Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wish Upon a Star

Life Can Fulfill Your Wildest Dreams

Leaving Room for an Unexpected Change

Wish Upon a Star
So I know I recently wrote about surprises and how life can be shocking in my entry, Shh...It's a Surprise, but life has given me yet another unexpected pleasure that I feel the need to continue the discussion. As I mentioned before, I am currently on vacation with my Mother in the Cayman Islands. Our first two days were rainy and I was starting to feel a bit cheated. I hadn't gotten my fill of sun and my tan was not quite up to my personal standards. I expressed to my Mom how much I wished that we had just one more day here. But, of course, it was simply a wish and I had no reason to believe that it would ever come true. Finances, schedules, and personal obligations demanded that we return home the previously decided date. I had not left room for unexpected change nor did I take into account that life can surprise you and fulfill your wildest dreams. Less than 24 hours after I had expressed my longing to stay here an additional day life stepped in, in the form of a nor'easter heading towards Philadelphia, which consequentially interfered with our travel plans and forced us to push back our departure date. Perhaps my futile attempts at wishing weren't so futile after all. Maybe someone or something up in the heavens heard me. Maybe this wonderful, unexpected change is a result of good karma. Or perhaps it is just dumb luck. But, regardless of the reason, life has managed to shock me again and fulfill my wildest dream. 

"Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth."

- Martin H. Fischer

My luck recently has proven this quote to be true. I have been gifted some phenomenal surprises over the course of the past few weeks. These unexpected changes have truly made for a grand "show" and I am finding that my ticket was worth any cost I may have paid in order to obtain it. We often associate change and the unexpected with negative feelings, results, and things. We are warned to always leave room the unexpected so that we don't get our hopes up, so that we are prepared when things don't work out, and to reduce the potential for disappointment. We forget that sometimes leaving room for the unexpected can be about prepping for exciting surprises and positive outcomes. 

I think its time that we start thinking about unexpected changes in a new way. Instead of assuming that they are bad we need to start considering that perhaps they can be good, even more than good; they can be credited for fulfilling our wildest dreams, whatever they may be. In my current case leaving room for an unexpected change required that I reorganize my schedule, count my pairs of clean underwear, and permit myself to let go and go with the flow of our new plan. Leaving room for the unexpected means allowing yourself a level of flexibility so that you can adjust to the change. Although I wasn't initially prepared for this extra day of vacation I was able to work with this change and allow myself to enjoy this bonus day. Of course accounting for the unexpected and being flexible is easy when its involving an added day of vacation or a situation that fulfills a seemingly impossible wish. The real question is, how do we manage to go with the flow when the change is less than ideal? So, I guess I want to try and tackle two ideas in the remainder of this entry: altering the negative associations that we may have with the unexpected and change, and figuring out how to leave room for unexpected changes, regardless of whether the change brings about positive or negative results.
Life Can Fulfill Our Wildest Dreams
Lets first deal with the way we look at change and attempt to reduce its negative connotation. Lets try to figure out how we can see unexpected change as possibilities, as positive, even as having the potential to fulfill our wildest dreams. I am going to present two quotes that I would like for us to consider with respect to life and change.

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."

- Lao Tzu

Tzu's quote is congruent with my statements regarding change as being unexpected and often surprising. He asserts that resisting change will only result in sorrow or unhappiness. This is another notion that I find to be true. The more we attempt to stop change from occurring, the stronger we hold on to the past or the way things once were, the more difficult it becomes to accept the new reality in which we live. Life does not stand still for anyone. Our time on earth is a truly a process and full of natural changes that come with the course of life- aging, having children, switching jobs, meeting new people, building friendships. We are constantly adding to our lives and likewise things are always being taken away, whether we like it or not. What we must focus on is acceptance and allowing life to progress in whatever way it chooses, because ultimately we have very little control over the "flow" of life.
"Don't resist [change]; that only creates sorrow."
Sometimes this flow works in our favor, like the nor'easter that has consequently extended my vacation. But often it works in ways which we don't appreciate, such as the loss of a loved one or the dissolution of a friendship. How can we learn to deal with life's "natural and spontaneous changes," learning to associate the unexpected with both the good as well as the bad? Well, this is where the second quote comes into play. This quote refers to the French concept of joie de vivre or joy of life, which I discussed at greater length in my recent post, C'est la Vie.

"Joie de vivre is about trusting that nothing happens without reason, and everything can turn out positive in the future."

