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One of the most obvious life lessons I have had the (unfortunate) pleasure of learning over the past few years is the life is not in my control. As much as I can try and take control of things and try to steer situations, outcomes, even people in a direction that I feel they should go... I am reminded constantly that it is a futile waste of effort.
Please understand me, I completely agree that there are elements of our days that we do and can control. We make decisions and choices constantly throughout the day, from the decision to wake up, what to eat, what to wear, to what email to read and send, to bigger life altering and financial decisions, etc. So I certainly agree that parts of this life is choices and control.... it reminds me of one of my favorite prayers.
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."
- Reinhold Niebuhr
I've struggled with the futility of trying to change situations. As you know (if you've read my other posts), I am a fixer, I want to be able to help anyone with anything...except myself. It has been ingrained in me that others take priority over my own health and well-being, and I've recently been forced to realize that looking after myself is imperative to my successes in helping others (still the hardest thing I've ever had to do). It is also a hard lesson to learn that situations involving others are simply out of my control. That I can only be responsible for my actions, words, thoughts and choices. The reaction, response, and actions of others are their responsibility and shouldn't fall on my shoulders. Again, I understand that choices we make that influence and affect others, that may not have been wise or responsible, may bring consequences that challenge those relationships and those need to be dealt with; however, for the purpose of this post, I am trying to keep it in the shallow end, and not dive into the depth of an endless debate over consequences and ramifications of choices...
So, getting back on track...
I've began to notice how worn my hands are. If I hang on to something for too long or grip tight for an extended period, my hands begin to hurt. Working in the massage therapy field for as many years as I have has caused some physical changes to the musculature in my hands that elicit this unfortunate reaction. When I am able to open my hands and relax, pain goes away, circulation and feeling returns.
This has been a reminder of living life holding too tight. Trying to grip and hold tight to aspects, situations or people that I can't control. I want to, and the thought of letting go is frightening. It is full of worry, doubt, fear and anxiety. And when these things are pulled and ripped out of my hands, it hurts because of how tightly clenched my hands are.
But slowly (very, incredibly slowly), I have begun to let go, to open my hands. To allow those situations that I know I cannot control to just 'be'. To be free, to not let them cause me so much discomfort and pain. I have been told several times by a couple of counselors and therapists over the years that pain and suffering are different. That I don't need to suffer from the pain in my hands if I just open them and allow the life to flow through them again. There is still pain there, and the memories and past experiences will always be etched in my mind, but I don't need to let those things hold so much weight that they consume everything. Holding so tight also limits our ability to be given anything else, as our hands are now full.
Living life with open hands not only eases the suffering, but it allows for opportunities, gifts, and situations to be given to us. Nothing can be given if we are not ready and open to receive it. So, just as letting go of control can relieve so much stress, suffering and pain, the opposite is true. It can allow for more to be freely given.
So friends, how are you living? With open hands, or holding too tight to the things you can't control?!? Trust me, I know how hard this is. It is so much easier to write the words then to put them into practice. But if there is anything I have learned, it is that the eventual ability to begin to let go and open your hands will begin to bring feeling back and ease the suffering. It is a work in progress, when we know nothing else but holding tight, the letting go is hard. I hope and pray that you will be able to begin to open your hands.