“Power of positive thinking,” “the secret,” setting intentions to create reality....so many theories, bestsellers, TED talks. All inspiring concepts to practice to create a more positive, harmonious life. But, unfortunately, these theories sometimes do shit when it comes to reality.
The way I see it, our job becomes how to infuse hard, harsh reality with a new set of beliefs and expectations, to leave room for disappointment and new beginnings.
A big part of my journey towards overcoming fear this year has involved the great act of Letting Go. Of reconciling belief with expectation and being able to pick up the pieces when they collide. From the collision, something unexpected and ultimately refreshing happens.
It’s called Growing Up.
I can trace what I call the Yin of Belief and the Yang of Expectation back to my first pregnancy with Liam T back in 2003. From the outside looking in, I did everything right, besides eating a lot of ice cream and gaining 50 lbs. We shopped locally and organically, I practiced yoga all nine months, I took Kia on walks every day to stay active. I cut out afternoon coffee, drank my greens, inhaled massive amounts of water.
When the birth drew near, we ordered all the supplies needed for an at-home (or, in our case, at-apartment) water birth, as directed by our naturopathic midwife. Brendan was deep in medical school so extra income was tough to come by. But that didn’t stop us from wanting the best, most natural experience possible. We BELIEVED it into being.
We bought into it, hook line an sinker. We attended hypnobirthing classes, ordered essential oils to prepare the space for the birth. We wrote out a detailed birth plan, a Belief and Expectation ode. Belief and faith can provide amazing amounts of contentment, and not small amounts of Ego.
The day of his birth, nine days past his projected due date, we were ready. Enya played over our stereo system; Brendan warmed up pot after pot of hot water to empty into the birthing tub; candles given at my baby shower were strategically placed and lit; I bounced lightly on the medicine ball, convinced that this would go according to plan. Magical, mystical, bright-eyed and perfect.
But, as you can likely surmise, it didn’t go as planned.
Because no amount of belief can override the wonders of anatomy. Right after I moved from early labor into the transition phase, things collided and shifted sharply away from expectation. My body doesn’t dilate to 10 cms, irritatingly stopping at 9 1/2. Apparently, that last half centimenter is crucial to a successful passage of baby into the world.
He got stuck . Plain and simple. For five or six agonizing hours in transition, I felt like my back exploded with dynamite every 2-3 minutes . The water didn’t break. The pain didn’t cease. I remember holding onto Brendan with all of my strength and resolve, thinking to myself: “But this wasn’t supposed to happen!”
Finally, it happened - the moment of birth. Once my midwife realized that the lip on my cervix prevented progress , she held it back and the water broke. Followed quickly by my beautiful, dark-haired 8 lb bundle of love’s first cry. I had entered a new phase of reality, going places deeper within myself than I could have imagined. Fear and expectation collided into an experience deeper than belief and faith combined.
It took me weeks to recover. Weeks to put the pieces of my belief back into place, to accept the humility of outside forces controlling my faith and allowing it to evolve.
Apparently, though, the lesson didn’t stick. It happened again. And again. When, even with a healthy diet, my body tricked me again when we ran heavy metal panels to figure out what was going on with baby Liam, when he got sick, only to discover high levels of mercury and lead in our blood. You can’t control your biochemistry and how it reacts with the environment, no matter how hard you want to believe you can.
And, damn it, again, when we elected to not vaccinate our children, after reading research article after article about the potential side effects including autism, perpetual illness, behavioral abnormalities. Yet, we sat through Liam’s diagnosis of autism at age 3. And later, Aedan’s at age 4.
When I watched my daughter grow up spunky, struggling to control her impulses and acting out in school, even though I tried to teach and emulate for her self-control, grace and kindness. When the way we parented one child stumped us with another, when we had to adjust again expectations and beliefs to find slightly unique approaches to each of them. Because each kid comes imprinted with a character and personality blueprint, no matter how you, the parent, believe each will behave.
Belief, expectation, reality, and life. It’s enough to make you lose faith.
But where’s the fun in that? What challenge awaits if you don’t push yourself into the unknown and find something tangible to believe in, and watch yourself adjust as life has the last laugh.
But it really doesn’t. You control your reaction to find something beautiful from the mess.
Starting nutrition school, I've been learning about dietary theories and finding inspiration on a daily basis. Reading about how to cleanse skin by detoxing your body from the inside out, being inspired to try everything I read, willing new-found belief to become reality.
I wanted to believe it so badly, but cutting out dairy didn’t work for me on my quest for glowing skin. I feel better, have more energy, but I am still figuring the puzzle out. Holding onto faith in my own resolve, taking initiative to create my own skin care, carefully following recipes that resonated with me.
But, there’s no guarantee and I haven’t found the secret to clear skin for myself. Not yet. But I keep plodding away. Faith gives me that drive.
Taking supplements doesn’t “guarantee” results you read about in research. I know this, yet I will always be the person seeking inspiration. I have a long way to go in finding peace with the Yin of belief and the Yang of expectation, but I have made a truce with it. Without belief, I can’t grow. Without expectations, I can’t push myself to change.
Without fear, life loses some of its mystical and maddening sparkle that keeps us intrigued. Hard-headed as I am, I’m continually interested in rediscovering new levels of belief, trying to temper it with respect for events beyond my control. The collision of fear and belief inspires humility. From humility comes grace.
My kids are entering the pre-teen and teen years. I’m sure Life is rubbings its hands together, waiting to shower down delight after delight of uncertainty .
Bring it on, Life. I’ll keep trudging on, eyes open, choosing to believe in you.