So it goes…

FINALLY, after what feels like absolutely months, I can say I’ve returned to the online world! I feel absolutely horrible I haven’t been able to keep up with you or write back to your lovely comments, but last week, with the help of a team of wonderful boys, I moved, got The Men in, the Internet hooked up, and am currently in the process of catching up on everything. Come to think of it, this may take another week. 🙂 

Unsurprisingly, a couple of things that seem to have worked their way into my mind as of late and taken up residence are the ideas of risk and change. If I were to describe the events of the last few months, you might wonder why said mind hasn’t handed in its proverbial resignation (seriously, when DIY espionage, treason, and a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn in life path, people, relationships, accommodation and finances all crop up within a few weeks of each other, sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh!). But in keeping with one of the goals I wanted to put into practice, I seem to have latched on tightly to the notion of acceptance, and consequently hitched a surprisingly comfortable ride through the last few weeks. 

Every hand we are dealt by the universe is accompanied by a choice of reaction, and if the last year has taught me anything at all, it’s the power that lies within every one of us to choose our response. For a long time, it used to be panic, and despite the best counselling efforts of one Mr. Adams, crap would happen, and I’d fly into a fit of despair. The rug would be pulled from under my feet, everything would go up in the air, and I’d find myself scrambling frantically in an attempt to maintain some semblance of control. But at the end of the day, panic is just one option of many. My boss once described a metaphor for change that’s stuck with me to this day: a trapeze artist swings through the air, and unless she takes a leap of faith in grabbing onto the next bar, momentum will slow to a stop and she will be left hanging.  There is a comfort in holding onto what’s comfortable, held back by the fear of free-falling through the air, heart racing, nerves pounding, not knowing when or where the next bar will come. But if you don’t take a leap, you’ll be left hanging, until the only way left is down. Sometimes a leap of faith is exactly what’s needed to launch you toward bigger and better things. 

breaking at the seams, heaving at the brace
sheets all billowing, the breaking of the day
the sea is not my friend, the seasons they conspire
yet still I choose to swim, and slip beneath the tide
James Vincent McMorrow, If I Had a Boat

It seems that lately I’ve become incredibly passionate about the idea of change. I think without it, one stifles all possibilities of future growth, of becoming more, of doing more and seeing more and exploring our unchartered potential… I don’t want to get to the end of my life, look back on my map and see that the ship never left the harbour. Someone once said that ships are safe in a harbour, but that that wasn’t what ships were for. I want to look back and see trails across stormy seas through torrential rainstorms and bands of pirates, up to new countries and through new sights and civilizations, stopping for treasure and beautiful sunsets and meeting a plethora of all sorts of fascinating people with whom I’ll share stories and build memories and from whom I’ll learn great lessons. I want to see it full of adventure and culture and colour, and I want to be left with battle scars that tell the story of a life well lived. I don’t want to settle for what’s comfortable. Settling’s better left in Catan. 

One does not discover new lands without consenting to
lose sight of the shore for a very long time. –
André Gide

I recently met somebody fantastic who has the words “so it goes” etched across his arm. Apparently I’d been living under a rock, and wasn’t familiar with Kurt Vonnegut (!), but in its stark simplicity I think it’s the perfect summation of an attitude with which to face life. Everything you could need is packed into three simple words that simultaneously accept and dismiss absolutely everything. Which is brilliant. There has been no shortage of people lately asking if I’m okay, telling me I must be doing terribly, and expressing confusion or doubt when I genuinely tell them I’m fine. These three words encapsulate the spirit with which I want to live: crap happens, and at the time it sucks, but it’s fine. We keep calm, as they say, and carry on. We focus our energies on forging a better future, not on futile attempts at rewriting an already written past. 

So in the spirit of great change and acceptance, a natural successor would be that of risk. It’s hard to imagine any change taking place without taking a risk first, but we seem so conditioned to construct walls of caution and fear around our hearts that we inadvertently become prisoners of our own design, and go through life staying in one place, allowing fear of hurt or failure to cage us in, outweighing the hope or potential of something more brilliant. It’s sad that people’s first reaction to my state of mind is one of surprise – why not choose to be fine? Why not take big leaps into creating the future? Why waste time on things that have already happened and doors that have been closed; why not learn their lessons as fast as you can and move on with life’s next chapter? If you take a risk and things work out, you’ll be that much happier; if they don’t, you’ll be that much wiser.

I was reading an interesting article recently about a study on the number one contributor of happiness. Money, health, attractiveness, popularity, and a hot sex life were all expected answers, but according to a report by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “all these mentioned life goodies were topped by the biggest life goodie of them all: autonomy – defined as “the feeling that your life – its activities and habits — are self-chosen and self-endorsed.”

This makes sense, when you take a moment to contemplate how lovely autonomy can make you feel – and how miserable its absence can make you. In fact, when you’re upset about something in your life – a  break up, a job problem, your weight – it’s usually because you’re feeling as if you’re no longer in control of this area your life. “Having a strong sense of controlling one’s life is a more dependable predictor of positive feelings of well-being than any of the objective conditions of life we have considered,” says Campbell.  A University of Michigan nationwide survey also sings the praises of autonomy – reporting how the 15% of Americans who claimed they felt “in control of their lives” also raved about having “extraordinarily positive feelings of happiness.”

It’s all about how you choose to react, and I believe that with a focus on choice, action, acceptance and attitude, risk really can be a win-win thing. Life happens. We just have to allow hope to be of greater weight than fear, and be active participants in shaping our future. The possibilities are endless if we only take a leap once in a while, and, as they say, choose to build wings on the way down.

