My husband surprised me with a trip to New York. It usually would necessitate a lot of pre-planning, but my kids happened to be going to be with my parents, events were easily canceled, and things just seemed to be in alignment.
The next step was getting my thoughts and feelings in alignment. I was so grateful for this loving gesture and the opportunity for a getaway, but I had a big list of things I planned to get done and now everything needed to be put on hold. I had to release my need for control and ease into spontaneity.
Letting go can be difficult. It is a practice I've been working on for awhile now.
It started when I realized that acquiring knowledge about life isn't enough; we need to practice what we know. Knowledge and practice are dramatically different things. You may know the right thing to do, but do you do it? You may know what's best for you, but do you choose it?
I practice with little things (staying calm if I am late). I practice with big things (breathing through bad or scary news, practicing self-compassion if I have failed or made a mistake). Although it's far from perfect, this has resulted in a strengthening of my ability to handle the unexpected in a more intentional way.
Which means it was time to get packing for New York. But I also had to acknowledge the part of me that's uncomfortable with change.
So off I go on this adventure, and what do you know, I get a headache the first night. It had the potential to create some serious self-pity.
But I practiced being present. I had a few tears, but I also took some Advil and drank a lot of water, I took a few naps, I walked, I moved–we even kept some of our plans.
Then, about 12 hours later, the headache was gone. I felt relief. I also felt excitement because I handled it. I couldn't force the headache to go away, but I could decide how to relate to it, I could decide not to label it bad or unfair.
Obviously, this practice is not about New York or headaches, it's about everything. It's about recognizing our ability to make choices about how we feel, and releasing the constant need for control (because as much as we try, we cannot control life).
Life on the outside is unpredictable–things happen, plans get altered.
But on the inside, we get to choose our way of being, we can practice acceptance. We can accept and work with the unexpected rather than push against it.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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