“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” ~ Maya Angelou
We all have our stories, don’t we?
Some stories merely create a ripple in our lives, while others go deeper. So much so that they can change the course of our lives. Dramatically.
Mine is such a story. It’s no sadder or deeper than anyone else’s. It’s just life, and how I choose to respond to it, I have realized, is what really matters.
My story was (and still is) big enough to change the course of my life, though.
I chose to respond to it holistically, and by letting go of control and trusting what the universe has in store for me.
It wasn’t as easy as that, however. It never is. And I certainly didn’t decide to respond in such a way overnight.
What is my life-changing story?
My story is of endometriosis and infertility. With the pain that visited me every month, I had always suspected I had endometriosis. It’s not usually something a person really investigates, however—unless, of course, she’s trying to start a family, without any success.
Which is exactly what happened in my case when my husband and I decided it was time to grow the clan from two to three.
After a year of trying, it was time to take a look at what was going on. What followed in the next year was a mixture of failure, heartbreak, frustration, anger, and disappointment.
In all my adulthood, I had been in control of the key events in my life and was very successful. I did well in my studies, held great jobs, bought myself a home, traveled to destinations I wanted to see, and married the person I love.
Now, for the first time, something that is considered so integral to life wasn’t going to come so easily into mine.
And I was soon to learn that infertility has more consequences than the obvious one of not being able to have a child.
I had to question everything I thought I knew about life:
- What will my life look like without children? Will it be empty and purposeless?
- What will my relationship with my husband be like as the years go by? Will it be meaningless? Will it last?
- How will my family feel about me? Will I (and my husband) be pitied?
- Will friends who have children still be a part of my life? Or will we drift apart because I don’t have any kids for theirs to play with?
I have realized that my actions are the answers to these questions. My actions are my choice.
When something unexpected comes your way, take a step back, take a look at the whole picture, and decide how you’d like to respond.
This was something that I did… eventually. I decided that even though I had no children, I still could choose to lead a purposeful life, one that is enriching and filled with meaning. And the steps I mindfully decide to take each day will create that life.
I’ve bundled these steps into five overarching principles, and I hope they help you respond well to any unexpected challenges that may come your way. They certainly help me.
…about discovering who you are. Many of us have our lives totally mapped out—this is how many children I’ll have; this is where I’m going to live; this is what work I want to do—to the point where we may not question whether it’s what we truly want.
So when something unexpected happens that changes our life plans, it can shake us to the core. We become vulnerable, unsure of ourselves, and unsure of what to do, and this can feel very uncomfortable. Be brave and ride those feelings out because you may just discover what it is that you are truly in search of.
…with yourself. Even though life hasn’t turned out the way you had planned, it does not mean that you have failed. There’s no need to make excuses, judge yourself, or shy away from this truth.
And it’s okay to feel angry and hurt; these are natural feelings and are a part of being honest with yourself. But acceptance is necessary. Accept what is. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you will be able to think clearly and take steps in the right direction with a positive mindset.
…to a different life and to new experiences. There’s no point hanging on to what could’ve been because it can make us bitter and resentful.
With an open heart and mind, you can truly let new experiences into your life. You never know what exciting events may come your way, but that’s the beauty of it.
Be gentle and kind…
…with yourself. Whether you believe what’s happened in your life is your fault or not, you must be gentle with and forgive yourself. It serves no one, especially not you, if you don’t “talk” to yourself lovingly.
To create a life of purpose, we must first love ourselves, because only then can our actions come from the heart. And when your actions come from the heart, you see clearly, feel strong, and are sure of your choices.
…of yourself and the universe. Do your best, go with the flow, and trust that your life is turning out as it should be.
Going with the flow can be challenging, especially if you’re someone like me who likes to be in control.
So remind yourself constantly that even when you try so hard to create a life that you want, the universe may decide otherwise. And how you choose to respond to it is what matters—that’s really what life is all about.
Flow with the nature of life and you will have the strength to handle everything that comes your way.