NEW-FOUND FREEDOM

Our lives are filled with uncertainties. That’s part of what makes them both interesting and challenging. Right now, our family is living proof of that. Currently, we are searching for a new home. It has been quite a process, and there have been several unexpected developments along the way, but we are trusting that all will work out in the end exactly as it is supposed to. But trusting is not always easy, especially when it involves the important things in our lives. That’s why it’s helpful to remember that we cannot prevent uncertainties and changes from happening to us. So, the ways we choose to respond to these uncertainties becomes very important. If we can trust in the process and learn to “go with the flow,” our lives become much less stressful.  

So, why is “going with the flow” such a difficult concept for most of us? In a word, control. We all want to think that we have control over our lives. We want to have a say in the things that are happening to us and the things that are happening in the world. We want to bring more order to the perceived chaos around us. Control serves as a way for us to keep our fears in check. When we believe we have control over situations or circumstances, they appear much less scary. We can live in our own little “bubble” and stay perfectly safe. 

But, as many of us know, control is an illusion. A diagnosis, a broken relationship, a business failure, or a death can quickly show us that we actually don’t have control over much of anything in our lives. But we do have control over our beliefs and our reactions to the things that happen around us. Once we realize our lives aren’t meant to be controlled, we become free from our fears. But relinquishing our need for control is not easy. It may be one of the hardest things we ever do, but it is worth the effort. When we learn to let go, we see the world differently. We “go with the flow” and try to live in the moment, rather than worrying about what might happen in the future or what has happened in the past. We learn to trust more, knowing that our struggles will pass as they continue to teach us important life lessons. Eventually, we will be okay once again. 

But learning to let go is a lifelong process. Some days it’s easier; other days it’s a bit more challenging. But this process has taught me that life doesn’t have to be such a struggle. When I release my need for control, things flow much more naturally, and I’m able to enjoy life more fully. Now, if I get an unexpected phone call and a friend wants to meet me for lunch, I leave my computer (even if my writing is unfinished) and meet her at the restaurant. Or, if it’s a beautiful evening and I want to take a walk on the beach, I jump in my car and drive to the sandy shore instead of staying home to clean my house. I let the day unfold as it will, releasing my need for control. I’ve learned that when I “go with the flow” and take the world as it comes, things work out even better than I could have imagined. Less resistance creates more freedom, and more freedom creates more joy. When we truly live in the moment, we experience the beauty of life in a whole new way.

This week, see if changing your perspective can make a difference in your life. Can you let go of your need for control? Can you learn to live in the moment and release the worry, knowing that all will eventually be okay? Can you practice “going with the flow?” Be open to the unexpected and try to experience life a little more fully. Watch the sun rise early in the morning or feel the moist dirt in your garden. Do the things you love and live in the moment. Your life isn't meant to be controlled - it’s meant to be lived. Everything doesn’t have to be such a struggle. Things come and then they go. Flow with this natural rhythm of life and enjoy your new-found freedom. 

Expectations, Expectations, Expectations . . .

As I think about my relationships with myself and those around me, I realize these relationships are influenced by many things. But one of the biggest influencers of these relationships is my own expectations as well as the expectations of others. Expectations are our beliefs about what might happen in the future. We use expectations because they help make our lives more predictable. We learn from our past experiences and then create expectations to help us predict how things will turn out. We expect things such as the sun setting every evening or our parents visiting every Thanksgiving. Expectations are present in every aspect of our lives, but the challenge comes when we try to fit our lives into our current expectations when perhaps there’s another way – a better way. This is especially true in regard to things that are out of our control.  

Sometimes our expectations can make us happy. When it’s a beautiful sunny day, and I take my dog for a walk, I expect that we are both going to enjoy our time outdoors. But there are other expectations we have that leave us feeling frustrated. For example, when I expect my husband to make dinner and clean up the kitchen when I work late, and he doesn’t do that. The expectations that make us happy we want to keep, but the ones that frustrate us might require some reflection to see if there is another way we can approach things to make them go a bit better. As the quote from an unknown author says, “Sometimes we create our own heartbreaks through expectations.” 