Here’s to change, to taking big, giant leaps into the unknown and risking your heart for the sake of possible brilliance. Here’s to resilience, to the power of choice, and to making the most of every precious moment we’re given. Here’s to everything that’s ever been, everything that ever will be, and to shaping everything that exists in the here and now. Here’s to great stories, battle scars, epic lessons, and infinite potential. Here’s to writing the next chapter. Here’s to risking it all, and hoping for the best. Here’s to life. After all, we only get one.

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55 comments

  1. So it goes that today is a new day. One life, but in a sense a new life. A new adventure, new journey, new experiences but most importantly, the dawn of something new and amazing.

  2. That is an absolutely awesome tattoo. So simple, but so meaningful. I’m glad you’re finally settling in Em, and that you’re embracing everything that’s coming your way and making the best of it!! Can’t wait to have you back online for good, I’ve missed having you around! 🙂

  3. You have such an incredible attitude, Emily. After reading this post, I was reminded of this quote:

    “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.
    They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Victor Frankl

    I don’t know what has taken place in your life the last couple of months, but I have remembered to pray for you on a couple of occassions, and I hope and wish for the very best for you!

  4. You were already such a huge inspiration to me and your attitude now justifies why it is. You are amazing and I love the way you attack life. I’m glad to see you’re all settled in and good things are happening for you. You deserve it!

  5. Some of what you have written touches on Taoist philosophy and Te. Vonnegut’s “so it goes” is more related to death, dying and tragedy than to living; it is a poke of jest at the death that comes to all of us, after all what can you do? Though I could see the tattoo as one that Confucius himself might have had. The idea of “controlling one’s life”, our path or our destiny is simply an illusion. We cannot know where our decisions will take us, we can only attempt to make the best decisions on the knowledge we have and hope for the best.
    There is no knowing at the time that an event happens, what it will ultimately have brought us. Was it good or bad? No such thing, it just is! Is being stuck in traffic because you took the wrong road bad? Well, if you know that if you had taken another road that you would have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and died in an accident, you might just be happy to be stuck in that traffic. Make the most of every instance that you are stuck in traffic!
    As you say Em, it is about your choice in how to “react” to what is happening! That is the “whole” thing of it. Choose to be happy or at least OK with the situation that is ultimately out of your control and you will be much happier than the person who feels like things are out of their control, because everything IS out of your control other than your own choices.
    This is easier said than done though. Good for you Em in DOING it! For those in disbelief at your attitude, it is beyond them, they all likely think they have control of things and will constantly be disappointed in life. The rain on your picnic is also the rain watering the crops your picnic food is made of. Good and bad at the same time, or it just is if you prefer. Continue to laugh at the rain falling in your life Em, one day that rain may prove to have created the sweet fruit you feed your soul on.

    1. That means a lot, and I’m glad it was something that hit home a little – I always love when someone posts something just at the right time. I hope everything is going okay at your end – sending happy thoughts 🙂

  6. Your attitude continues to blow me away and I hope you know how much an example you are for the rest of us. Did you just meet this person with the tattoo? Its quite nicely timed, I hope you told him he inspired you who in turn inspired the rest of us. Really great post, really admirable attitude, and your spirit is going to carry you toward great things, miss.

    1. You are far too kind!! ❤ I did tell him he inspired the post, and it's kind of inspired me to get another tattoo of my own (I've given up temporarily on the cover-up project… lol) too. Thanks for the sweet words 🙂

      1. Hey Em, you should read the book your post (tattoo) is based on. Short overview from Wiki: Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death (1969) is a satirical novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of a soldier called Billy Pilgrim. Ranked the 18th greatest English novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, it is generally recognized as Vonnegut’s most influential and popular work.

  7. “Someone once said that ships are safe in a harbour, but that that wasn’t what ships were for. ” I couldn’t have said it better. It’s wonderful to see that you’ve got such a good outlook on life after all you’ve been through. You deserve the best!

  8. I use “so it goes…” all time 🙂 Read Cat’s Cradle, it’s a fab book.

    I love the analogy of the trapeze artisit!!!! SO MUCH.

    I’ve even been learning to accept pain for how it changes me, which is always in a good way. I always get my best epiphanies out of pain. I’m proud of you for looking at everything as postive as you possibly can. You’re fantastico!

  9. Emily, I absolutely love this post. I was at a point once where I had the choice to stay safe or to leap, without knowing what was at the bottom of that massive cliff I was about to throw myself over. I jumped, and it was the best decision of my entire life.

    Cheers to new starts and to taking leaps!

  10. I always look forward to your posts (though sometimes I’m days behind). Each one is so truthful and inspiring. Love reading.

  11. you. are. amazing 🙂 and totally right. i’m sorry if i said anything even resembling “you must be so devastated” etc. that is how i would feel, and i shouldn’t have assumed you would feel the same. i’m happy to hear you are doing well 🙂

    resiliency. it’s a crazy thing 🙂 you are going to have one amazing life story (you already do)

  12. Emily, your strength continues to amaze me. It is so easy to say the words “live in the moment” and “you control your reaction” but to actually live them out when faced with tough situations! That is when the real test comes. You are beautiful inside & out and I am so happy that I know you. ❤

  13. Emily, your strength continues to amaze me. It is so easy to say the words “live in the moment” and “you control your reaction” but to actually live them out when faced with tough situations! That is when the real test comes. You are beautiful inside & out and I am so happy that I know you. ❤ Thanks for always being such an inspiration!

  14. I haven’t been around very much, but I’ve been thinking about you.
    And you’re right. We are resilient. We are strong. And we will have our chapters. ❤
    I needed to read this, thanks. Love and hugs. x

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