Since challenges seem to be so popular I will grab the bull by the horn and do one myself. About a year ago I read Ruth Ridgeways blog post (cannot find the blog post, so link is just pointing to Ruth´s site) where she highlighted the life lessons she had learned during her 33 years. Hugely inspiring and I immediately wanted to do something similar. But time and energy did not cooperate and I forgot about the whole thing. Then around new year I read another blog post, this time by Aussie entrepreneur Rachel MacDonald and her long and insightful post about her 33 lessons for 33 years sealed the deal. The universe clearly had a message to me, right 🙂 Last Sunday I marked all Mondays in my calendar for writing one lesson at a time. So here I am sitting at café Fontana indeed writing on my first lesson and what could be a better starting point than this particular Monday that also happens to be my birthday!
# 1 Lesson ” Surrender”
This is a crucial one. Easy to talk about and as easy to misunderstand. However, what I have learned is that when you do surrender, that is truly when Magic happens. I guess surrendering involves a slice of hopelessness as well as a small sliver of faith as well. We do not like to give up as human beings, and if you are as stubborn as me, you absolutely never ever give up. But there is a small nuance of difference between surrendering and giving up. While giving up is an active choice, throwing your hands up in the air, surrendering is a full body experience that you cannot decide to do with your intellect, it just happens whether you want it or not. Let me tell you the story of a magic surrendering that happened to a young student some thirty years ago, we can call her C to make it easy.
C was about to move out of the flat that she shared with four other girls in her new hometown where she had moved less than a year ago to study at the university. The owners of the flat then decided to sell it and everybody had to leave and find somewhere else to live. Summer was approaching and our heroine had got a summer job in Stockholm to work as a salesperson at a big and famous department store. Her sister and brother in law lived outside Stockholm and C would stay at their place over the summer. With the help of her father and a big van she had almost emptied the room and deposited her stuff at her parent´s house. Thanks to a distant friend, C was aloud to store her big book shelves up in her friend´s attic. She did not yet had a new flat but was hopeful it would work out before the University term was starting in September.
This particular Saturday when C was supposed to empty the rest of her room, pack everything she needed for her stay in Stockholm, leave the keys and then take the ferry to Stockholm in the evening, she had been riding her bike to and fro from the flat to her friend´s attic like a mad woman. At the same time trying to tidy up and not leaving anything behind. The bag and the suitcase got heavier by the hour. The ferry was supposed to leave at 8.30 pm. The last bus to the harbor left at 8.10 pm. And she had at least a ten minute walk to the bus stop. The panic that had been building up in her slowly increased when she realized that the clock was approaching 8 pm and she still had a pile of important papers that did neither fit into the suitcase nor into the heavy bag. She simply had to throw everything in a plastic bag and leave it in the room with a note explaining that she would come and get it a.s.a.p.
It was absolutely time to leave if she would have even a remote chance of catching the ferry. Now the panic had risen to new heights. This was in the late eighties and cell phones did not exist and C had changed most of her money into Swedish crowns which meant that she had very little money on her. All her friends had left town to go to work somewhere else. She would not be able to phone her sister in Stockholm or to pay for a hotel room and she had just left the key to her old apartment and could not get in there anymore. The final straw was when she saw the last bus passing by leaving for the harbor. C now knew that all hope was lost. And she completely broke down. Almost on autopilot she was dragging her suitcase and her bag while crying heavily and somehow got to the bus stop at about 8.15 pm even if she knew no buses would come.
The ferry would leave in 15 minutes and she would never get there in time. So she did the only thing she could. Surrendered. Surrendered to the completely impossible situation, standing there at the bus stop with her bags, crying uncontrollably. In the very same minute a familiar voice approached her. It was her French teacher trying to ask her what was going on. Sobbing and barely being able to speak C manages to say something about the ferry leaving in a couple of minutes. The next minute a car halts in front of them with screeching breaks, a man gets out and while he is informed about the situation he quickly puts the heavy luggage in the trunk and steps on the gas with C beside him. In the harbor the ferry is about to leave in a couple of minutes but the man who is not only an angel on earth but happens to be a priest as well, get the boarding card for the sobbing girl and carries her heavy luggage all the way to the gates. She promises to thank him properly and then sobs for a half hour in her cabin while the three other women sharing the cabin with her, have the decency to leave her alone.
This story could contain many lessons but I chose surrender. Simply because since that time I have never, sorry C has never experienced a surrendering quite like that. But the experience has stayed as a body memory and C knows what happens when you do surrender. Help in the form of earth angels appear. This is something I wish for everybody out there experiencing tremendous stress, anxiety and hopelessness, that there will be earth angels appearing.
p.s. the priest later told the story of the sobbing girl with the big suitcase in one of his radio prayers and then even more later used it as part of his speech when C and her husband got married 🙂