When I became a young widow and single mum, I tried to return to my default way of living – before children and before cancer.
It was: Achieve, Control, Independence, Busyness.
I found that returning to that way of living was impossible.
It took me a while to listen to my heart whisper “Surrender and Trust”.
A way of living that I now whisper as a mantra each day. “Surrender and trust.”
Before children and before cancer, I had many plans and many lists.
I set goals for each day, week and month.
I could always see the next step ahead on my path.
Everything unfolded pretty much in an orderly, expected manner.
Living and working overseas. Tick.
Mother of a newborn. Tick.
9 months later, pregnant with my second child. Tick.
With luck and ambition, my game of life was going well.
And then my husband, Mick, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
He was only 35.
We were jolted off our conventional path by circumstances that I could not control.
With our young children, we were unwillingly thrust onto the cancer rollercoaster ride.
There was no way of climbing off.
At the end of the ride – I knew that my children and I would be farewelling Mick.
I didn’t know how long the ride would be and what it would feel like.
My only option was to surrender and to trust.
Surrender to the ride and face whatever unfolded.
Trust that we would get to the end as safely and smoothly as possible. Trust that with
- the support of an exceptional medical team,
- the love of our family and friends and
- my inner strength,
that somehow we would be okay.
The ride ended after three and a half years when Mick died.
My children and I stepped off the rollercoaster and started a new chapter without him.
“Well”, I thought. “I surrendered. I trusted. Now it is time to return to my usual way of approaching life. Time to grieve, but also achieve again, control again, Be busy again. Return to work. I can do this. I can regroup.”
I underestimated grief.
I underestimated the demands of single parenting two children under five years of age.
They both needed support for grief, speech development issues and occupational therapy issues.
My heart and body were heavy, full of emotions. I was exhausted.
I felt my heart whisper again. “Surrender and trust.”
It was time to surrender to grief and whatever unfolded as I processed my losses and emotions.
I had to trust that eventually my energy would return. Then I could reconnect and “achieve” again.
It was time to prioritise my children and my health.
Yet I struggled to surrender and trust.
My mind said “This is not how it should be. This life is not what I had planned. This is not what I have studied and worked hard for. This is not what I had dreamed about. These feelings are uncomfortable.”
I felt like I was in limbo and I wanted to get out of limbo as soon as I could.
I remembered a hot air balloon ride at sunrise when I was a teenager.
It was cold and dark when we arrived. We couldn’t see much. I was apprehensive. There was no engine, no motor, no life jackets, no parachutes. We were to be lifted in a basket into the sky by hot air heated by short bursts of a flaring open flame.
As we climbed into the basket, I listened to my heart whisper ” I must, surrender and trust”. I put aside my fears and placed my trust in the pilot and the technology.
The balloon would drift with the winds. Our destination was unknown. Once we landed we could find our way home.
As we lifted off from the ground, I was surprised to find that it was much gentler than expected. I felt completely at ease. It felt exhilarating and ethereal floating through the sky as dawn broke and the fog cleared.
It gave me new perspective on a landscape that I knew well.
I was glad that I had surrendered to the experience, that I had listened to the part of me that said it would be okay, that I had trusted that I would be safe.
It was magical being suspended between night and day, sky and ground.
Perhaps my experience of being in limbo between my old life and new life could be magical too? An opportunity to reflect on my essence and my priorities. An opportunity to reflect on how I had shaped my life and how I wanted to shape my life in the future.
I felt comforted.
Perhaps in fact I could surrender to being in limbo and trust that in time life would become easier and lighter again? I would let my story reveal itself in time and surrender.
My life did become lighter.
Five years post loss I have reconnected with my essence and prioritised what is important to me. My children, being outdoors, family, friends, writing, my health. I’m laughing and loving again. I have emerged from my labyrinth of grief. My children are happy and well.
As I create a new life, I wonder how my new relationship, my career and my children’s lives will unfold.
I want everything to be as smooth and as easy as possible. A part of me yearns for guarantees.
Yet, I know and remind myself that “I must, Surrender and Trust”.
Surrender to the inevitable discomfort and turbulence that is a part of life.
Trust that I will be present for my children to support them as their lives unfold. Trust my intuition and my heart to guide me.
Trust that opportunities and love will be a part of every day.
I will embrace each day and be patient. The future can wait until I get there.