“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” ~ Dorothy M. Neddermeyer
Several years ago, I was vacationing with family at the beach. Growing up, I used to watch my dad body surf, and always wanted to give it a try. This day the water seemed to be calm enough to attempt it….enough of a wave to push you to shore, but not too rough. So I eased myself into the next wave, skimming the top and riding it to shore. After a few more tries, the ocean felt a bit rough so I thought, just one more time.
That one more time was almost my last as an undertow took me down under the water. If you have ever been caught in an undertow, you know the panic that can ensue. I fought and fought, to no avail, the strong pull keeping me on the bottom of the ocean floor. So near to the shore yet unable to reach safety.
In those tense seconds when I realized what was happening, I also realized I could die and that these might be my final moments of life. I am a strong fighter, but in this time when panic was reaching up through my body and strangling me, I suddenly decided to relax. I let go of all the panic, all the struggling and went with the flow of the water. I let my primal instinct take over, and suddenly I was on the surface and close to the shore, my feet touching soft sand as the water lapped around my knees.
Fear cannot be banished, but it can be calm and without panic; it can be mitigated by reason and evaluation. ~Vannevar Bush
I was reminded of this lesson recently when I found myself getting into a knee jerk reaction that brought back some unpleasant memories. I had been growing herbs under my “grow lights” in the basement and was just about to start my seed growing, when two of the three lights went dark.
And right on cue, I went into panic mode. How was I going to grow these herbs without lights? Where could we find replacement bulbs? I had to start seeds soon, and how could I without these lights. I was spinning within this deep felt craziness, when I suddenly realized these were similar feelings I had a year ago in reaction to stress on the job. Stress that finally led to my retirement, and that I thought I had released. But given a seemingly small crisis, I went right back down that dark hole of despair. Wow!
And once I was able to step back from the situation, I found I could let go of the panicky reactions and evaluate the situation. All was not lost. I could move plants to windows. I could search for bulb replacements, and I could postpone the seed growing. All better plans than to keep spinning in this stream of negativity I was creating for myself.
I think the garden has been the best classroom for learning how to handle what life throws at me. Every year I never know what nature will bring. A long cold winter, followed by a late freeze killing flowers or vegetables. A drought or flooding rains. And each scenario, in each new year, is different making for interesting lessons to learn so much more about my garden and myself.
As a gardener, I have found it doesn’t pay to give in to panic or worry. When I started growing veggies, the first one I attempted was the tomato. Any good Italian must be able to grow tomatoes, right? But every year it was something new….sometimes it was the disease known as ‘blight’ killing the plants, or it was the deer eating the plants to the ground. But I never gave up trying to get the tomatoes to produce an abundant crop. Instead I tried hybrid seeds that were bred to fight diseases, and I netted the tomatoes to keep out the critters, but let in the pollinators.
And you know what? I now have tomatoes. Oh I still have to be vigilant, to make sure the pests and diseases are kept in check. But instead of worrying and panicking, I now ease into the situation nature presents, look for solutions, and I don’t beat myself up over what happens. Great lessons I am trying to stay mindful of as life presents itself.
So am I still sensitive to the curve balls life can throw me?…..Absolutely. And is my first reaction still panic?…..Sometimes. But I am reminded quickly that life is what you make it. It is more about how you react or don’t react. And in those moments when I need to step back, I go into my garden to be with nature. To feel the slow pace of life where I take a look around and be in the moment. Because it is in those moments that I find my inner wisdom calling me to breathe in life and let go.
Note: The purple iris pictured here is symbolic of wisdom.
I leave you with another thought about sensitivity, strength and wisdom. Feel free to download this photo and share.
All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015. Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.