It only takes one event to send life into a tailspin. A single event can completely blindside you and leave you feeling disoriented. Something happens and suddenly nothing makes sense anymore. You stagger around in shock and disbelief. It’s like discovering that water isn’t wet or that one plus one doesn’t equal two.
We expect life to unfold in certain ways. We expect our relationships, careers, and personal finances to follow paths that we have constructed in our minds. We expect health, not sickness. We expect a long life, not a short one. We expect prosperity, not poverty. We expect to be respected, not disrespected.
Some of our expectations are more aligned with reality than others. The unreasonable expectations we have of ourselves and other people will lead to either wisdom or pain. If we examine our expectations and dismantle those that are false and unreasonable, they can be transmuted into a rare form of wisdom. If on the other hand, we stubbornly hold onto our unreasonable expectations, reality will demolish them, and we will suffer.
I was experiencing the latter. Reality was dismantling my illusions and destroying my unrealistic expectations. And it was all happening so quickly. I woke up one morning and before I went to bed that night my whole life had changed forever. And it happened more than once. Several times. It’s no wonder I felt disoriented.
The interesting thing is that positive and negative events can be equally disorienting. The negative side is easier to comprehend. We expect negative experiences to disquiet our soul. The death of a parent, friend, child, or spouse. Losing your job. Loneliness and isolation. Being abused. Divorce. Being told by your doctor that you have a life-threatening disease. Infidelity. Depression.
A sick child. A loveless marriage. Being arrested. A miscarriage. Missed opportunity. War. A natural disaster. Terrorism. Addiction. Discrimination. A car accident. Insurmountable debt. Being robbed. These events may be a surprise, but how they affect us usually isn’t.
What’s surprising is that positive events can stir our souls in different but equally unsettling ways.
You go on a long-anticipated vacation only to discover as you lie on the beach that your life no longer makes sense to you. The perspective of a little time away causes you to realize that you have deprioritized what matters most.
You get engaged only to discover that the time leading up to the wedding can be among the most stressful times in your life.
You move into your dream home, but the stress of the transition reveals things about the role you allow material possessions to play in your life.
You give birth to a child and this new life puts everything you have ever experienced in a new context. Your love for this child rearranges your priorities and you know you can never go back. The old you seems foreign. You don’t recognize her. It’s as if that was a completely different person.
You look forward to retirement and doing whatever you want, whenever you want, only to discover after just a few months that it is a deeply unsatisfying experience.
Life can be disorienting. It can happen quickly. And this disorientation can be brought on by either a positive or negative event. It can lead to a shift in priorities, but not always. Sometimes we repress our new discoveries about self and life. Disorientation is an invitation.
It’s a mistake to focus on the negative. It’s a mistake sometimes to think the bad stuff is all bad. It is often in the middle of nowhere, lost and confused, when nothing makes sense, that we find ourselves and come to know ourselves in new and brilliant ways.
Sometimes when your life has been turned upside down, after the dust settles, you discover that your life is finally right side up. Sometimes when you feel lost you are exactly where you need to be at that moment.
The question is: Can getting lost be a good thing? Do you view getting lost as inconvenient, frustrating, an adventure, or an opportunity? The answer is different for every person in every situation, but most of the time when we get lost, we don’t even consider some of these options. Maybe getting lost is exactly what we need.
From Life is Messy
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