Life will throw us surprises, no matter how much we try to foresee them or predict them. Having grown up in a world where my life felt completely out of my control (maybe some of you can relate), I veered towards a life that I could make my own choices and decide what would happen next. I fell in love with routine and expected outcomes. In most cases, I made sure of it. I did my very best to leave as little to chance as possible. Even in the end, I believed that having control over any situation cut down on any anxiety I may have felt as something happened outside of my greater scope.
Or at least that is what I told myself.
And it worked. For a while.
No matter how much we plan, life will still find ways to surprise us. And our assessment of surprises has been given a bad rap because we naturally associate surprises with “bad” with good reason. We are shocked when we hear of 29-year-old dying unexpectedly in a car accident on his way to work…we are heartbroken at the sudden diagnosis of cancer of a baby born just 10 months before…we are stunned as our boss hands us a pink slip, wishing us well as we carry a box of belongings to our car…we cry for days when the only home we have ever known is destroyed in a fire.
We learn to hide from anything unplanned and unwanted coming into our lives. Even the good stuff.
We get rid of it all.
Our thinking becomes centered on the belief that sacrificing the same thing we covet is better than dealing with that which tears at our heartstrings.
So our choice becomes to become immune — put everything behind a locked gate and throw away the key.
Last week, I started reading a book called, “Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected” by Tania Luna and Leann Renninger, Phd and this book doesn’t just share moments we can relate to, it actually goes through the stages of surprise. (Who knew there was such a thing as a “sequence” to every surprise?) Although I am not completely done with this book, this book’s intention is more than just identifying moments that startle us into an awareness we didn’t have before, it encourages us to practice surprise. The emotion that is “surprise” has statistics and research (surpriseology) to back up why surprise and the way it makes us feel is vital to truly living life. But in order for us to be surprised, we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
[bctt tweet=”We have to let go of the control and allow ourselves to be in the moment. We must feel the emotion tied to the surprise and permit others to see it too. #moment”]
Without warning, (hence the theme “surprise”), I found myself smack dab in the middle of surprises last week. Just like you would have been, I was in a momentary state of shock and tried to process each of them as I learned about them. A few were centered on the kind of surprises we never want from the deaths of a teacher from our sons’ elementary school who had not been sick very long to the in-law of my sister who was to have a tumor looked at more closely only to die two days before his surgery. My heart breaks for their families and the list of things that never were said and were never done. There wasn’t time. But I also found myself wrapped in surprises that included more simple things too — like the penny I found (face up) on the ground near the gas pump one morning to the Wonder Woman shirt that anonymously arrived in the mail one day.
But every moment that took me by surprise last week was one where I was the recipient of a sudden change of life. I was not the instigator of any of these moments. I did not create the surprise.
Living life with absolute predictability is not living. Any robot could do it. We aren’t robots. We are human beings with feelings and emotions attached to and created by moments we meet in our short lifetimes.
Choosing surprises to enhance life is what matters and awakens our senses to be active participants in the game of life again. It requires cultivating being alive with the intention of being in taken aback by the minute something is different. We cannot change the kind of unpleasant surprises that come our way, but we can do something about the ones that make people smile and feel important.
Be surprised in every moment that triggers a change and practice living with purpose. When we live with purpose, we are not immune to anything. Open up to the moments that shock us — both good and bad; they serve as reminders that our hearts still beat. Pay attention to what you have been missing. You have to feel it all…because life gives it to us that way.
Michelle A. Homme 2015 ©