Advancing Through the Unpredictable

White out snow storm lake effectIn the course of driving to Ontario for Christmas, we encountered a lake effect snow squall.

Neither Colin nor I are strangers to snowstorms of any size or might. We are both veteran snow drivers. However, this was our first encounter with a true, pop-up blizzard. Along Interstate 81, we were warned “Lake Effect Snow expected through Wednesday evening” via highway sign.

The true warning, however, came with advancing black clouds over the perfectly clear, dry day. Followed abruptly by snow-coated roads and white-out conditions.

No matter what the unpredictable predicament, life tends to hand us plenty of warnings. My mother’s terminal leukemia was not a complete SURPRISE!!!! She had been slowing down considerably prior to the pronouncement, diagnosed with anemia, and had unhealing painful black sores in the back of her mouth. Warnings do arrive, but often the chaos they promise often leads to utter deflection.

Unpredictability and the yoga of life

It seems when I was younger, my life was more flexible, while I was not. I looked out at the world and knew that I could achieve THIIISSSSS MUUUUUUCH, but how?

I had all kinds of space in my life — by way of time and emotional space — but no comprehension of its reality or how to achieve it. I’d wander around taking in experiences and reacting to them, without much sense of meaning. Before I was married with kids — I reacted to unpredictable events with panic. OMG! What the hell should I do???

Life is like yoga: it doesn’t require flexibility of the body. (That’s a happy, inevitable outcome). It requires flexibility of the mind.

As I’ve gotten older, my yoga response to life has developed. While I have less flexibility in my actual day-to-day life, I have a growing expanse of space in my mind. I experience my life through perception, and through the application of understanding I give to any person or any event.

The Woman I Never Met

Recently I had a conversation with Colin and I caught myself telling him I was annoyed with a women I was emailing with. I finished the thought then I walked away with it. The woman and I had never met. I had no idea of who she was. I had never even seen her!

Yet there was something I DID recognize in that moment.

It was me.

Anais Nin quoteI recognized my own childlike and defensive response, creating a perception of who the woman was. I could not predict who this woman was, because I had never met her. So I created an idea of her that I thought would work to protect me.

But protect me from what? Understanding the situation more completely? Being intelligent and compassionate?

I realized when faced with unpredictable circumstances, I sometimes respond in a knee-jerk way believing I can control the experience by deflecting it. I immediately called her on the phone to interrupt my cycle of perception.

Experience it All

More than one great philosopher has said perception is both DEFINITELY reality, and NOT reality at all, depending on your idea of what is real. How and what we perceive defines the limits any idea.

Fear of a thing, for example, will limit thinking immediately on any subject, even more deftly than ignorance. Habits and patterns of behavior drop limits over us too.

Unpredictable events interrupt and even destroy our protections. I’ve come to see this as a very good thing.

We had to get to Ottawa and we were not going to avoid the lake effect snow squall. We plunged headlong into the white blanket and let it swallow us up. We tuned our senses to the road in front of us.

In this case, we were pretty dang lucky. We could follow our blinking dot via GPS on the weather radar to guesstimate how long before we could emerge. Five miles of white out and heavy snow before the day returned to clarity.

We could have predicted it but we could not avoid the storm. We could only get through it, and take what beauty we could from the ride.

Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home. 

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