In our ‘crazy nomad years’, my husband and I drove overland in a truck and camper with five young children.
We started in Alaska and had spent the last few months camping through Mexico.
It was an incredible journey that connected us with the local people and taught us about living in the moment…
But then things started to go wrong.
First the truck started to break down. Multiple times. Unpredictably… and we couldn’t figure out why.
Then I contracted a case (or two or more) of ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’.
And we also ran out of money.
Things went from bad, to very bad, to worse.
And every time I asked myself in frustration (and rhetorically, so I thought),
“Can things get any worse?”
To my surprise (at the time, but not now), yes, they could and did get worse.
They could always get worse.
One evening just a few days before Christmas, we camped in front a dilapidated old house on the Caribbean sea after failing to find a house to rent for the holidays.
Despondent and angry, I had asked myself — again — can it get any worse? before I began preparing dinner on the tailgate with our camping stove…
…when suddenly it burst into flames nearly catching our truck on fire.
After the initial shock (and after my husband put out the flames), I burst into tears (again).
But this time it was different.
This time I surrendered. I let go of my need to control and direct my circumstances.
I gave in.
I was NOT in control.
I could not direct and manage the things that were out of my control.
And so I let go of the need to do so. I surrendered.
And I said (to myself, to God, to the Universe),
“It CAN get worse. It can always get worse. So I surrender to it… because I will survive it, just as I’ve survived all the other ‘worse’ things that have happened to me. I can handle it.”
And just like that, (most) of my suffering was gone.
The next morning, we climbed into our truck and drove (without a map, Google or otherwise) directly to a magical glamping campground on the Lagoon of Seven Colors in Bacalar, Mexico.
And from then on things improved — not that everything went perfectly. In the coming weeks, I had my DSLR camera stolen and we were swindled out of $400.
But my attitude improved. And with that, my ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions (the definition of resilience).
We often think of having resilience as being ‘tough’ or ‘stoic’.
And these qualities are certainly admirable, especially when facing hard times.
But sometimes, being stoic or tough also leads us to being rigid and ‘in control’.
When very often, the thing we need to survive tough times is not more rigidity, but more flexibililty.
Sometimes all we need is to surrender.