The Art of Surrender
March 30, 2020
Before this virus began to be a part of this surreal time, I have been realizing again and again, or I’ve been given the opportunity to see, what its like to surrender control, to surrender being able to plan and find solutions. How grateful I am to realize this before our world turned upside down!
Eight months ago my oldest child, my daughter who is 26, became chronically ill and began to lose normal everyday functioning. She had struggled with fatigue and sleep deprivation/insomnia (non-24 hour sleep disorder) for 10 years, yet this was different. The littlest bit of exertion would lead to “crashes” of energy, not being able to move her legs, or pick up a glass, or talk even sometimes. And so the frantic part of me began to research, to make appointments with specialists, to try to find some way that this wouldn’t be so. And along the way I’ve been reminded how this is her journey of learning to pause, to listen to her body and find what it needs to heal. And my job is to be a guide, to be a supporter, to check in with her and see how she is and what, if any, support she’d like. To be present and bring my presence and unconditional love. (sigh)
I have found that when I slowed down and used some things I’ve learned from Internal Family System therapy, a part of me wanted to find the solution, to find THE cure or find the resource that would help her. And of course this would be supportive. And as the months drug by I found that there was a part of me that was frantically searching - spending all my time researching on the internet, talking to various people, scanning over and over. And I realized I would barely take a few minutes of down time to just be. I had been consciously making sure I was still caring for my well-being so I could be a supporter, and I was celebrating that I was finding balance for the first time. That I was realizing that it was not my job to solve everything, that she got to be an adult and yet it was challenging because not being well and having brain fog and such extreme fatigue, she needed someone to be her brain from time to time. So the part of me that takes the role of caregiver, of mother, very seriously began to be activated. I had the gift of slowing down to get to know this part that believes I alone must find all solutions if someone I loves is hurting. I had the gift of several times a week keeping my scheduled calls with colleagues and friends where we do empathy listening trades, or peer counseling. I also kept meeting with my counselor.
I had a memory surface of going to the movie Jurassic Park, when I was pregnant with my oldest, and having many contractions as I watched the stressful action movie. I realized that then and there I felt in me how what I did greatly impacted my baby, and I realized I had made an unconscious, sacred vow (see Sarah Payton’s work at www.empathybrain.com) that I would protect this child and cause no harm, even at a cost to myself. Of course many parents make this vow without realizing it, that we will give our lives for our children. And yet there was something liberating about acknowledging just how long I had been holding that vow, to keep my three children safe and alive. And no wonder this was challenging that part of me. That super protector part was so fearful if it didn’t keep me frantic and searching, that I and they would not be ok. I got to give that part empathy for how much it felt responsible for loved ones, how much it wanted well-being, and how tired it was from trying to hold the world back and protect when really there was no way to control what life brought.
I also remembered a much younger part of me that had had to keep tracking to see what needed to be done to keep me safe and of course it was activated. Getting to know these protectors within me helped me to see that I could hold those parts close and help them have new roles.
When I asked what new role the doer part that wanted to control wanted and left room for it to emerge, the doer let me know it wanted to be the one that was the supporter - supporter of me to surrender to things much higher and more powerful than myself. I could imagine letting go of knowing, of trying to figure everything out. And like a wishie (a dandelion gone to seed) I could blow and have the worry carry away on the wind, without letting go of still tracking and seeing how I might support and care. I could imagine all the worries passing on the air through my heart, yet not staying there. The wish of knowing all the answers to save my daughter, could wind through my heart, be infused with love and care and then be given back to “the universe” to hold and care for.
Being with the unknown is one of the hardest things for this body that from early on lived with uncertainty- not knowing when my parents would be laughing or fighting, when my parent would drink too much and need to be put to bed, or would come to me talking late into the night or crying on my bed. Or when a parent would emotionally distance themselves so they could survive and keep going.
And yet my higher self has learned how to find support within myself, to find nurturing, caring others and with my Compassionate Presence or Compassionate Witness that I can feel with me if I slow down enough. And this wise one has learned how to care and how to be resilient and accept what comes, while also being able to discern what is most serving of needs at any moment. It has learned that you never know how things will go and what is really “good” or “bad”, that surrendering may be one of the most powerful things to do.
What I realized was that my daughter had her own healing journey to embark on that was uniquely hers and that it is important for her to be at choice and be in charge of how that journey goes. To learn to listen to her inner compass as to what direction she feels called to follow in her journey of finding out her own puzzle - what made her ill, what helps her manage, and what helps her heal. I can lean into trust that whatever happens is her journey and that she has everything she needs to be on that journey. I am grateful that we have the loving relationship we do so that I can be someone who nurtures her and supports her while not taking over her process.
I had often been quite resistant to “let it go” mantras (even if I really love that song from Frozen). Mostly because I wanted the room to have whatever emotions I was having and not be forced to “get over it” by letting it go. I was educated by this culture to push feelings away, to only have “good” ones, to not be “too sensitive”, and on and on and on. So when I realized my own way of letting go which I like to call surrender, I came to see what my own process way. I realized that by leaving time to mourn that this has happened to my beloved first born I could give room for letting go to naturally arise. And it was scary, I resisted mourning and really speaking, or waling, my heart ache of how I could not make my daughter well. And bit by bit, I have come to accept some without letting go of hope. To surrender and be open for whatever might emerge. Holding that tension or balance. I can still see what resources there are without getting attached that they will be the ones she chooses. Or that there is any one “right” way to do this. Healing comes in many forms, and who am I to know which path is the one to take?
Phew, such work to do! I hope that with this journey that I may become more at peace with whatever comes so that I can contribute to others by being present for their inner wisdom to arise. I hope I am that for my children, my spouse, my friends, and my community.
And wow, what a time to learn how to surrender, and to trust, and to be in the present moment! Now with this pandemic sweeping the world, it is hard to not want to control, yet feel so out of control. It is the time to have such unknown, and to still choose to return to presence, and one breath at a time. To slow down, and to see what is being called forth. To go on this journey with everyone in the world!
CLICK HERE to go to my video of Cultivating a Compassionate Witness Meditation. Or go to the DOWNLOADS tab above.
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Marcia has been studying and practicing Nonviolent Communication since 2005. She has experienced immense joy & gratitude while learning this consciousness. This blog reflects some of that learning.