A few years ago Hans and I took our dog swimming in the breakwaters between two stone jetties along the main river in our city. In the river the water moves fast and stays cold, but in the breakwaters there’s very little current and the temperature of the water was wonderful that day. We were having a great time playing with the dog, enjoying the water.
At one point gentle waves lapped on shore and in their retreat took one of my flip-flops with them. I didn’t realize it until I saw it floating way past me, well on its way to the main river.
Now, before I go on, let me explain that these were no ordinary flip-flops. I mean, they were, they only cost like ten bucks, but you see, I loved them. They were perfect. Good support on the soles that molded to my feet perfectly and the straps across the feet were sleek and pretty. They were my favorite and I was sort of (okay: really) attached to them. (Don’t judge.)
So, naturally, I swam after it to save it.
Hans called after me to just let it go, but I wasn’t prepared to do that just yet. Then as it flowed into the big bad river, it moved away from me fast. The, sad, singular flop was clearly out of reach and I had to concede.
In the process I had entered the main river and the second I turned around I was blasted by the full force of the current. Swimming with all my might barely kept me from moving backwards, making zero forward progress. Panic set in as I was, quite literally, getting nowhere fast. Hans offered to help but I didn’t see how he could. He suggested I let go and let the river take me to the next jetty. Letting go seemed insane. In a flash my mind flooded with images of the strong current dragging me for miles with me flailing desperately as I try not to drown.
I was exhausted. I had spent all my energy getting there and had none left to keep at it. Running out of options and with Hans calling out more encouragement from shore, I finally let go.
In seconds the river swept me to the next cove and with no effort at all I slid into it and got out of the water. I sank to the riverbank utterly exhausted. Looking at the water I saw the breakwaters were as safe as ever, but I felt no desire to return to it so we packed up and left.
This story, while bordering on the ridiculous, illustrates how I have been feeling these last few months. I had been working hard, going as fast as I could, but I was getting nowhere. Even little things began to feel like a fight against the current. Letting go was terrifying, but I found myself with no other choice.
As I withdrew from life’s fast moving river I could see that these past few months have been the rule rather than the exception. I realized I have been swimming upstream for most of my life.
As a young girl I arrived at the river we call life and saw most people moving upstream so I assumed this was the way to go, the way life was supposed to be lived. In looking at the world I grew up believing that in order to be a get what I want I needed to work hard, run fast and that to lean back is to be lazy. I couldn’t pause without being swept away so I pushed on. Working even harder. Running even faster. Trying to keep up.
This fight against the current, this constant effort was exhausting yet I felt compelled to keep going. I believed the only way to get to where I wanted to be was to press on, chasing meaning, fulfillment, success. Letting go meant failure, or so I thought. Without my precious effort I feared drowning in depression and apathy. I felt I had no choice but to keep up the fight. I only ever rested enough to get going again. Even full-blown burnouts were not enough to get me to see things differently.
Believing there was this much at stake made it scary as hell to let go. When I wrote about this (in I am letting go) I knew had to surrender and was in the process of doing so. I just didn’t fully understand yet what I was surrendering to.
Now I know.
I was surrendering to flow, to the natural current of life.
Life flows naturally in the right direction. Life, like water, has great power, but uses that power to flow easily, effortlessly down the path of least resistance. But I, like so many of us, never liked the word “easy”. Easy, like lazy, is a dirty word so I did things the hard way. Yet the more I pushed, the more life pushed back, the less progress I made.
And just as my experience in the river, the second I let go and surrendered to flow, the things I wanted, the very things I was struggling so hard upstream for, fell in on me. No, I didn’t get the flip-flop, I got something way better.
Breaking the pattern of control gave me the break I longed for. Rest resulted in energy, replacing exhaustion with vitality. Struggle made way for ease and effortlessness. Confusion turned into clarity.
I needed to let go of the struggle
in order to let in all the things I had been wanting.
Letting go of control had triggered not just fear but also a great sense of powerlessness. I thought surrendering to the stream meant I was at the mercy of the river. I thought it meant letting go of my dreams and my plans and that I had to let myself be dragged away to wherever life fancied taking me.
That is not the case at all.
The river is set in motion by my own desires. It flows toward the things I want. I still get to choose. Only now, instead of fighting upstream for it, I get to flow effortlessly toward it. Instead of fighting that current I get to move WITH that current.
All that force that seemed to oppose me, now moves in the same direction as me.
Can you feel how empowering that is?
I have gotten my first taste of that and I gotta say, I feels pretty damn good. Now that I have tasted flow I can see that moving WITH the force of life gives rise to empowerment beyond anything I imagined.
This doesn’t mean it’s all easy going for me now. This piece about flow for instance, didn’t flow easily at all. Actually, it was quite a struggle. I am clear now that I really want to go with the flow, but my current patterns of control continue to turn me upstream. Even though relaxation, ease and flow is natural, I have been so disconnected from my true nature that I am only just learning what that looks like.
In order to go with the flow I need to move in the opposite direction control had always taken me. The opposite of control being: Trust. Trust that life has a tendency to work out and that it has been working out despite my efforts at control, not because of it.
Trust turns the tide.
Sounds great and intellectually I’m there, but it’s taking me a while to learn how to live that, learn what “trust” looks like exactly. But that’s okay. I trust I will get the hang of it. When I do, I will let you know, trust me on that.