- Jamie Cat Callan

Armed with these two quotes, I believe that we have the ability to alter the way we in which we think about life's changes and the unexpected. I think that we can learn to trust the natural flow of life and realize that even shifts that we initially regard as bad, can ultimately be seen as good. I'll admit that this is not an easy task. 
"I have spent the majority of my life avoiding change."
I have spent the majority of my life avoiding change. I have wasted many hours mourning the loss of relationships and wishing to return to earlier periods in my life. But, as Tzu said, resisting the change only brought about sadness. My feelings of nostalgia and sorrow may have been warranted by they truly were wasted. The change had happened, because that's the way life works, and no tears or anguish could stop the natural progression. It hasn't been until lately that I have learned that change does not equal bad. Unexpected does not mean unfortunate. In actuality both equate to not only progress but also possibilities. Life's unexpected changes have the potential to fulfill our wildest dreams if we remain open to the idea. If we are able to apply Callan's words to our everyday thinking than we are equipped to challenge our previous views of change, life's flow, and new realities. 
In Cayman taking advantage of this unexpected change-
Things happen because they are meant to be and not only that, everything has the chance to turn out positively. A cynic could look at this statement and scoff at its naivety or unsupported level of optimism. But for a moment lets try to remove the cynicism that so frequently taints our minds and thoughts. Lets think about these optimistic ideas with fresh eyes. Believing that "nothing happens without reason" allows us to provide an explanation, although not concrete, for each of life's twists and turns. I think there is a point in all of our lives when we find this notion to be true. We are running late for an appointment and as we are driving we see that a car accident has taken place just minutes earlier. Had we not been running late we easily could have been involved. The frustration of running late is diminished because in actuality it saved us from a larger problem. Or, during course registration, we are unable to get into a class that we had wanted. Later we hear friends complaining about how dull the professor is and the ridiculous amount of work that the class involves. The initial irritation we experienced because we couldn't get into the class disappears. Instead we are thankful that we managed to avoid a course that in reality is not as good as it appeared on paper. 
Things happen all the time that piss off, frustrate us, make us sad or angry, etc. But, so often, in hindsight, we are able to realize that we are better off for it. This concept feeds directly into the latter part of Callan's quote, "everything can turn out positive in the future." Events and experiences that at first we regard as bad or disappointing have the possibility to work out in our favor later on. At the beginning we may not understand or like life's natural flow. But, if we don't resist it, if we allow it to run its course, we may find that these "natural and spontaneous changes" bring us to exactly where we are supposed to be. Life's flow allows for things to work out, and sometimes it even fulfills our wildest dreams as long as we don't attempt to intercede of interfere. 
"Life's flow allows for things to work out..."
Now that I've attempted to alter our perceptions of change and the unexpected it is time that we deal with the issue of making room for unexpected changes. It's easy to be flexible and make room when the shift is overtly positive. The task becomes harder when the change, which so often was not anticipated, is seemingly bad or negative. I guess part of our willingness to be flexible and work with the shift comes from necessity. If we have lost our job or are forced to move for reasons that are beyond our control then we don't really have choice. In these cases unexpected change has been thrust upon us and consequently we have no choice but to adjust. But can we figure out a way to make the adjustment less painful and/or less forced? Can we incorporate a degree of flexibility into our lives and personalities so that newness and abrupt shifts don't jolt us so strongly? Is there a way that we can always leave room for an unexpected change in order to improve the way in which we respond to these shifts?

Flexibility in life is key-
"A guarantee in this life: Change! Flexibility is better than predictability!"

- Evinda Lapins

Just like Tzu, Lapins asserts that the only guarantee in life is that we will experience change. While her words seem typical and not exceptionally different from many other quotes, I chose her quote for a very specific reason. In my weird little mind, something about it alluded to an element of fun that comes with flexibility. Flexibility is preferable to predictability because predictability is boring and monotonous. Yes, change can be exhausting because it brings something new to the table; it demands that we make adjustments and learn to manage things that we hadn't needed to before. But, I am arguing that predictability, the same old routine, can be just as exhausting. Is it not tiring to do the same thing day after day, without the possibility that life may throw you something unexpected, something new and fun, a pleasurable experience that you hadn't anticipated, the chance that your wildest dreams may be met. Predictability is safe, but at the same time it is frustrating and dull. Could you imagine waking up every morning and knowing exactly how your day was going to progress, down to every minute detail? What is the point of getting up and living if you already know what is going to happen?

Flexibility and change can be fun !
Flexibility isn't just necessary but it is invigorating. It enables us to make room for unexpected changes and allows us  to embrace when life fulfills our wildest dreams, rather than responding to these unforeseen circumstances with stress and irritation. If we can approach life with a level of flexibility than our opportunities become infinite and we are able to truly enjoy pleasurable changes, on the off chance that our wish upon a star actually becomes a reality. 
"I am not forcing flexibility upon you."
I am not forcing flexibility upon you. You do have a choice. You can decide to live a life of predictability rather than one of flexibility. However, I must warn you that choosing predictability is not likely to work out in the long run, simply because it is not compatible with the nature of life. Life is ever changing, it flows in directions we never anticipated, and it takes us down roads we never could have imagined. If you choose to live a life of predictability than you will be poorly equipped to manage the constantly shifting nature of life. You are also opting to miss out on "the best show on earth." 
Sometimes we must resort to a new plan-
Life will shock and amaze us by tossing unexpected challenges and opportunities our way. If we pick predictability over flexibility than we are bound to miss out on life's ability to fulfill our wildest dreams. For these reasons, I strongly encourage you, as well as myself, to live a life of flexibility and fun. I understand how difficult this can be, (I am OCD and an incessant planner after all), but I firmly believe that refusing to be flexible will only serve to limit us and prevent us from enjoying the "show." If we can metaphorically throw our day planners out the window, (G-d forbid I ever do such a thing), and wrap our heads around the idea that things don't necessarily need to go according to plan in order to be great, than we have opened the door to accepting and making the most of every unexpected change that comes our way. 
Changes may not always appear to be good, often, at first glance, they can seem quite horrible. But, if we can learn to trust the "flow" of life, remind ourselves that everything happens for a reason, and incorporate flexibility into our lives, than we are sufficiently armed with the ability to not only accept change, but to recognize that it has the potential of fulfilling our wildest dreams.

Change happens so it's time that we learn to deal with it,


Walt Disney's Cinderella (1950) "...the dreams that you wish may come true."

No comments:

Post a Comment