My running shoes are sitting by the front door. Not my real ones – those are still sitting in the closet collecting dust. These are the shoes that magically appear and starting screaming RUN! when change is in the air leaving me feeling out of control and desperately seeking solid ground. Like a deer fleeing a forest fire, rather than hunker down and wait out the storm, I start double-knotting my shoe laces in preparation. It is in these moments of uncertainty that we have the greatest opportunity to practice having faith.
After observing my real life soap opera over the years, I can see the warning signs of imminent change: it all starts with the overwhelming feeling that thing something is coming – like waiting for Christmas, but not sure if it is good or something else. My dreams are full of momentum then suddenly they shift and all the things that scare me come creeping. Tears for every reason are followed by those for no reason that move into an alarming silence. Deep, expectant, interior silence where every thought echoes and I am overwhelmed by the stillness of my inner landscape. Finally I can’t stand it and I get the itch…a burning desire to run in any direction to anywhere – as long as it means movement and bridges the gap between what has been and some other time in the future.
Often I have run from people, places and situations that have become stagnant, seeking relief from the insistent urge towards a more fulfilling life. Much of the time is was the correct course of action, but I have also picked fights, made bad decisions and burned bridges that I should not have simply because I needed to regain control of something in order to halt the free-fall into the unknown. As I feel the energy shift inside me towards creating space for new growth the real-life crows in my garden (mythical harbingers of change as well as opportunistic death feeders) stay unnaturally close to me as I weed. Their insistent hoarse cawing and general blackness make me edgy as if they are waiting to guide me into a timeless place of transformation whether I want to go or not.
Regardless of my deep spiritual belief that change is a necessary and natural part of the wheel of life turning, the in-between place of what was and what is to come is a place of fear and uncertainty. It is in these moments of deep uncertainty that I feel most alone and helpless, wanting to DO anything to wiggle out of the feeling. Even when the upcoming changes may be good, my lack of control regarding all that must shift to make way for the new is hard to swallow. When the wheel is turning regardless of my actions, it is hard for me to breathe much less to stay still, yet to overcome the urge to self-destruct I must do just that. The more irresistible the urge to run, the more important it is that I choose another “action” path and have faith.
I am not talking about staying in bad relationships or situations – if you are in one now and are able to pick yourself up and run, DO IT before hopelessness immobilizes you again. I am talking about those times when there is nothing major “wrong”, but there is also nothing major “right”. Or those times when things are okay, but your skin crawls with the need to be more of the puppeteer and less of the puppet in your own life. Perhaps you know that things need to change…that they ARE going to change…but you are not sure how, or when, or why. Maybe you took the steps to shift your life and now that things have you are left wondering what kind of monster you just let loose. New anything…jobs, locations, and opportunities stemming from both “bad” and “good” create anxiety as we move from the usual into the unknown and we often find ourselves resisting or working against the flow as we try to regain our footing. As we struggle to feel more secure, we could be using our energy more productively by listening to Bob Marley’s advice to have faith and “don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing is gonna be alright”.
Faith is a big word full of religious connotations that somehow have always been connected to a lack of power and personal control in my mind. Years growing up around various conservative churches drilled into my skull that faith is about believing in the impossible and improbable without question and relinquishing all control of our lives to an invisible being that could only be clearly heard by a chosen few with really bad hair. But several years ago I found a sticker that remains on the water bottle I use every day that shifted my thinking about passively giving over your life to the unknown. It says: FAITH:VERB.
And, of course, the simplest definition of a verb is “an action word”.
Duh — of course faith is an active thing. But how often do we all say we have “faith” when we really have that tone of “oh my god, I HOPE this is going to work out because I really don’t know” in our voice? For many of us faith has become a THING – a noun – something that is. It has become something that exists outside of us and can be quite elusive when we are troubled. It has become something we think we have (or don’t have) not something we DO. Indeed, our ability to actively DO faith seems to be the first thing we drop when we get scared and start our personal version of clutching at the strings of control.
In those times when things are most uncertain, having faith is the only thing TO do as we deal with the uncertainty of our temporary blindness. And what are we supposed to have faith in???? First, simply that we will know what we need to know, when we need to know it and all will be revealed to us in time. When we begin to make rash decisions that are contradictory to our truest selves because we are grasping at control we can prevent the next best thing from easily happening to/for us. When we react to our own fears instead of sitting in the uncomfortable in-between place of not knowing, we use up our energy spinning in circles instead of getting ready to act on the positive things coming our way. By practicing faith that the world will still rotate without us having our finger on the control button, we begin to see our discomfort for what it is….fear that things are changing and that our personal desires and plans are going to be forgotten in the storm. Fear that the “bad” patterns will keep repeating if we don’t hold on tight. Fear that everything will be different, that we won’t get to choose, and that we can’t see the right path. Uncertain about our future we feel it is only us, not something greater, that is watching out for us and we feel alone and small.
And the most important part of faith is knowing that this is not true..
If you ask me when I feel the itch to run if I have faith that everything will be okay in the end, and if I truly believe I was a beloved child of the Universe, I would tell you yes, of course. But that would not necessarily stop my failing around as I tried to figure out a course of action that would result in feeling like I was driving this life again. And this “child” of Universe would certainly still have thought that she knows better than any higher power when she was stressed! How is it that if I cannot see around this particular corner in my life, I still think I can choose an action that will result a positive outcome? What is all this energy I use to run, make demands on the universe and generate a river of tears actually gaining me? When I don’t know what to do, or what is going to happen, why am I so hell-bent on believing that I will have the answers if I only beat my head against the wall hard enough??? Where did that part about believing it is all going to be okay in the end disappear to???
Regardless of how contradictory it seems when our fight or flight mechanism is going crazy because things are up in the air, we need to sit in our itchy, squirminess until we are clearer about which way to proceed. When we can feel change in the air like the coming of the rain, remember that we must open our hands in order to accept a gift. A clenched fist can neither let go of what it doesn’t need, or receive something precious. And our desire to be the one in control is most definitely a clenched fist – and frequently a clenched jay and stomach too!
Breathe. Open your heart to the very real possibility that everything is going to okay and know that you are on the exact path that gets you right where you are supposed to be. Stop fretting as if there was some way you can speed the transition from here to the future. Take the time to rest your spirit and wait until the way is clearer. Be kind to yourself when you are feeling powerless and know that vision is achieved by observing not doing. Resist the urge to think that whatever we might do in this deeply uncomfortable moment is a better choice than listening for further instructions.
Regardless of your personal belief in a higher power or divine being, take comfort knowing that everything evolves out of chaos. Allow yourself – and the universe – to sort through the endless possibilities for your life and create room for good things to enter. When you fret that change has brought bad things in the past and that you HAVE to stay in control so that bad doesn’t happen again….consider the possibility that maybe letting go is exactly what is called for. Maybe you really need to just get out of your own way. I know I need to get out of mine.
Use faith as a bridge to get you from this moment of uncertainty to the place where things seem more settled. Every little thing WILL be alright. Pack up your imaginary running shoes …or better yet, use your real ones them for what they are made for and create some physical momentum to eat up the anxiety while you wait for the rest of life to catch up.