Recognize, Release & Reframe
In the three years since I separated, I have been on a spiritual journey of discovery towards finding my peace. I have an altar designated to my ancestors where I say a daily combination of prayers from my Muslim upbringing and my own relationship I have built with God over the years. I wear healing crystals that are reminders to stay calm and be grounded when I feel anxious. I speak to friends who are also on a spiritual journey or on similar paths for guidance. Yet often, I struggle to gain peace because I am still trying to let go of something that keeps pulling me back into an anxious state and feeling unfulfilled. I
am learning that before the prayers, crystals, and advice, I need to understand the core of why I am grappling and still struggling to grow.
When my oldest boy was an adolescent and having issues with his father and brother, I always said the only thing you can control is yourself. Change how you react, don’t try to change them. It seemed like sage advice for life, but as I have to face the battles of co-parenting, navigating dynamics with my children, feelings that arise in dating, and just pain adulting in life, it’s tough to live out that advice in reality.
There are some fundamental things we have to let go of to find peace in our lives, but they are also contradictory to how society has set us up to thrive. We have to release control of outcomes and individuals, we have to let go of the need for certainty and we have to let go of comfort. All three are tough to do. They provide security and make us feel that we have survived and won the battles in life.
When all is good, we can lean into the solid notion that those things work as they should. I can control where my life goes and with whom, I know for certain where the road will lead and I’ll be comfortable through it all. When life goes to shit or just gets harder those things become the daily micro struggles we fight through. So the antidote is to let go of all three. But it’s easier said than done. If we can train our minds to release them and reframe our perspectives, we might reach the peace we all want in our hearts and souls.
Let go of the desire to control people and outcomes.
There is nothing and no one that we can truly control in this world. Many people like my ex, can
manipulate circumstances that seem as though they control others, but free will can shift that dynamic in the blink of an eye. Controlling people is only possible if they allow you to have that power, once they reclaim their power you no longer have the ability. We also cannot control outcomes in our lives. That is the harder part to let go of for many of us. We naturally plan our lives out. We plan for what our marriages will look like, how we plan to raise our children, or our careers and future endeavors.
Humans have a fundamental need to control the world around them in order to maintain a sense of calm. But there are no circumstances that we control. Leaning into that idea liberates you from the shackles of linear thinking and the idea that there is only one way for life to go. It also becomes your strength to persevere when things change in life. Marriage may end, children become adults with their own minds and visions, and recently we have seen the possibilities of the unexpected to uproot jobs and basic daily livelihood. The only way to prepare for the unknown is to let go of the notion that you can control what will happen in your life. Easier said than done, but once we truly master it we can liberate ourselves from the pressure and disappointment that come with controlling the things around us.
Let go of the need for certainty.
I am an over-analyzer. It’s my gift, but also my curse. I analyze to find answers in every tiny detail. There has to be a reason for the behavior I see, how I feel and what I am experiencing. My desire to find those answers lies in my need for certainty. The flaw with that is that my certainty has been confirmed with my perception and not necessarily reality.
The need for certainty means we are not open to allow life, people, and moments to take their own course. Those limits come from fear. We are fearful of possibilities because they are not always familiar. When my oldest was nearing high school graduation he had no idea or interest in college or any other next steps. I started to have this sense of dread for his future because I couldn’t picture what it would be. I was locked into the notion of needing certainty for my peace of mind. The lack of certainty took me into a spiral of fear. How would he really thrive without a formal education? Will he struggle with his finances because he doesn’t have a degree as a backup? Will he end up living on my couch as an adult?
In the end, it led me to push ideas that were not his own onto him. He went away to college. Then after a year came back miserable and abandoned the idea of school entirely. He was even less motivated to move to any next steps toward his future. For the next year, I leaned into what I thought was my maternal instinct and suggested alternative paths. Then six months ago I stopped it all.
I finally realized my need for certainty came from concern, but it was also self-serving and enabled his growth as an independent adult. I needed to be certain of his life for my own peace of mind. When I let go of that need for knowing what would happen for him, I freed myself and invested in a healthier dynamic between us while also putting up boundaries.
I couldn’t have certainty of his future, just like I don’t have certainty of mine. The only thing that is certain in life is that it is uncertain. Preparing ourselves by realizing that helps free us from the let down with expectations and painting a picture of the present based on our perceptions of what it should be. Let go of the need for having certainty.
Let go of feeling comfortable.
The last big family vacation I planned before the dissolution of my marriage was in 2014. I
took everyone to Cancun and decided to experience some adventures. One of which was a tour of the underground canals that run throughout the Yucatán peninsula called cenotes. During the tour, there was an opportunity to jump off a 25-foot cliff into the water. My ex-husband took risks like this with ease, but this was outside my comfort zone. Still, I was motivated to prove I could also take risks in front of my boys and so I jumped. I overcame my fear of not knowing what I was jumping into and just took the plunge. I took a risk to be uncomfortable in order to grow my abilities and move past my fears.
We are willing to take risks like jumping off cliffs because they have momentary discomfort and then once we have accomplished it, we know we are capable of something difficult we didn’t think we could do. Our decisions in life could be the same, but the fear of discomfort when it comes to our emotions last longer than a 10-second jump paralyze us from moving toward change. For me, this fear of discomfort has often put me in unhealthy dynamics with men.
In my marriage, I was concerned with the discomfort of my ex leading him to be reactionary and lash out. So I stayed comfortable in avoidance and ignoring my intuition. In my current dating circumstances, the discomfort of allowing life to happen with the possibility of rejection as a backdrop has made it hard to just be without needing to control outcomes or have certainty. I have avoided being uncomfortable because I thought that would require me to figure out myself and delve into places and choices I don’t want to see or think about. The truth is, discomfort is the space of growth and without that unease, we become complacent with ourselves. That’s a dangerous place to be when you are in the midst of healing.
Leaning into discomfort sucks at times because it feels unfamiliar and scary.
It’s uncomfortable to wrestle with my thoughts.
It’s uncomfortable to wait and be patient without certainty.
It’s uncomfortable to let go of controlling the outcomes we want to create in our lives.
It's uncomfortable to be patient for something that may or may not actualize.
But all of this is how we grow and in turn, allow us to heal.
So my journey has been to sit in those moments of discomfort. Some days I am more successful
than others. This hasn’t happened quickly and it doesn’t come easily. That's also ok because as I experience the healing process, I have to give myself grace. I have had many internal battles between my family’s expectations, my own perceptions, and the reality of what I know about how life works. All the while, I am being a professional, parenting four kids and showing up for the people I care about. It’s a lot to balance, but it’s possible to let go now that I am ready.
My free will and allowing for others to have theirs will help me move towards liberation and embrace the next chapter of my life knowing nothing is in my control, I can’t be certain of how things will be and at times, it’s going to be an uncomfortable journey. I still have hope there is a light at the end of this tunnel and that something and possibly even someone extraordinary will be there to meet me.