I watched an Oprah special a few years ago on which Iyanla Vantz, a spiritual teacher, author and motivational speaker was coaching a woman who was distraught and very angry that her husband left her.
I remember so clearly how Iyanla explained that the woman couldn’t fault or blame the man for essentially changing his mind. “He didn’t do anything wrong. People change their minds. There is no fault in changing one’s mind.”
It struck me hard because it sheds light on a big truth:
We can’t control anything.
And for me, feeling the immensity of that truth deep down in my core brings up so much fear.
If I can’t control anything, I am always vulnerable.
I’m always at the mercy of life and the Universe or whatever might ‘control’ things.
It makes me feel very naked and defenseless because we really can’t count on anything in this life.
And while that sounds depressing, I don’t mean it in a negative way—I just mean that when we really think about it, we aren’t controlling anything. Everything we do is risky; this is just the truth of life. And this certainly applies to matters of the heart, like Iyanla so simply said: “Anyone can change their mind at any point in time. And it’s not a crime.”
I am thinking back to this moment today because I am in a situation where the man I was dating for a chunk of time changed his mind. It wasn’t as dramatic as him waking up one morning, looking at me and realizing he didn’t want to be with me anymore; it was a bit more gradual. But I’m aware that there was a moment in which he, for whatever reason, no longer wanted to be ‘in it’ with me. A moment in which he changed his mind and our entire relationship shifted right then and there, even if I wasn’t fully aware of what was happening.
Sitting in the aftermath of this relationship dissolving, my ego and mind of course wanted to back track over every little thing that happened.
What did I do?
When did he start to shift?
Does he just have intimacy issues?
What could I have done?
Yada yada…my mind, which wants to control everything and keep me from feeling, could ruminate for days. But in the end, when I really sink into it, the truth is he changed his mind. It doesn’t matter why. It doesn’t matter if I said something that rubbed him the wrong way. It doesn’t matter if he didn’t like how I brushed my teeth. It really doesn’t matter. And it’s ok—it’s not his fault. He is completely entitled to change his mind!
All of those thoughts and even the anger I sometimes feel is just my ego’s way of trying to control the fact that love is a scary, scary thing. And when we open up to it, we might get hurt. That is this vulnerable thing we are experiencing being human.
We have no defenses when we truly let someone in.
Truly. When we really let someone into our heart, we throw away any sense of control we thought we had and are exposed and raw. This is what love does—we can’t experience love if we don’t risk. Because anyone, including you or me has the right to change his/her mind.
This is life.
We never know what others are coming to us with. We don’t know their hurts or their baggage. Even if they are brave enough to bare their soul and share, some of the deepest wounds might not even be known to them. And this doesn’t just apply to romantic partners: friends, casual relationships even parents can change their minds…they made a choice in a moment when it felt right and then in another moment, it didn’t anymore.
And while we may be angry and argue that since they felt one way before, they should still feel it or that they owe us to act a certain way because of what they promised, it’s not true.
There really is no fault in changing one’s mind.
Yes, it’s going to sting if you are on the other side of it, but holding onto the anger and the feeling of being deceived is not helpful. I’m fairly sure that no one (at least not most people) wants to hurt you on purpose. But everyone is allowed his or her own journey and realizations.
It sucks if it isn’t what we want, I know.
No one is going to get out of here pain free. And if we really want to experience intimacy and love, we need to expose the soft parts of ourselves that could get hurt if things don’t turn out like we hope.
I think the key to this is accepting that we are going to experience pain.
I’m not saying everyone is going to leave or do something that we each find hurtful, but even in the most loving and connected relationships, we’re going to hurt each other. This is what happens when we have two different people with two different hearts and minds coming together.
If we accept the pain and don’t fight it, we can move through it with compassion (for yourself and the other person), love and openness that will only make us stronger. The only ‘mistake’ I can see happening is if we close up and decide that it’s not worth it. Because it is.
I’m reframing my situation now and while I don’t feel peaceful about it every second, most moments I can come to acceptance. Instead of being angry at him or myself, or feeling like I never want to let anyone in again, I can instead be so grateful for taking a chance and opening up to love. No, this didn’t turn out how I wanted it to, but I’m proud of myself for leaping and letting this man in. Even though it hurts right now, there were so many beautiful moments that I wouldn’t take back for the world.
That’s the thing—to experience the most wonderful parts of life, we may (read: most likely will) experience some of the ‘not so good’ feelings we try to avoid. Even when I think back to the biggest loss I’ve experienced so far, the death of my mom and I can feel the pressure of the pain that seemed to bury me, would I give up the love and life I shared with her just to not feel that hurt?
I would rather have the mom I had for almost 20 years and go through what I did, than have no mom or a distant mom and not hurt much when she died.
So it all seems to come down to accepting that we are always vulnerable and out of control and still, even if there is fear… opening up.
Life is experienced both in the joy and in the pain, even though I know one feels so much better than the other. Having compassion, both for yourself and for others, is key. We are all just doing the best we can do.
Accepting that joy and love come with being exposed will help. And remember that we are allowed to change our minds. We are not being deceived or mistreated—it’s simply a chance we take.
And it seems worth it to me!
Go out and open up, make mistakes, fall in love, get your heart broken and really live. You aren’t in control anyway, so you might as well leap and know that no matter how rough the fall seems, you’ll land and be ok.
And if you don’t like the path you are taking…you can always change your mind.
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