One inevitable part of life is that at some point we have to deal with the unknown. We encounter situations, events and circumstances that just don’t make sense to us; or perhaps, they DO make sense but we desperately wish they didn’t.
In these situations I tend to perpetuate the pain by obsessing over why I don’t have control. I think, “HELLO! This is my life, I’m pretty sure I should be able to choose all situations pertaining to it”…#fail.
It’s human nature to fight for control– unfortunately, it’s a battle we rarely win.
What I have found is that in the midst of the unknown, there is a way to find peace; that way is believing that somehow, in someway we are yet to see, someday it will all make sense. We have no guarantee of answers, but we can trust that there is some plan unfolding for us, created by God, the universe, life itself–whatever you want to call it.
Do we play a part in it? Yes. But the part we play isn’t always forcing and striving, planning and pushing– it’s just surrendering. Saying, “Ok, God (again, universe, life, Tom Cruise… whatever resonates with you) I’m giving this one to you”.
We choose to surrender.
So how do we trust in a process we can’t see? We CHOOSE. We LITERALLY choose to believe it will all workout. We are all choosing something– to believe that life is for us or that life is against us. It’s ok to bounce back and forth between the two sometimes, but my wish for each of us is that as quickly as possible, we settle into the belief that what’s meant to be will absolutely be and when it’s all said and done, it will be good. 💜
PS: This post was originally shared on Instagram, I’d love to connect! You can follow me @iamkatiehoffman.
Last month, my family and I celebrated the life of my Grandpa, known by all his grandkids as Papaw. He was the kind of man who left everyone in his life with a smile and frequently, a good laugh. Growing up, he and my Grandma were very present in my life.
My sister and I were raised on the same block-wide piece of land he and his 8 siblings grew up on. He was a second generation American, born in 1926, to “The Silent Generation”. This generation, sandwiched between the more commonly known eras of “The Greatest Generation” and “The Baby Boomers”, was known for their hard working, virtuous and simple lifestyles. Perhaps this generation earned their name because their values, beliefs and priorities weren’t as readily pronounced as they are today; instead they were simply demonstrated in their daily lives.
Growing up, I was able to observe my Papaw, living his truths. I did not know it at the time, but without saying much, he was teaching me valuable life principles.
Here are three he taught me:
- Work Hard- My sister and I grew up on an acre of land, directly across a field from my grandparents. The back half of our land was separated from theirs by a metal fence and small pond; the field it was covered with coarse grass that required a tractor to be maintained. As a teenager, I remember looking out the window of my air-conditioned house, in the middle of summer, seeing my 70-something year old Grandpa on a tractor. I’d smile and wave, Papaw would wave back and continue his mowing. We were used to seeing him work hard—that’s the way he liked it and we knew better than to try and stop him. He was the epitome of hard working— he served in the Army, worked diligently at the same company for 25 years and maintained a garden that gave us vine ripened tomatoes and cucumbers for homemade dill pickles every summer.
- Always be on time: Whether he was picking me up to take me to school or attending one of my volleyball games, I knew that if he said he would be there at a certain time, he would be there. His habit of punctuality presented a problem for gals like me who consistently run about 5 minutes late. When I was in middle school, I remember him showing up at my house at 7:00 am sharp, expecting me to be out of bed and nearly ready for school. Instead he’s usually walked in to find me buried beneath the covers. His solution was to break out a cold bottle of water and sprinkle me until I got out of bed. His approach worked every time!
- Love: I’ve always admired the love story of my grandparents. They met in California where both he and my Grandma were working. Neither of them were from the area, yet they found each other shortly before Papaw was drafted to WWII. He did not forget her; upon his return to Oklahoma, he sent her a bus ticket and she joined him in the small house they shared from that day forward. They had a marriage of almost 70 years; their love story stretched the course seven decades, saw two millenniums and overcame many challenges that all couples inevitably face. To me, marriage today seems much different (and possibly more complicated) than it was decades ago, but if I can approach my future marriage with the love and commitment they showed in theirs, then it may not be so complicated after all.
If I had to summarize all my Papaw taught me into one sentence it would this:
Life is simple.
I’m not sure he would have said it was easy –in fact I’m sure that he knew it rarely is– we all go through hard times; nonetheless, he approached it with simplicity, devotion and love.
On a rainy day, shortly after he passed, I sat down on my grandparent’s floor to look through old photos of him as a young man; he radiated life and love. It was easy to see he carried that same lively spirit with him throughout his 89 years on earth. I’m not sure I will ever master the lessons he taught me to the extent that he did, but I do believe that if I can just keep them in mind and do a little better each day, then I will be doing, as he would always say, “pretty fine.”
I’ve always been a wanna-be yogi.
Although I’ve never really dove into a consistent practice, I’m drawn to it yoga because of all of the success stories I’ve heard. So many people talk about how yoga has led them to a better physique, but more importantly, to mental clarity and peace of mind; I decided to give it a shot. Even my best efforts have been a bit spotty, but there has been progress.
