A vintage Jazz-age studio with freshly-painted purple walls, the place was barely big enough for the boxed-up remnants of life I had crammed inside. But it was my place. All mine.
And right now, the way my life was going, it was all I possessed.
At 33 years old, I had never had my own apartment before. In college I had lived with my mother to save on dorm fees. In graduate school I had rented a room from another motherly soul. Since then, I had lived with my husband.
Now, we were going our separate ways.
I woke up that first morning in a thin sleeping bag on terrazzo stone. My back ached. My sensitive nose had swelled like a cucumber from dust bunnies I had yet to eradicate. And my feet were ... well ... soaked.
I will never forget that moment, wondering what on earth had happened. Had a bathtub overflowed above me and dropped through my ceiling?
Then my sense of smell kicked in, and my heart sank as I recognized a certain pungent odor.
My beloved tabby, Fritz, had peed on me while I slept!
Under normal circumstances, Fritz was impeccably well-behaved. But this was not a normal circumstance. As I stumbled to the cramped bathroom to rinse off my feet, I could not help sympathizing with this sign of extreme displeasure.
We both had been uprooted from a glorious four-floor Victorian and dropped unceremoniously into a single room.
As I scrubbed my feet in an ancient porcelain bathtub, I had three consolations. Number One, that I had enough coins to run my sleeping bag through the public laundry. Number Two, that I had been able to get into the place early enough to paint it (because purple makes everything better). And Number Three, that a sliver of Lake Michigan’s sapphire shore was visible from my window.
It was the 1st of May 2016, just four weeks since I had found out I was getting divorced.
On the one hand, the silence of my new apartment was a kind of security blanket for my soul.
On the other hand, I wanted desperately to be somewhere else.
As I unpacked boxes one by one, making sense of my new reality by surrounding myself with what remained of my possessions, I found my mind wandering. In general it headed one of two places: a past I deeply regretted but could no longer change. Or a future that left me sweating in terror.
Neither one felt very good.
I honestly don’t remember much about the next few days or weeks. I am not sure that I actually lived those moments. My brain was busy renting its space either to the past or to the future. And suffering as a result.
All the brain space devoted to resistance left me very little for acceptance. By “checking out,” I found a means of resisting my reality.
Living in the NOW—being fully present despite all my discomfort—seemed too tender, too uncomfortable and too disappointing. I was alone. Hemmed in by empty boxes. Feet baptized by a cranky cat. Bills piling up, and no idea how I would pay them from the proceeds of my failing business. Lawyers’ meetings penciled on my calendar in condemning red ink.
Yes, in this moment, anywhere in the world... anywhere at all... had to be better than being right here, right now.
So I did what any sane human being would do in the situation.
I decided to wage war on this reality.
In every crazy moment of life, we all have two decisions: resist the experience we are having, or receive what it is designed to teach us.
Most of us choose the former strategy.
Resistance to our present situation—especially if we are experiencing a season of feeling deeply lost—starts internally. We complain. We rehearse wrongs done against us. We shame the situation. We judge ourselves for how we even got here. We attach our hopes to a time when we can leave the situation ... which is not, by definition, possible right now.
Misery loves company, too. We tell everyone how terrible the situation is, and we do everything in our power to change it. Often times, however, the situation doesn’t seem to budge... sending us further and further into a spiral of emotional and mental suffering.
Embracing our present situation, on the other hand, does not mean that we simply “take what comes” or lie back in an attitude of laziness, not caring if anything changes. It is about a deep recognition that the present moment, though not fun, is the only one we have to live.
Instead of shaming the situation, we recognize that it is here to teach us.
Instead of judging ourselves, we recognize that we are simply having an experience in life ... and one that will change again, quickly.
Where others might run from pain, we choose to keep walking calmly into it.
Any enemy you welcome with open arms is more likely to become your friend. The faster you embrace your lost season, the faster you can learn what it is here to teach. And the faster you can move on.
This is the strange magic of embracing your now.
As Amy Carmichael once said, “In acceptance lieth peace.”
I wish I could say I deeply embraced the transformative power of my discomfort on the 1s of May 2016. But at that point in my life, no one had told me about the principles of resistance and acceptance. I had to stumble upon them for myself. It took me several years to realize that all the anger, fear, confusion and regrets in the world were not going to change my situation.
Desperately wanting and needing my situation to change wasn’t going to bring me peace either.
I had wanted to feel alive, aligned, tuned-in, on purpose, in the flow, authentic and thriving. Instead, I found myself disintegrating further and further. My life resembled shards of a clay pot that came with no glue and no instruction manual for putting them back together.
Reality as I currently perceived it had nothing to do with my desires. As a result, I condemned myself and felt condemned by life as well.
My experience highlighted just how vastly out of control my life had become—and how important control really was to me.
I did not like the feeling of powerlessness, because it flowed from uncertainty. There is nothing a “control freak” hates more than uncertainty. So my way of controlling this reality was to retreat out of the present and into the past or future (ultimately causing myself more pain in the process), or to marinade in my sorrows, loathing my present moment and wishing it would change.
Neither strategy delivered the results that I wanted.
Perhaps you recognize this pattern: resisting the season you find yourself in, judging and shaming yourself for having gotten to this place, pushing yourself like a taskmaster to take action in order to get yourself out of feeling lost ... and not getting much of anywhere.
There’s a type of irritability that’s unique to resistance. If you’re like me, you end up in tears a lot, and your body is frequently in pain from all the tension.
I wish I had known then what I know now: that the longer I resist the feeling of being lost, the longer the feeling of being lost will persist.
The only way to experience the transformation we desire is to choose to live fully in the present moment, no matter how uncomfortable, frightening or out of control it might feel. Once we deeply accept that this is our present, and we embrace it, it’s amazing how things begin to change.
Crossing your arms over your chest in a defiant stance closes you off. Dropping those arms and turning your palms outward to face the world opens you up.
Only open, receptive people receive the transformation God desires to send.
Are you willing to embrace your Now?