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When Life Ebbs and Flows

By Karen Vally on 14 Apr 2024

During the first two weeks of this month, I had a severe sore throat and a heavy cold, the kind of illness during which one is not seriously ill, but feels totally "out of sorts." After working through my feelings of frustration and disappointment at not being able to exercise, I consoled myself by indulging in my second favourite leisure time activity, reading.  After re-reading two of my old books, How To Be Resilient, by Anna Barnes, and Life Coach, by Pam Richardson, I decided to use this time of convalescence to do some research on how to get back on track when life ebbs and flows, and how to manage potentially unrealistic expectations. I needed to satisfy my curiosity about these two aspects of being human.

To ebb and flow means that sometimes our lives flow towards our hopes and dreams and sometimes they flow away. In periods of flow, life is easy and full of movement and meaning. But when our lives ebb, we often engage in a struggle with the current, as we try desperately to hang onto what is important to us.

"The truth is that as much as we plan, hope and dream, (in our personal and professional lives), we must remember that, we are also always moving along with the flow and energy of life. Ebb and flow are part of our nature, and when we surrender to it, we see the gift of it."

"Our ebbs count. They aren't wasted time. Our ebbs create the flow...This is a time of great momentum, the drawing back of the arrow in the bow : the force building...until the tide turns and we begin to flow (again)."

"In our relentlessly busy contemporary world, we are forever trying to defer the onset of winter. We don't ever dare to feel its full bite, and we don't dare to show the way it ravages us. A sharp wintering, sometimes would do us good. We must stop believing that these times in our life are somehow silly, a failure of nerve, a lack of willpower. They are real, and they are asking something of us. We must learn to invite the winter in."

Everything ebbs and flows. "It's unreasonable to believe that you or anyone has the bandwidth to withstand the ongoing pressure to perform at maximum capacity all of the time...we don't have a constant power source to plug in and consistently churn out tasks."

"Understand that there are times for turning your nose to the grindstone and other times to rest and recover. Rest isn't a reward for working hard, it's an essential part of a larger cycle of productivity."

There will always be more to do. However, according to Courtney Carver, doing more things does not make you a better person. It makes you a tired person. We have been conditioned to measure our sense of worth by our accomplishments. She suggests that we try measuring ourselves more by what's in our hearts, rather than what's on our lists.

"True achievement isn't about constant activity or accumulation of things. And slowing down or changing direction isn't a sign of failure. Rather, it's a strategic choice that leads to long-term satisfaction and success."

"The gift of a dynamic life - one in which we willingly make ourselves visible, over and over again, is understanding the true definition of resilience : the ability to remain human, growthful and hopeful, in the face of the unknown."

We often assume that getting back on track requires the ability to reignite our motivation, willpower and discipline, whereas the ability to be flexible is far more helpful. Sometimes, the wisest decision is to refresh or redesign our daily routine.

"When you are overwhelmed, stressed, tired (or sick), the solution is always...less. Get rid of something, lots of somethings. It's hard to give something your attention when too many things are vying for your attention. Create space, clarity and more ease in  your life by staying focused on what matters and letting go of the rest."

"Getting off track means something different to each of us, but if we are paying attention, we can feel it in our bones. We know when it's happening and what we have to do to resolve it. Sometimes it feels easier to make excuses, blame busyness, stress and everything else, but by noticing the early signs, we can avoid the spiral.."

"When you learn to let go of your unrealistic expectations, an open road unfolds right in front of you."

After giving myself sufficient time to recover, I have recently started exercising again and that has made all the difference. How grateful I feel for that "ebb", as it turned out to be a time of extremely worthwhile reflection, learning, listening and trusting.

"But we can no more expect to pin a wave on the shore than we can expect ourselves to flow constantly without ever needing to recede."



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