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Under Any Circumstances: A Lesson From Sandy

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Matt Shatley/University of Delaware
Matt Shatley/University of Delaware

It's been a long time since my last post. I could write a whole bunch of excuses as to why I haven't blogged, and some of them might actually sound pretty good: vacation, increasing client load, a hurricane. Being an absentee blogger and the events of the past week got me thinking about circumstance.

I consider myself to be resilient and able to get things done, and yet, in the face of unforeseen circumstances (like a hurricane), I can take on the being of complete and utter resignation:

  • "Life is so unfair. There isn't anything I can possibly do to stop/change/protect/save myself and my family from pain."

This one is my personal favorite:

  • "Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?"

Conversely, I also suffer from survivor's guilt -- as if there's some karmic debt to be paid because nothing horrible happened to me personally. Our apartment didn't lose power or heat or get flooded; therefore, to ward off future comeuppances, I have to overcompensate for my good fortune.

  • "I'm a selfish jerk if I don't give back, considering what many of my neighbors have gone through. I just know that something horrible is going to happen to me if I don't volunteer with the relief efforts."

Although I'm referencing Sandy in this blog, I could be talking about any of the circumstances in life: my adoption, my unexplained infertility and subsequent successful IVF procedure, my daughter's mysterious tooth/earache, being married to an amazing man who I still can't quite believe chose me, blogging regularly on HuffPost, the results of the presidential election.

As things begin to normalize in the Northeast and we begin to reassemble our lives, here's the realization that I came to: life happens. Life is going to turn out how it does. It's who I'm being that makes the difference.

It's the who, not the do.

(That's from one of my brilliant clients.)

If we're reacting to the circumstances in our lives, we'll never escape those circumstances. They become the standard by which we decide our worth in the world. If our choices stem from a sense of powerlessness, we will never experience the full range of what we're capable of. We'll always measure our power by just how powerless we once were.

What might life look like if your choices came from a place other than control and powerlessness? What might have you have to let go of in order to play this new game? What is there to gain?

I invite you to consider the possibilities.

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