I’m always trying to look for the lesson when situations unfold that leave me unsettled. I’ve learned over the years that these lessons can come in all shapes and sizes. They can be professional lessons…lessons of the heart…family or friendship lessons…spiritual lessons…whatever the label, they exist all around. The trick is pausing just long enough to realize there’s something larger to learn.
I tend to react. I’m a reactor. It’s worked well for me for as long as I can remember. I’m smart and a fast thinker. I can usually keep my temper in tow so in the middle of a heated situation, I’m at my best. I’m at my best, because that’s how I had to live for so long…for so long, that I developed a talent at thriving in off-balance, tense, need-to-make-a-decision-now-to-win situations.
I honed my talents in such a way that I was always taking in information from my surroundings…be that people or environments. I was always assessing…building matrices…pro/con tables. I was always on alert and on guard, ready at a moment’s notice to assess and act.
Those were my modes: assess and act. Most people have a fight or flight mode, but for me…flight was never an option. I always assumed I needed to stick it out…fight it out. If you’re always fighting, though, eventually the law of probability catches up and you lose. So to try and avoid that, I had to fight without actually fighting. It had to…and so it did…become a way of existing. And it worked, for years.
Since retiring I’ve tried to unlearn these learned behaviors. And for the most part, I’ve done a good job. Maybe such a good job that recently my knee jerk response to situations or people where I don’t feel safe…or the picture isn’t clear…or I feel the potential to risk more than the reward will pay out…in those situations my knee jerk response has been to flee. Get out. Jump ship. Push the eject button.
Seriously, I’ve barely paused to contemplate the complete picture. Rough patch ahead, no worries…abandon ship. Traffic jam in 5 miles, not a problem…leave the car on the side of the road. The baby is crying, I know what to do…throw it out with the bathwater. These may seem like exaggerations, but it’s not far off from the direction I’ve found my thoughts heading when I let them go unmonitored.
I spent so much time fighting fires and finding solutions that in retirement I’ve sought the easy road. The one where there are no bumps…no bruises…no risk…and therefore, potentially, limited reward. I think I’ve been trying to play it too safe. Even though I know there’s nothing safe about life.
Life is terrifying and exhilarating…all at the same time. Life is packed full of fear and love…of dark and light…of effort and ease. Yoga teaches us to find the middle path. That balance between ease and effort…light and dark…love and fear. But finding a middle path means learning to balance the pros and cons. It means not running into danger nor running from it. I think it means taking the time to breathe…to feel…to consider what’s best.
So with all that said, I have to admit that the best lesson I’ve learned as of late is this: In case of an emergency, do not panic. Do not run, walk – or maybe crawl…and potentially not to the nearest exit.