Some days the yoga poses and practice of being mindful come very easily; I glide from posture to posture, fully focused on my breath and the intention I have set for the day.
Today was not one of those day—every movement took effort and lots of it. The unexpected humidity outside and crowded room made for an extra warm class; Holding a posture for more than a couple of breaths was anything but comfortable. Nonetheless, breath by breath, I made my way through the discomfort, leading to a realization about success that applies both on and off the yoga mat.
Success is an ambiguous word—ask 20 people what it means and you’ll get many answers. To some it means having a prestigious, lucrative career. To others it means sharing their art and living their passion. Some find success in having a family or giving back to the community. For many of us, it’s a combination of these definitions, among many others.
Regardless of one’s personal definition, there is one element present in all meaningful forms of success; that ingredient is discomfort. In order to experience success on any level, we must learn to be OK with discomfort.
Sometimes our journey to success demands that we take risks outside of our comfort zone.
Whether the challenge is embracing the learning process, daring to be vulnerable in our relationships—or in my case, holding crow pose for a few more breaths—our success is directly proportional to our ability to be handle discomfort.
Of course, not all discomfort should be accepted; sometimes we feel uncomfortable because things aren’t working and changes need to be made, but more often than not the discomfort that comes with commitment and growth is a necessary check point on the path to success. Our invitation is to learn the difference and act accordingly.
My objective on the yoga mat, and in real life is this: Instead of resisting discomfort, simply observe it, identify its role in the present and choose to use it as a stepping stone toward a much bigger reward than we would have received outside our oh-so-cozy comfort zones.
I am grateful to have been shown this important life lesson on the yoga mat and will do my best to apply it off the mat as well.
Maybe I’m becoming a yogi, after all.
Years ago, I had a blog where I shared my experiences, stories and perceptions. I hoped what I had to say would resonate with people and cause some kind of shift in their internal world. Eventually, when life got a little more complicated and busy, I stopped blogging. I didn’t just stop blogging— I stopped creating—writing, dancing, acting, etc. Once in awhile, I’d make things behind the scenes that I had a desire to share, but it took me months to finish, if I ever did; even then, I never thought they were ready to be released. I chalked this up to just being a perfectionist. I wasn’t scared, I just knew I could do better so I would revise, and then revise some more. Finally, I became frustrated with my hesitation. After looking deeper, I realized, despite what I had thought, I was scared; my perfectionism was a smoke screen, covering an enormous amount of fear that what I had to say wouldn’t be good enough to matter.
I know I’m not alone in this struggle. So many of us, wear perfectionism like a badge of honor. Unfortunately, we wear this badge at the expense of our creative expression; it holds us back from creating our best work.
In fact, the expectation of creating our best work may be part of the problem.
I often think that if I can’t create my best work (hell, if I can’t create the best work of any writer on the planet) then why bother? In such a digitally connected world, where opportunities for comparisons are in no short supply, creators often wonder, do I create for the sake of creating, or do I create only if the external approvals validate my talent and effort?
The prolific author Elizabeth Gilbert explains that there are two ways to address this dilemma. In her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, she tells a story of her talented friend who believed his writings could never live up to the perfection they were in his mind; so, he stopped writing, letting go of any physical proof of his words, but preserving the perfect vision he had in his mind. This is one path we can take. If it satisfies you then walk it! No judgement, your creative journey is yours to explore or not.
But if it doesn’t sit well with you, there is alternative, which is to become what Gilbert calls a “highly disciplined, half-ass”. The disciplined creator commits to consistent practice; the half-ass isn’t too attached to whether or not their creation is perfect— they know it won’t be and that is just fine with them.
Becoming a disciplined half-ass is difficult becasue it contradicts both our natural tendency towards old habits and the societal pressure to push for perfection. In order to transition from idle, perfectionist to disciplined half-ass, I propose asking yourself the question:
Why do I create?
When we set out to write a New York Times bestseller, make an Oscar winning film or some other grandiose external goal, we put way too much pressure on ourselves and our creativity. Creativity requires freedom and there’s little freedom in demanding certain results. In contrast, when we create for ourselves, we find the freedom that nurtures creativity and allows us to express what we desire to express. If you want to create, then create—but not becasue someone else needs to hear what you have to say, but becasue you need what you have to say.
Surprisingly, I’ve found that in the process of creating for ourselves, we do inspire others.
Creating our best work is a lot like finding the right relationship: search for it relentlessly, and it’s nowhere to be found; go with the flow and it finds you.
So will I ever see my name on the New York Times bestseller list or get a letter saying I positively changed the course of someone’s life? Maybe, maybe not. Either way I will create. Whether anyone else needs it or not, I know I do—and that makes it worth it. I hope you’ll join me in creating wonderful, fulfilling, and imperfect work, for no one else, but you.