Temper tantrums and handcuffs (36321)

There is a mystery to life that can be vexing for the individual who cannot imagine living without being in control. I have been a witness on more than a few occasions to people experiencing the collapse of their illusion-the illusion that they had everything under control. Whether a crisis, an unforeseen tragedy or the loss of something that was thought to be permanent, all of these unexpected moments have a way of reminding us that life is not neatly packaged nor is it easily managed.

I learned many years ago that the best plans ought to be written in pencil because everything is subject to change. The shifting tides of life can be cause for alarm, especially for those who are preoccupied with maintaining a fixed position, but life’s ebb and flow has a way of keeping us humble. And trust me, humility is necessary to navigate through the powerful and sometimes destructive undercurrents that mark our existence.

In spite of the reality of the ambiguity of life, there are still those who have a difficult time accepting the aspects of being alive that are wrought with unpredictability and randomness. This is a great challenge and obstacle for those on a search for absolutes and certainty, but it is a challenge that can be a springboard to tremendous growth.

How can life’s ambiguity be an occasion for growth? I believe that growth can take place in the midst of the haze of living because transformation can be experienced in the unexpected moments. When faced with the unpredicted, I have encountered myself in ways I would never have experienced in my neatly scripted world.

Often, the plans we have for our lives are based on what we believe is achievable or attainable, which is dependent on our abilities. What does this mean? It means that many of us only push ourselves as far as we think we can go. Then there are the unanticipated circumstances that arise in our lives that cause us to push beyond our own capabilities-to tap into internal resources we never knew existed. Those circumstances that have a tendency to bring out the best in us are not always part of the plan, but they reveal a beautiful and powerful part of ourselves that we might not have encountered were it not for the unexpected.

Affirming the mystery and uncertainty of life is to lean into the various moments that push us beyond our surface notions of what it means to be alive. Mark Nepo, one of my favorite authors, suggests that honoring the mystery in life means staying open to the many possibilities that invite or compel us to widen and deepen our sense of ourselves.

Just think, the part of yourself you have never met may be waiting in the ambiguity you may be trying to avoid. For me, the “next unknown” is what has added depth to my days. Live in the mystery!