Perhaps there is a better way we can deal with the expectations in our lives. First, we can evaluate our expectations and see if they are realistic. Second, if they are not, we can change our expectations. And third, we can share our expectations with others so they know exactly where we stand. Being honest about our expectations changes our relationships with others as well as ourselves. That’s why reflecting on them is so important. Only then can we determine which expectations need to be changed and which ones need to be released. Once we do this, it will greatly impact our lives.   

But it’s not just our own expectations we need to evaluate. It’s also other people’s expectations. These expectations can influence us far more than we realize. When we clean our houses before company comes, it’s often because we are concerned about what others will think of our homes. We are afraid they may judge us if our houses aren’t clean. And for some of us, this expectation of a clean house may come from our families of origin. If our mothers valued a clean and organized house, and now we are the same way with our own families, perhaps we have taken our mothers’ expectations of a clean house and made them our own. Society has expectations of us as well. Society expects women to have successful careers and take care of their families while men are expected to be good providers. Often, we internalize these expectations of others and society without even realizing it. But with a little reflection, we may see that perhaps there’s a better way.

This week, evaluate your expectations. What do you expect of yourself, and what do you expect of others? Are any of your expectations influenced by your family or society? If so, how? And, have you internalized any of these expectations and made them your own? Once you’ve reflected upon these things, keep the expectations that make you happy, but consider revising or releasing the rest. You may discover that your family or society has had a greater influence over you than you thought. But, it’s not too late to change that. Be honest with yourself and with those around you about what you expect and see if those current expectations fit into your life anymore. Perhaps there is another way – a better way that will bring you more joy. More reasonable expectations mean a happier life. As Donald Miller said in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, “When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are,” and I would like to say that also includes yourself. 

Creative Seeds

With the vernal equinox right around the corner, many of us are anxious for the warmer days of spring. This is particularly true for those of us who just experienced the big winter snowstorm in the Northeast. We are ready to trade in the icy snow for some fresh green grass. 

What is it about spring that makes many of us yearn for this season to begin?  Spring ushers in a time of new beginnings, fertile soil, and tremendous growth. It is a time of great excitement and possibility. As the daylight returns, so does our hope for new beginnings in our lives.

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Getting “Off the Grid”

Last week, my family and I headed up to the mountains of Vermont for some time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Here in New England, my children have an entire week off from school every February over Presidents’ Day, and my family looks forward to this break every year. After loading up our van, we drove three hours north with great anticipation. We settled into our room and immediately loved the remote location where we could see the majestic mountains and towering pine trees from our windows. We spent most of the week relaxing by the fireplace, playing games, and watching movies, but we didn’t spend the whole time indoors. With the unseasonably warm weather, we also played snow football, sledded down rolling hills, and hiked along wooded trails with many breathtaking views including the stunning Quechee Gorge. We had a wonderful time hanging out together, just the four of us.

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Love Yourself from the Inside Out

This past Monday night, I led a soul circle on the power of love. A soul circle is where women of all ages gather together for a time of connection, inspiration, and healing. Through meditation, movement, group activities, and small group discussions, soul circling provides a safe place where women can unconditionally support one another. Since this is the month of February, I chose to focus on love and the impact it has in our lives. When we think of love, it comes in many forms: romantic love, family love, friendship love, pet love, universal love and everything in between. But the most important love of all is self-love, which forms the foundation for all other types of love. If we cannot truly love ourselves, how can we truly love others? We need to believe in our own worth and value, learning to listen and trust our inner voices. We must love ourselves for who we truly are – perfect, whole and complete. There is nothing we need to fix, change, convert, or heal. All we have to do is be. Through accepting, allowing, and loving ourselves, we come to know we are worthy and enough just as we are. And once we believe in that, we can openly share our love with others, no longer needing to find love outside of ourselves.

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