SALT LAKE CITY — At times, life brings what we don't want but often what we soul-need. We can tend to fight that reality, or not recognize it, perhaps because it isn’t convenient, pretty or Pinterest-worthy. However, often those opposites bring deeper growth, greater wisdom and deeper joy than we had anticipated.
1. Evaluate expectations
Taking time to consider our expectations about a situation, relationship or desire — whether spoken or unspoken — can shift our thinking. We move from despair to understanding. A married friend of mine had desired to have children but couldn’t, and as a result, she and her husband adopted 17 children. They raised them through many difficulties and delights. Then at one point she found herself with severe back issues for an entire year. Through that experience she was led to healing methods, to learn about acupuncture, then to practice it, move their family to a different state for schooling, and return to help others.
The surprise for her was not only this path — she had never desired to do something professionally — but how it helped her in layered ways. When a serious tragedy struck with one of her children, it was in the daily meeting with and helping to heal clients that she found added ability to get through the process.
Although life didn’t follow her originally envisioned path, she shifted her expectations and embraced what she could.
2. Recognize unexpected answers
Instead of focusing on the answers we want, we can look for and appreciate the unexpected. One way is to cultivate an attitude of emotional curiosity. Rather than saying, “Why me?” being able to say, “Where could this lead?” or “What am I not seeing?” When we approach life with more openness to what is happening, we are more easily led to new people, solutions and possibilities.
In the life of Walt Disney, a business failure inspired a move from Kansas to California. An unexpected life answer became a gold mine as he moved to a state with perfect theme-park sun and fertile soil for the film industry.
A few years ago, author and educator Martine Leavitt gave a keynote address in which she shared an unexpected answer. At one point in her life she desired, and needed, more time to write. God gave her another baby. To her, this was pretty much the opposite of more writing time. But relating this to and quoting another woman’s experience, Katherine Paterson, she shared, “Without these obligations, (I) would have nothing to say. Other demands on (my) time gave structure to life, and this helped (me) as a writer.”
Sometimes the unexpected answer is just the right one.
3. Celebrate the new outcome
Opposites don’t mean life is fabulous. Difficult things really are difficult, and no amount of happy quotes may change that situation. But we can choose our response. Grieve for what you can’t change or control, and then move forward on what you can. With my friend that I previously mentioned, she had another “opposite” occur with two grandchildren in that through circumstances, she will no longer be able to see them. However, she made a beautiful quilt to give that can show her love and connection in a way that is possible and positive.
Life is full of opposites, the unexpected and often the unwanted. And although these tips may not shift the situation, they can bring a measure of peace and joy.