and even lead to spiralling anger and/or depression. However if you are able to detach from the events – it’s not the universe targeting you personally; and if you are able to accept the situation – rather than fight or resist it; and adjust (or release) your expectations – then you might just be able to find peace and maybe even opportunity in the change you are experiencing. 

I learnt this lesson recently. I’m a mum of two kids under 10, I run my own business working with IT startups, I am an author and recently qualified yoga teacher. AKA very busy. For me nothing is impossible and I believe everything is achievable. So imagine that morning when I go to pick up something from the floor that one of my kids has dropped and my back suddenly decides not to work. Within an hour it my entire lower back is in spasm and has seized. I’ve had back events before, so i didn’t panic, I knew that with the right treatment i’d be running around as usual in no time. However, within 24 hours I couldn’t walk, sit, lie-down, bend or straighten up. I couldn’t lift anything or even get my underwear on. Everything I took for granted was now a pain-searing chore or just impossible.

It was a big one. No running around, or pretty much anything for me. I sat with it (as much as I could sit). I meditated on it and decided it was the universe sending me a lesson, that I needed to slow down and spend less time doing, and more time being. I was okay with that,  because subconsciously I believed it was a temporary condition and in a few days i’d be back to normal.

But over a month later and I still couldn’t tie my shoe laces. My resolve was weakening and I was becoming impatient. Practitioners and students of yoga often extol the virtues of yoga to help heal and strengthen backs (so why is this happening to me, i do lots of yoga?) So I decided to stop all this acceptance stuff – sitting around wasn’t working for me  – and so I rolled out my mat. Whilst I made a resolve to be gentle with myself, my expectation was that I would be able to what I normally do on the mat, but maybe slower with a few less chatturangas and maybe i’d leave out the jump throughs (just this once). 

However, I didn’t even manage the start of one sun-salutation without pain flashing up my spine and across my sacrum. So I sat defeated, in a pool of self pity and cried. 

It was then i truly learned the lesson i think i was supposed to learn. I had more than acceptance to learn. I had detachment to learn also. I was attached to the outcome and not ready to accept that the outcome should be different from my expectations. My expectation was that yoga should look like the image in my head. The yoga i’ve been used to. The yoga that I aspired to do. I realised that we are never truly in control and the more we try to control the less control we have.

What’s a girl to do? I thought about acceptance and thought about what that meant for me. Acceptance for me didn’t mean that I would just sit with it and wait it out. Instead I changed my perspective and detached myself from the expectation of the perfect outcome. In fact I killed all expectations, all sequences and routines. I accepted that I could work with the unknown and the uncontrollable. In this instance I said to myself ‘how would I teach someone yoga in my current condition?’ and so i felt my way around the mat, felt my way through my body, in particular my spine. I was present like I had never been present in yoga before and i surrendered and allowed my body to teach me, rather than trying to control and force my body into predefined asanas. My practise that day looked like a very different practise, but what was important was I had practised and what’s more, I had learnt some pretty big lessons; about yoga, about myself and about how life works. 

My little story is just that. Its not life changing or life threatening but it has had impact on me. Perhaps it’s easy to be stoic when the impact has a limited blast radius but I also know this to be true of people where the consequences of unexpected change are truly the difference between life and death. I dedicate this article to Lisa Foster, a friend, who is facing some of the most life effecting events, far beyond anything that i’ve had to endure. She is doing it with grace and acceptance, making the most of any opportunity she is given and readjusting expectations as she goes. Even from a distance she has been, and continues to be, a true inspiration.

How might you do the same? What expectations do you have of and for yourself that prevent you from living life truly in the moment? What can you reframe and how will you make turn that into an opportunity to make the most of the moment?

@lila.lolling @corygoldbergphotography thanks permission to use the beautiful photo

Browse Front PageShare Your Idea
2 Heart it! Lindsay Ratcliffe 144
2 Heart it! 144

johndconlon Oct 17, 2018 11:20am

Great article and so, so true. Perspective is everything, and we overlook it so often.

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.