Comfort in Chaos

I’ve accepted that Confusion is a natural part of the Human Experience; regardless of age, situation or stage in Life. Not the minor-league confusion over what the most ‘natural’ of natural supplements might be, according to Amazon (truly scary how much authority they’ve assumed). But the larger, ‘cosmic’ confusion on such topics as Happiness, and Life Purpose. According to much of what I read and hear from the collective of Wise People on our planet (I include writers, poets, philosophers and other Thinkers, in this mix), my confusion is all part of the fun. Yes, fun. Life is meant to feel like a gamble, a mystery, a stumble-in-the-dark to find the light switch. Even if you think you’ve found it, Life can plunge you back into the dark without warning, so, enjoy!  Comforting? Not so much.

I was in this thought pattern (read: cul-de-sac) when the Interweb, in its typical invasive fashion (which, It protests, is really all in my best interests), poked its nose into my current reality with its ‘predictive’ analytics. It seems that a deep dive into emerging topics that have foundations in science (the Heart-Mind connection is actually the vagus nerve in action, for example) can trigger emails from Numerologists. Yesterday, via one such email, I was advised to check my resistance to the many wonderful things (manifestations) lined up for me, like planes on the tarmac waiting for clearance from The Great Cosmic Control Tower. My problem, said this email (from an AI source, no doubt), was that I was not ‘allowing’ good things to flow. Clarity would come, I was assured, once I purchased the advertised product.

Like everyone else on the Interweb, I pretty much scan email headlines for any relevant bits, then hit Delete. But I couldn’t be too annoyed by this kind of spam, I reasoned with myself, since The Art of Allowing has become a commercial ‘thing’:  the obvious answer to every question involving everything from small personal struggles to major roadblocks to abundance and well-being. Accepting my responsibility for my own happiness is not a ‘stretch’ for me. But checking-in with myself on a regular basis ( read: meditation) about whether or not I’m self-limiting or even sabotaging my own dreams…is this really necessary? Amazon thinks so. So do a whole host of other people who want to make sure I’m living my Best Life, for a small fee.  But, is Resistance, and its cousin Suffering, optional?

Sometimes it’s good to look inward. Sometimes it’s better to just go for a walk, dance, have another cocktail, take a nap or soak in a hot bath. In my case, in this minute or two of self-analysis (about how resistant I am), I chose to re-read — ‘comfort food’ for my over-active brain – one of my favorite authors. Meg Wheatley’s an important thinker who shares her ideas using our natural world as an anchor for understanding. Wheatley uses Nature to explain how Systems – from our own bodies, to our relationships, to our larger external world – are the foundation of everything. Paradoxically, a vital part of any system is chaos:  the kind of chaos that creates momentary discomfort, but also leads to inspiration. As I knew she would, Wheatley had something to say – a reminder for me, really – about ‘confusion’:

“We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for what’s new. Great ideas and inventions miraculously appear in the space of not knowing” .

(Wheatley, “Turning to One Another…”, 2002)

So today – whenever I catch myself thinking about all of the things in my Life that haven’t yet taken flight — instead of monitoring and nagging myself with questions about ‘resistance’ versus ‘allowing’, I’m going to take  comfort in the chaos of Not Knowing.  The blank canvas or page that requires confusion, uncertainty and especially skepticism about Formulas for Living Life Correctly.


I just read a Post from a Vlogger who’d connected with me yesterday. She’s decided to move to another country (radically different from her own) and begin chronicling her new life in her posts and videos. I’m loving how many women are out there, doing things that satisfy the soul ! 

I realized, as she excitedly related her transition process (choosing personal mementos to bring to her new apartment, for starters), that a lot of my major Transitions have felt disruptive to my inner equilibrium in some way. Marriage; the birth of a child; a change of job; moving to a new city; divorce; the death of a parent; a major rift in my family unit. My Transitions have always involved or impacted other people, so the ‘ripple effect’ of change reverberated all the more. How will my husband adjust to our salaries being out of balance? How will my son adapt to his new school? How can I possibly cope with my extended-family’s ‘drama’—while I’m trying to work, parent,  and go to graduate school?

There was a period in my life that the Transitions came so fast and so furiously that I felt like I was being pummeled by huge waves, similar to an actual experience I’d had in Hawaii. After my son was born, when he was around 5 months old, we went to the island of Kona for ten days. The birth had been brutal (after 23 hours of labor, my body said “No Way!” to the 10-lb. watermelon trying to make his exit). When my feet finally hit the warm sand (my husband was setting up the pup-tent with the baby, on the beach), I’d failed to notice a large, red, triangular flag, flying straight-out horizontally, in the gale force winds. I entered the water and almost immediately, when I turned briefly to wave to my husband and son, was clobbered by a wall of water that felt as solid as a mountain. If you’ve ever been struck by this kind of wave, you know that your first sensation, after the initial body-slam, is tumbling:  end over end, flailing with arms out, nothing to grab on to but water. And the ocean, forcing itself into your mouth, up your nose and into your eyes, which have been shocked wide open. This is how my series of Transitions over, I’d say it was maybe two years, felt. Exhausting. Fearsome. Over-whelming. The kind of changes that impact your sleep, your ability to keep healthy routines, and, ultimately, your certainty that you will even survive them.

When I was tumbling around in that huge wave, knocked off my feet (and out of my entire bathing suit, by the way) in about 10 or 12 feet of water, I had the weird thought, “Ah…so this is what drowning feels like!” My husband was on the beach, with the baby. It wasn’t likely that he’d plow into the surf, infant in his arms, to rescue me. In the seconds that I was tumbling, with a pressing need to gasp for air, everything got calm – even with this monster wave roaring in my ears. I remembered something I’d read. Instead of trying to right myself vertically (struggling to find the seafloor with my feet, or, to tread water), I did my best to tuck my legs in, making my body into a ball-shape that the wave would then toss up onto the shore. Which is exactly what happened. I’m convinced I would have drowned shortly, had I not done this.

And so it is with our Transitions, when they plow into us en masse – or, when a singularly frightening change hits us, without our having time to prepare. The impulse is to ‘resist’; to rail against the confusion, the force, the nonsense, the threat; and, to dwell on the powerlessness we feel. There’s a particularly cruel irony (and bizarre logic) that drunk drivers often survive crashes that kill their victims precisely because their bodies are so relaxed (intoxicated) at impact. The body’s urge to ‘resist’ can hinder survival.

The best book I’ve read on coping with difficult or painful times of change is by William Bridges, and is titled “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes”. At this point in my life, my ‘seas’ are mostly calm; but I’ve also committed to the habit of never taking my eyes off the waves (though I’ll admit here that my Nature is to still ignore Red Flags from time to time).

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