Staying Afloat When the Oceans Rage
It’s been a turbulent year. We continue to flounder in the midst of this raging ocean, doing our best to keep our heads above water. The idea of welcoming in a new year sounds very appealing and yet we know that the challenges of the past year won’t fade away with the turning of a calendar. The pandemic still rages and will leave long lasting effects in its wake. A history of 400 years of systemic racism won’t be erased with a few months of protests. And the division and hostility that we’ve experienced won’t turn to unity in the blink of an eye. The waves just keep coming.
So many of us are weary from all the energy that it takes to tread water as the sea continues to roar and foam. How do we keep swimming? How do we stay afloat when there is no end to the struggle in sight?
As each new wave rushes in, I find myself needing to take a breath and re-evaluate. What do I need to embrace? What do I need to release? What do I need to re-envision?
It sometimes feels impossible to see the goodness around us when the storms are raging. Sometimes it even feels irresponsible to pause to enjoy it. And yet I know that it’s there, and I know that I need it. I need those glimmers of hope and joy to let me know that the world is still a beautiful place and to give me the strength to keep treading water.
I’m learning to embrace the beauty that surrounds me. I’m finding beauty in a season where we’ve had to slow down a bit – the extra time with family, the joy of board games and puzzles and living room dance parties. I’m embracing the beauty of our little yard – the green grass, the hummingbirds that visit our feeder, the golden glow of sunlight shining between the tree branches in the evening. It’s been a piece of paradise where I can pause to breathe when I feel anxiety boiling up inside me.
I’m learning to embrace small steps – watching my son learn to read a new word, seeing my daughter start to overcome a fear, having that difficult conversation that leads to a little more understanding. I celebrate each one because I know that most progress is made up of a million tiny steps.
In the midst of a raging ocean, we recognize our limits. We see how small we really are and how so many things are so very out of our control. Sometimes that leads us to fight harder, to struggle against the wind and waves, until we realize that we’re only wearing ourselves out to no avail. Sometimes what’s needed most is to accept our limits and release what we cannot control.
I’m learning to release my expectations. “Shoulds” weigh heavily on my shoulders. I often sink below the weight of all the things I should be doing. Sometimes those weights have been placed upon my shoulders by someone else, but most often I pick them up myself, hoping to prove to others that I can do it all. As I begin to sort through all the things I should be able to accomplish and release the ones that have been weighing me down, I recognize that I feel a bit lighter, a bit stronger, a bit more able to accomplish what really needs to be done.
I’m learning to release my plans. I like to have a sense of what’s coming so I can feel some semblance of control. But as events continue to be cancelled, as school schedules change by the week, as the new endeavors I thought I’d be embarking on continue to be pushed back, I’m learning to hold it all more loosely. I’m trusting that there’s a time for everything and learning to be ok with the not yet.
When we’re in the middle of so much chaos and uncertainty, it’s normal for us to try to cling to the way things used to be or the way we think they should be. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, repeating the same movements that we’ve always done. But it seems that as each new wave approaches, we have to re-envision what will serve us well. What worked with the last wave doesn’t always work with the next. We have to be flexible enough to roll with each wave and let it take a new shape.
I’m learning to re-envision my roles. Each new wave brings new circumstances and new needs. I recognize that I have a role to play in the midst of the storm, but I cannot do it all. I have to continuously evaluate my capacity for the moment. I have to think about the unique gifts that I can bring to the situation. I have to be careful with my yeses and my nos.
I’m learning to re-envision my rhythms. I recognize the elements that keep me afloat – time for solitude, connection with my family and community, my spiritual practices, rest. I know I need these things, and yet I find that with each transition, it’s easy to let these things slip for the sake of needs that feel more pressing. And yet, my ability to keep swimming and to keep caring for those around me requires that I find those healthy rhythms each step of the way.
Are you feeling weary in the midst of this turbulent season? Are you struggling to keep your head above water? I encourage you to think through what you need most to help you stay afloat. What do you need to embrace? What do you need to release? What do you need to re-envision?