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The Unexpected is the Path to Personal Growth

I try to tell my clients and kids that no matter what is going on outside, pay attention to keeping yourself steady on the inside.  The outside has outlandish ups and downs that are out of our control.  The inside keeps the rudder in place.  Routines, nature and self-care really do help.  

The word from Buddhism that comes to mind often is EQUANIMITY.  I love this word.  It applies to breath, yoga, life, spirit and hard work.  It means literally keeping yourself EVEN.  My daughter has these incredible decisions to make about her future; there's no bad choice.  She has worked hard and opened doors through self-discipline and talent.  But don't roller-coaster your way through the good stuff!  Take time to acknowledge what is best for you using inner wisdom not outside prestige.  The older you get you tend to realize, what's best for you IS what's best all around.  Just like college, it's about the "fit" not the glamour.  

     My young client comes by; we haven't seen each other in person since before the pandemic. Despite loss, heartbreak and disappointment, she is ready to go to college.  Her hopefulness embraces me like a warm summer breeze.  We have done good work together.  She has learned that there is no perfect. She has learned to embrace the grey areas.  She is able to tolerate her own sense of dread for what is to come.  She has deepened her understanding of life.  At the tender age of 17, this is everything!  As Lisa Damour said in New Yorker Magazine recently, “The adolescent mental-health crisis doesn’t end when all teen-agers feel good. It ends when teen-agers have the support they deserve and are able to cope effectively with the distress that they will invariably face.” Knowing one child will make it gives me pause.  It's really something to be present for, I tell my aging self.  "Will you still be my therapist when I'm grown?" she asks tentatively.  "If you want me to," I say wistfully, knowing that the only constant is change.

At my recent Airbnb vacation we ran into a family.  They were down to earth and sweet as fresh corn. We were not expecting them to be around and yet nothing to do but learn.  They knew about boats and helped us get around.  We hardly spoke but a message was hidden in plain sight: expect the unexpected.  Suddenly our new friends were frolicking with us and the dog, helping start a fire, unencumbered by social awkwardness as we shared a little sliver of a lake before passing through. High peaks and flooded roads notwithstanding we managed to hike, swim and boat.  The neighbors drifted in and out of my periphery.  I didn't have to talk and I didn't have to listen.  I jumped in.  A hand reached out to guide me back out.  Being 60 didn't make me more afraid.  Being on vacation made me listen to my own rhythm, not the ticking of time passing me by.  I highly recommend it!


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