Faith, Life Musings

Playing with the Universe

After a week of living in the clouds, the sky over Chicago  is blue as rain, the sun shining bright.
Chicago, Illinois 

The change happened suddenly yesterday when I was on the bus, taking the 40 minute commute to one of my favorite coffee shops in Wicker Park. My head was full of doubt, and it wasn’t because I had an Avett Brother’s song stuck on repeat.

I know what I’m doing right now. For the next two months I have a task, a place to live, enough money in the bank to enjoy taking yoga classes and splurging on bottles of wine and brunch with friends. But my overly anxious and bored mind wants to know, already, ‘What happens after that? What’s next? Where are we headed and what are we going to do there, and of course, how are we going to pay for it all?’

While I’m still physically in the present moment, my mind has been drifting for days. It’s taken a life raft and gone on a voyage into the future, trying to scout the next island in a sea of uncertainty. While my mind wanders, Impatience and Insecurity have decided to throw a party and get hitched, leaving me the third one out, watching their little celebration and feeling total despair. It’s not a pretty sight, but it’s one I’ve come to just accept when it’s happening.

Because I KNOW what to do. Or rather, what not to do. I know that any decision I’ve made from a tilt-a-whirl of worry is probably not going to be the best one. I know that sometimes I have to listen to fear so as to understand it and ask myself if that’s the only reason I’m not following a certain path. If it is, my fear is usually an indicator it’s the right path to follow.

I know that I have to create space for my intuition to have a voice, even if it’s a very, very soft one. I know that being in a receiving mode is often way more productive than forcing myself to keep doing, doing, doing. Especially if I have no clue what I’m doing or why. Especially if I’ve worked myself into a frenzy trying to predict outcomes.

I’ve learned what it feels like to play with the Universe, and what it feels like to head butt it, over and over.

When I’m really scared and overwhelmed (option anxiety is a real thing ya’ll), I can think back to the times even the “no’s” worked out in my favor. The “no’s” guided me away from situations and options I didn’t have the courage to walk away from myself. It’s clear in hindsight, every “no” was a blessing in disguise, allowing me to grow beyond a circumstance that would have kept me small and safe.

There was the time I really wanted to go to Thailand, but went home instead and had an amazing year in Nashville with my sisters, creating new community, making new friends. There have been relationships that I really wanted to work but didn’t. Now I’m extremely grateful the Universe had something better in store. There were jobs I didn’t get that I thought I was a perfect fit for. After moving through the disappointment and accepting the loss, something different and unexpected came along.

I don’t think it’s our job to analyze information and scrutinize details until we have enough data to make the right decision. Alan Watts reminds us we’ll never have enough data. It’s impossible, infinitesimal. We can’t see into the future, we’re not meant to. We can’t control the outcome of our choices or our mistakes. It’s the fear of screwing up and choosing the wrong thing that often causes the paralyzing, stagnant feeling of putting my own mind in a cell of isolation and confusion.

As painful as the “no’s” can be, they often offer a form of relief. If I have tried my best to show up, set my intentions, and let go of the result, the “no’s” aren’t laced with regret or self-destruction. They’re gentle signs that say, “You’ll get to where you want to go, but not that way.” It doesn’t feel like rejection or failure. It’s simply a course of misdirection re-aligning itself, offering a different way.

There have been other times when something has turned out in my favor, against all human odds and my best efforts to ruin it. Before I arrived in Ghana, I did everything wrong. I lost my passport, bribed may way into the country, researched absolutely nothing ahead of time. It was one of my finest attempts of trying to thwart an experience I knew had been divinely ordained ahead of time. Yet, every failure was met with a synchronicity of Grace, gently righting my wrongs.

There have been friendships and relationships I’ve completely given up on, walking away and washing my hands of any future involvement. When they’ve circled back around to my complete surprise, the timing has been perfect and I’ve been better. Something has happened inside of us during the time apart that might not have happened had the giving up not happened first.

I’ve been to the point of giving up enough times that I know that’s usually when the light shows up. The decisions I make when I’m relying heavily on faith and trust, never really feel like my own decisions. They feel more like taking a deep breath, walking onto the dance floor, and stepping into the arms of a loved one, allowing them lead.

Flamenco dancers in Barcelona, Spain

It’s not about knowing all of the moves ahead of time. It’s about a special alchemy that forms between partners, the chemistry that allows them to anticipate and respond to the other’s motion without it registering as thought.

Sometimes I have to remind myself not to lead. That’s not my work. The initiative is showing up with the intention of collaborating with inspiration and creating something beautiful and magical. It’s allowing the Universe to eliminate the options for me, and realizing it’s all part of the process of becoming Real.

There’s a quote that I come back to when I start thinking I have to know all of the answers and make all of the right decisions. It frees my heart and mind from the cage of perfection and fear.

“When our hearts are open, Providence makes straight our path.”

As soon as I remembered this truth on the bus, the clouds began to part so quickly and noticeably that everyone craned their necks to look out the window, collective smiles gathering on their faces. I smiled too, because who parts the clouds? They part themselves without a thought, moving with the wind, as nature intended.

Realizing it was as simple as that, I took out my journal, wrote a prayer of appreciation and acceptance for where I am now, and offered my gratitude for all that is yet to come. 

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