This week, I’ve heard lots of bad news. This has included things like an unexpected layoff, dealing with a mental health challenge, losing a major business deal, and an unwanted result from a doctor.
The fact that bad things are happening in the world is obviously not news, but it’s personal when it’s someone you know and care about.
As I heard about these different situations from the people who were sharing them, I was struck by the odd coincidence that all of them, not knowing each other, had already made some sort of substantial movement to address whatever had landed in their lap.
I found myself in awe and, despite the challenges ahead, amazed by how willing everyone appeared in working through whatever the situation was.
It reminded me of a passage in the book Difficult Conversations*. This legend is retold:
After observing O Sensei, the founder of Aikido, sparring with an accomplished fighter, a young student said to the master, “You never lose your balance. What is your secret?” “You are wrong,” O Sensei replied. “I am constantly losing my balance. My skill lies in my ability to regain it.”
It’s virtually impossible to lead the kinds of lives that many of us lead and not get knocked off our game pretty regularly.
A lot of the time, it means we look a bit awkward. Sometimes, like a few situations I’ve heard about this week, we get knocked flat on our face.
For all the things we have influence over in our lives, there are infinitely more things we can’t control.
What is controllable is what happens after we get knocked to the ground. We can stay there, forever. We can stay there for awhile, and then get up. Or, we can just get up.
Having done all three of those before and stayed on the ground for years at a time, I’m not attempting to pass any judgement on what you should do in any given situation. Had I had some of the things happen to me this week that I heard about from others, I’d still be on the ground.
The invitation here is the simple reminder for all of us that, even in the midst of chaos, we get to choose if we get up — and when that is.
When we can get up, rarely does it solve the problem, but it allows us agency to own it. Maybe that’s why this bit of wisdom, attributed as an African proverb, has inspired me more than once:
When you pray, move your feet.