I think about surrender a lot, because I am over forty and have learned how to control quite a bit of my life.
Something happens when a person reaches that age group. As a twenty-something I would often remark on how bitchy forty year old women were. They just seemed angry and bitter about everything. Well, it’s amazing how the life journey can give you some perspective on that.
To my twenty-something friends, you aren’t wrong about that observation! I’ll tell on myself a bit there. :-). Here’s why that bitterness tends to rear its ugly head at that time in a woman’s life (men too, I imagine). Since I can only speak for myself (others are undoubtedly wiser than me), I will cast this information in light of my own experience.
1. I’ve been working really hard in my career without sufficient regard to my other life needs…when I really need to work smarter.
2. I think I can keep the house clean all the time, even with four teenagers and animals and a full time job.
3. I fail to fully consider how I spend my commute to and from work.
4. I overlook the mathematics of the value of my time and give away too many hour of work to my employer.
5. I have been responsible for everything so long that I have forgotten how to be irresponsible – how to delight that inner child.
6. I stay too wrapped up in what didn’t go right yesterday and what I’m worried about for tomorrow to realize that in this little moment called NOW, there is a sunbeam and the coffee is awesome and the og is less than five feet away.
From my atheist / agnostic upbringing as a child, my concept of surrender is more practical than holy, although it certainly works to have a holy idea of surrender to God.
Surrender = acceptance of a bigger idea or plan than I cannot know all of at any one moment.
It also involves letting go of the idea that I can control what happens to me, and opening myself to serendipity that can move me forward spiritually. Even writing this line, I feel resistance within myself. Sometimes someone I care about makes a suggestion for something fun to do. If it wasn’t already in my plan for the weekend, maybe I will say no to it because I might see it as a distraction or predict it is not going to give me the contentment I am after.
But I also must acknowledge the truth that when I spend my weekend in exactly the ways I intended, the probability of feeling dissatisfaction by the end of the weekend is about the same. So what’s really going on here?
Lots of stuff, most of which I call ’emotional static’ that’s a result of not centering down enough. Emotional static is caused when there is a lack of discipline in my mind. I might be wrapped up in ‘shoulds’ about others in my life (i.e., things I cannot control) – cleaning up meal dishes without being asked, not leaving socks under the couch, not sticking toast with peanut butter behind the couch, not eating all of the cereal in one sitting.
It makes me tired just thinking about it! And just so you know, I still haven’t learned what the perfect balance is to living with teenagers, and I am still exhausted when I spend more time at home, and I am still relieved to send my days in a more predictable office environment.
Emotional static also comes from sensing others’ moods without being consciously aware of them, being mad at myself for lack of action or too much action, and nervousness over something that still needs to be done (like bills or taxes).
I can describe the problem of not surrendering in great detail – what I need to do next is describe the process of surrendering in great detail. I see it as a series of many decisions throughout the day to let go of things.
Sometimes it’s impossible to let go of a particular moment, but maybe it’s better then to say, well, that’s one moment, let’s try for the next. Maybe some days are so bad that I am doing great if I can just snatch one innocent, happy, expectation-free moment in the entire day.
If any of you also have this challenge (and fighting for survival in New Jersey seems to make this more prevalent), I suggest a few starter activities that won’t require too much of your time and energy (and thus will be harder to blow off).
While taking one of these little moments, remember to stop your thoughts and take a few deep, slow breaths, focusing on one pleasant thing about it at a time – the simpler the better. On returning to the routine, practice a little emotional discipline and avoid letting negative thoughts slam back into your mind – refocus on the pleasure of that moment.
Here’s the thing I noticed about these practices – they will not appear to be worthwhile when you first think about doing them. You will slowly get more joy from them as you continue practicing with the intention of contentment.
First thing in the morning:
While waiting on the dog to do her business or the child to eat, find a sunbeam if you can, listen to birds singing, or take a sip of something delicious like coffee or juice.
On your way to the office:
If you drive, play songs that make you happy and sing with them. It’s hard to frown while doing so. Or listen to stories to take your mind elsewhere.
If you take public transportation, sit someplace that’s a little more pleasant if you can. I walk all the way down the train to the quiet car on the end and sit on the east-facing side so the sun shines on me.
Also when on trains or buses, watch the people. if they don’t make you smile, go sit or stand somewhere more entertaining. It’s okay to have fun and notice other human beings in a crowded place.
If it’s cold, wear your softest, warmest, happiest scarf and hat even if they look funny. Especially if they look funny because others will smile at you.
If you walk, play tunes on your headphones that make you happy.
You get the idea – there is one of these moments in every part of your day – give it a try for a week and see if it helps!