There are several times each year that, to me, represent symbolic moments of letting go and embracing changes and challenges. The shifting seasons, holidays and solstice days all signify transformation. Spring turns into summer, summer to fall, fall to winter and winter back to spring. Even the lunar pattern offers symbols of change from the waxing and waning crescent moon to the new moon. The ocean, too, experiences a shift in its balance from low tides to high tides and crashing waves.
Think back over the last year and reflect on what changes, either anticipated or unexpected, entered your life. Did you change jobs? Leave a toxic work culture? Did you start or end a relationship? Buy or sell a home? Fall ill or heal from a longstanding battle with an affliction? Welcome a new baby? Lose someone you love? Find someone you love? Embark on a new adventure?
Change is anything that shifts life’s homeostatic balance. It’s easy to celebrate the “eustress” — the good and happy events we all experience in our journeys. The real and heavy challenge is in dealing with and healing from an unexpected and unpleasant change. This is not a tranquil voyage. Trust me, I know. Life has a way of plunging us into trouble waters, which is easy to interpret as a metaphorical drowning. But what if that’s life’s way of cleansing us instead? It’s something to think about.
Change — positive and troublesome — is not something humans seek because we are creatures of habit and we tend to like the comfort zone. We don’t like to have our “cheese” moved. But the thing about a comfort zone is nothing ever grows there — least of all us. All this to say January is a significant symbol of change; it’s the new year. Many are busy writing resolutions and planning to lose this or gain that or travel here or there. What if the resolution was to let go instead, let go of a troubling experience or a destructive stressor? Can you breathe in and think “let”; breathe out and think “go”?
I’ve spent the last year and a half doing just this — letting go of an experience that was intended to crush me. Instead, I dared it to polish me. This was both freeing and powerful.
The lesson: life ebbs and flows; there are low tides and beauty and high tides and ugliness. When faced with the ugly, make the choice to transform in rhythm with the change. Make the choice to surf on top of the rising tides.
In doing so, you will grow in unimaginable and unexpected ways instead of staying in the same place doing the same thing and thinking the same way. Embrace the “trouble,” surf that wave and revel in the fact that your enemies can’t swim. Let success be your retribution and let go of what’s not yours to carry. Unburden yourself from the thoughts of others, the words of others and the will of others. Do you. Be you. The storm will pass and you’ll get to enjoy the rainbow.
Dr. Erin M. Nitschke is a college professor, NSCA-CPT, NFPT-CPT, ACE Health Coach & Fitness Nutrition Specialist.