July 3, 2016

When Life Gives us Lemons: 3 Steps to Navigate Life’s Holding Patterns.

Rob Bertholf/Flickr

There’s a turn of phrase about life handing you lemons which most of us are probably familiar with (thanks Beyonce!).

The premise being that when life hands us something, we should use it to our advantage and maybe create something wondrous out of it.

But what if life just hands us lemon tree seeds? What are we meant to do then? Shelve the lemonade stand plans and just wait for nature to catch up?

Sometimes we can get way ahead of ourselves trying to rush plans into fruition before they are ready. Right-now turns out to be not-right-now. This is what I like to refer to as one of life’s holding patterns.

I’m sure most of us have found ourselves stuck in one at some point or another. The new plans are so crystal clear that we can practically see them from the window of our mind’s eye yet we keep circling up and away from them.

“Give it to me now,” the ego wails. “All in good time,” the inner voice answers.

I know this feeling well because I’m currently stuck in one of life’s holding patterns. I made some pretty momentous changes a few years back—ending a long term job and relationship, and set about creating a new blueprint for my life—yet I failed to take into account that when one door closes, another one doesn’t always open up right away. Sometimes we need to linger in the hallway for a while.

I was so focused on the end result that I’d neglected the concept of just enjoying the journey. After struggling for months against the holding patterns vice-like grip, I came to a realization: Stop struggling against it. Accept what is. Learn from it.

During this time I discovered three important lessons that I found helpful in dealing with life when it start to feel stagnant pool of stagnancy.

1. Look at the bigger picture.

As humans, we can get lost in the weeds. We become so detail-orientated when pushing a project to fruition or trying to accomplish something new in our lives that we fail to see the bigger picture.

Sure, it is incredibly frustrating having to face endless delays but does a few weeks delay in getting the answer we think we desperately need make that much of a difference in the bigger picture? Probably not.

What if we learned to try to put things into perspective and remember that attempting anything new, big or scary in life simply takes time? If we can understand this it can become easier to avoid turning into a micro-managing ninja each time we think something or someone is blocking our progress.

2. Timing is everything.

Spiritual traditions tell us that patience is an important virtue in times of continual stress and difficulty. And yet it is inherent in us humans to want things to change for the better right away. Waiting has become almost uncivilized in this era of hyper-speed, we have almost become addicted to the immediacy of modern life.

Have we forgotten that there is also a time for creation, for nurturing ideas? It’s such a precious time. Dwell in the exploratory stage, roll around like a pig in it, have fun with it. There’s also a time for productivity, to knuckle down against the cliff face and just climb, one step up at a time. And then, much to our chagrin, there’s a time for waiting.

If we can learn to discern the difference between these times it can reshape our perspective so that it doesn’t feel like we are being left behind in the game of life. In knowing that there is a time for everything, it wont seem quite so heart-wrenchingly frustrating when a delay stands in our way.

3. Learn the lesson.

From personal experience, when we try and implement change into our lives it does not happen overnight. Much like cooking a decadent meal there is a time for prepping, a time for merging the ingredients together. None of it happens simultaneously and none if of it happens immediately. Those are called microwave meals and they are disgusting.

It may feel like the right time to move forward and take action whether that be finding a new job, asking for a raise or starting your own business. But no matter how big or small our mission, when our best-laid plans go awry there’s usually a lesson to be learned.

Staying mindful and viewing any bumps along the road as opportunities for growth instead of setbacks can certainly feel far more empowering. Asking ourselves “What can I learn from this?” reframes what feels like a roadblock into a learning experience. Simply knowing this can quiet the ego’s screams. In learning to enjoy the process or at least appreciate its purpose, one can start to go with the flow and try not to control every single step.

After all, if everything were to happen according to what each and every one of us thought was the right time, the world would be in a perpetual state of chaos. If we need any confirmation of this fact, simply look to nature. Mother Nature has carefully calculated each gestation period of every living animal. You don’t see a group of mother elephant’s bitching about why they get the raw end of the deal. “Six hundred and forty days? I can’t take it anymore.”

In this modern life, technology may have rendered the need to wait at all as obsolete. But when life puts us in a holding pattern, we can uncover some important lessons.

We can uncover the power of gratitude. Start to gain an appreciation for what is instead of focusing on what will be. Most importantly, we can learn to have a little faith that everything will work out according to its own divine timing.

Good things may come to those who wait, but better things come to those that know why they are waiting.


Author: Victoria Cox

Image: Rob Bertholf/Flickr

Editors: Katarina Tavčar; Caitlin Oriel

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