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Going with the Flow


For a few weeks, my best friend and I were meeting every couple of days to run sprints together. It was nothing superheroish or anything, but it was a good break to our regular running schedule and we both felt stronger overall. Then, life happened and we took a week or two off. Today we were back at it again, but it almost felt as if we had never done it before. That's when I remembered one of life’s truest and most annoying aspects: Things change.

I won’t even pretend that I think my existence would be interesting if there were never any shifts, but sometimes I just want a break. And by break I mean no break. I just want things to stay the same for a while until I decide they need to be different. I want to have the same feelings about the issues in my life with no surprise adaptations in my attitude. I want everything in my life and in the lives of the people I love to remain the same, just for a minute. I want no kid problems, no dying parents or friends or dogs, no issues at work, no broken refrigerators, no leaking showers, and no cars that start making a new noise.

A week or two with no changes would be a lovely relief.

But of course this is not life. This is control. Life is about feeling grounded enough in myself enough to enjoy the ride, wherever it may take me and whenever the next turn might appear. On most days, I understand that. But then, on that day when I thought I had everything operating just as it should, some part of me feels kind of ripped off when everything suddenly moves in a direction I never expected.

But even with my tendency to dig in my heels, it irritates me when other people do the same. I want everyone else to be willing to go with the flow, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and move along with whatever is happening. At 66, I’m the last person to truly believe we should keep things as they were. I love being around “the young people” who have a whole new way to doing things, and I cringe when someone from my age group rolls their eyes at new ideas. It’s just that a week or two with no changes would be a lovely relief.

This is true despite the fact that I am frequently the source of the deviation. In the spirit of wanting things to remain static, I often swear I’m never going to do this or that again, or that I’m always going to do things this way or that way. If something’s working, some part of me believes I’ve found the magical way to do it and that any variation would throw my world into chaos. All of this, of course, is based on the faulty notion that there is a way that things are supposed to happen and definitely a way that they are not.

Even gripping this attitude, though, as I creep toward this far end of my life, I see how ridiculous it is. We actually have no control over much at all, and the real beauty lies in being present for whatever happens. If everything is the same every day, there is no real experience to enjoy. It’s just going through the motions. If there are changes, chance encounters, on-the-spot decisions, last-minute detours, then real life is unfolding. In those cases, I’m only hurting myself if I’m standing in the middle of it all waving a large stop sign. I still consider that occasionally, but the more mature part of me usually tries to take a deep breath and step forward boldly.

When I was growing up, I think I actually believed that life was like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Once I could get all of the pieces in their proper place, it would make a pretty picture and I would feel accomplished. Now I understand that living a rich life is much more multi-media performance art than anything that fits neatly into a still frame. I’m not always gracious in my acceptance of this truth, but in my heart I’m willing to participate as fully as possible. I still lament the shifts from time to time, but I’m much better at going with the flow than I ever thought I'd be.