Ask anyone who my favorite female artist is and they’d probably say Madonna. But while it’s true that I’ve been a Madonna SUPER FAN since she first burst on the scene in all her rebellious 80s glory, the correct answer to that question is actually Alanis Morissette. The woman is a poet and a lyrical genius. Her songs come from such an honest place and speak to everything from feminine power and strength to heartache, redemption, anger, peace and happiness in a way that has always resonated deeply with me. And her public quest for balance, her struggles with depression, anxiety, and letting go of her ideas of perfection in order to find authenticity and purpose inspire me. Seriously, if you think she’s just the angry girl screaming “You Ought To Know” at her ex, you should listen to her podcast “Conversations with Alanis Morissette,” and get reacquainted.
The point to this is that lately I have a line from “Ironic” (and yes, I realize the song is not at all ironic—don’t be a hater) swirling around in my head:
“Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you think everything’s ok and everything’s going right—and life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up in your face.”
Why is this stuck in my head? Because at the end of each year, I take time to reflect over the past 12 months and see what went right and what blew up in my face. This year, as I looked back, I realized that my resolution for 2018 was to try and be less of a control freak and to let life unfold as it would without any help from me. I guess I didn’t do too well, because life has a funny way…..
Call it divine intervention (or cosmic retribution) but for whatever reason, I lost my balance during a training ride, flew off my bike, shattered my collarbone, and was forced to slow down and give up control over a large part of my life. The upside of the downtime was that it allowed me to really think about my direction and make some important decisions about what really mattered to me. I left my full time job as a copywriter to focus on 3 “Fs”: freelancing, family and fitness. I had finally figured out a way to design a life filled with everything I was passionate about, and it seemed like everything was ok and going right. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Being my usual impatient, stubborn, take-charge (okay, controlling) self, I took on too much too soon, and after almost exactly three months, landed right back in the hospital for a second surgery to repair my broken bone--again. This time the downtime wasn’t as productive---in fact it looked more like a giant pity party. I tried to stay upbeat and focus on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t, but my best efforts failed and I lost my mojo in a BIG way. I felt like everything was going wrong and blowing up in my face—my goals, my plans, my relationships…….everything I had poured my heart and soul into was just unraveling------I felt helpless, alone, and PISSED! I began to doubt all my choices, my judgment, and sadly, myself.
My late Southern grandmother used to say, “Don’t pray for patience because God will give you something to test it.” I don’t know if that’s really how it works, but I do know that once I stopped being pissed off at myself and the world at large, I really started to wonder if maybe there WAS a bigger lesson I was meant to learn in all of this chaos. And now I believe there was: Find your balance!
After some reflection, I noticed that is a recurring theme in my life. When things in my world start to feel off balance I hold on too tightly, which often results in something breaking---literally and figuratively. In fact, I had an article published about this very thing several years ago—so obviously I understand it on some level—but why is it so hard for me to change it? And how many more breaks will it take before I am actually able to do it?
I’ve thought about this a lot over the past couple of weeks and I think the secret lies in understanding that things are never “all or nothing.” I’m an “all in” or “all out” person by nature so this makes it harder for me to comprehend—but throughout this experience I’ve had to shift my way of thinking and make room for middle ground. It goes back to balance—something I’m big on preaching to my fitness clients—but that I’m not actually practicing it as well as I thought.
There is an expression that says that patterns will repeat themselves until you learn the lesson. So in an effort to avoid any more “breaks,” this year’s resolution is going to center around finding more balance. To be more forgiving of myself and others and know that one setback doesn’t mean the end of a goal, one argument doesn’t mean the end of a friendship, and one mistake doesn’t negate the good in a relationship. I will look harder for that space in between “all” and “nothing.” I will try to accept that like it or not, there are things that are simply out of my control—period. I do not have the power to wiggle my nose and fuse a broken bone back together. I cannot make people do things they don’t want to do or be something they aren’t (myself included). I cannot please everyone all the time--- and that’s just going to have to be okay.
I guess it turns out that life does have a funny way of helping you out when everything’s going wrong. For me, the answer is that in order to not let things I can’t control throw me off balance, I will have to be more aware of my thoughts, actions and reactions. Let what comes, come—and what goes go, keeping a loose grip on the handlebars and just rolling with whatever lies on the road ahead. In other words, exercise more self- control over how I deal with what I can’t control---which is something I’m pretty sure Alanis would find “Ironic.”