No matter how we arrange our lives, there will be occasions when somebody drops a bomb. We get horrible news. We are betrayed or hurt by a loved one. We discover something we wish we had never known. We lose someone we care about. There are so many ways for this to happen and they’re all out there, those universe bombs. They are out there because no matter how we arrange our lives, and no matter how internally healthy we are, there is an awful lot out there that is simply out of our control. The question is not whether or not a single life will include these universe bombs, but what we do when they fall.
There are so many ways to respond, but they are not all equally effective.
Run Away/Take Cover. The bomb is dropping. Instinct dictates that we run away or take cover. Hide you fool. You’re going to die. This is our most basic primitive self, and it has its own very useful wisdom, particularly in the face of an actual bomb or other dangerous physical threat. When an alligator is coming in your direction, you run away. When a fist is flying, you block it or duck. These are sound safety based responses. The thing is that sometimes our reptile selves offer the same instinct in the face of a bomb that is of an emotional nature. Run away. Take cover. Hide. Get small. Fade into the crowd. If you are harder to find, perhaps the truth will pass you by. Problem is, there’s really no escaping the truth of an emotional hit, at least not for long. The loved one will still be gone if you hide. The scars of betrayal will form no matter where we are. The universe around us will change in response to the bomb, whether we acknowledge it or not. Running away, taking cover, playing small are delay tactics – and don’t misunderstand me, sometimes a good delay tactic is priceless – but it’s not to be confused with a solution or a long-term strategy. Life changes whether we actively acknowledge it or not.
Fiery Response. When we sense a universe bomb coming, it is always an option to launch a fiery response, to fight like hell before impact even occurs. If we fight hard enough, maybe it won’t hit us. If we put our armor on and gather all of our weapons, maybe we won’t be hurt. If we push people away in the face of what seems like inevitable destruction, maybe we’ll be saved the pain of human-ness. If we soldier on by ourselves, maybe we’ll avoid the threat of universe bombs forever. We fight so hard. We fight against reality. We fight against our friends, neighbors, and family. We fight ourselves. We fight until we can’t even remember what we were fighting about. Problem is, fighting doesn’t stop life from changing. Pushing everyone away doesn’t prevent our loved ones from dying or leaving us. Fighting medical realities doesn’t change what’s happening inside our own bodies. We exhaust ourselves trying to use violence to stop life from happening. And yet, it still happens, whether we like it or not.
So what’s left? Surrender and Acceptance. In response to the awful. Perhaps our best option is simply to surrender and accept it. “Did she just say to give up? To give in? That is not our way.” No, it’s not. But maybe it should be. Surrendering to the truth of what is happening doesn’t mean you’ve given up. Nor does it mean you are okay with whatever life has handed you. It does mean that you see that it is happening.
You acknowledge your limited control. You give in to the fact that things are changing. And then you breathe. You breathe and see what that change feels like, without constraining yourself with the need to armor up or be small. You don’t battle with reality. You let it land. And you breathe. And in that breath you search your heart for the response that feels like love. You search your heart for the next small step that you can take to be who you are while the world around you changes. You trust that you, just as you are – without armor and without shrinking – have a place in this changed world. When the bombs drop, remember that you are the only person who can be you in the changed world. The changed world will need you.
While I hope that your life is not unduly burdened by universe bombs and unpleasant surprises, I know that my hope won’t stop the hard parts from happening. I know this is part of the deal. I know too that we all tend to make those moments infinitely harder than they need to be. THAT is where our choice lies. THAT is where we have some control. THAT is where we find peace, acceptance, and transformation.