The first time I heard the expression “life on life’s terms,” I was sitting uncomfortably on a crisp white coach. The fuzzy throw pillows surrounding me were also stark white. I have no idea why the therapist who designed that office space chose EVERYTHING in white.
But instead of being calming, the blaring bright white room seemed to speed up my already racing heart. I worried I might somehow dirty or soil the pristine white cushions I tensely perched on.
My therapist told me I needed to learn to accept life on life’s terms. I had no idea what she even meant. I was more concerned with how “fat” I looked in a recent picture. I couldn’t force myself to eat a sandwich for lunch. How was I supposed to surrender to life on life’s terms? That seemed like a big leap.
What does it even mean to surrender?
The image that comes to my mind when I hear the word surrender is from The Wizard of Oz. Remember that scene where Dorothy has finally made it to the Emerald City to see the Great and Powerful Oz? When suddenly the Wicked Witch of the West is writing a message across the sky with her broom.
As she writes “Surrender Dorothy” the music in the background turns chilling. Dorothy and her friends immediately panic. The witch tells her to give up. And Dorothy’s reaction of anxiety makes sense to me.
What is the definition of surrender?
If you look up the word surrender, you’ll see it’s defined as, “cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.” Other synonyms of surrendering include: succumbing to, quitting, falling, and being defeated.” No wonder we panic when we’re told to surrender.
But what if surrender, or “giving up” isn’t necessarily a bad thing?
When Surrender Isn’t Really a Choice
The thing about surrender is – sometimes we really truly honestly do NOT have control over a situation. So surrendering to the truth that we are not in control, and accepting what actually IS, can help reduce suffering. No, it won’t change the situation. But it can change how we feel in the situation.
Life on Life’s Terms
Nothing will make you face life on life’s terms like the rock bottom moments of your life. We all have them. And they open the door to surrender.
Sometimes these moments of surrender hit so hard they literally knock you to your knees.
Like the rainy night in 2003 when my then husband told me he no longer wanted to be married.
Or the grey winter day in the winter of 2015 when I sat crying on the floor because I finally admitted my eating disorder had taken over every moment of my life.
And that awful moment in the middle of the night when I realized I was bleeding once again. I was losing another baby I had so desperately prayed for.
Yes, moments of surrender can hit you so hard they literally take your breath away. And you have no choice but to accept life on life’s terms.
These are the big ah-ha moments of our lives when G-d, Goddess, the universe, or whatever you want to call it smacks us in the face.
Reminding us: WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL. No matter how hard we try.
Not everything is in my control.
Sure, we can choose to continue putting up a fight. Living in denial. I’ve spent years there. But I don’t recommend it. Because it’s not real. And it also cuts you off from the juicy, joy filled moments of life.
Life on Life’s Terms in the Smaller Moments
But surrender doesn’t always come in the earth shattering moments. In between the giant heart stopping moments of life smacking us in the face, our ordinary days are filled with invisible opportunities to practice surrendering to life on life’s terms.
Like when you’ve cleaned that living room floor for what feels like the 17 thousandth time. And your children mess it up. Again. In less than fifteen seconds. Or when that dream job you finally found and enjoyed for 13 months suddenly comes to an end because of reasons outside of your control.
Yup- its another reminder…. time for me to accept life on life’s terms.
Or when a dear friend moves away. When you lose your favorite lip gloss. Your kid is home sick the day of your big meeting. You’re late for carpool when you get a flat tire. You yelled at your kids.
Yup- more reminders…. time to accept life on life’s terms.
Or when those pants that used to fit you, suddenly are a little tighter.
Yes- your changing body is yet another lesson in surrender.
Because truth of the matter is, we have way less control over our body size than society tries to tell us. This is a lesson I’ve learned, and I continue to practice every single day. And it isn’t just for food and body. It is for life.
Resisting Change Doesn’t Make it Go Away
It’s true- we can close our eyes to a situation we don’t like. We can pretend it is different than it is. We can beat ourselves up, live in guilt, and hate ourselves. Stuck in the past, we can replay a situation over and over again. And we can resist whatever is. Getting caught up in anger we can remain stuck. But doing this does not make the situation any better. It only takes our energy. Keeps us in denial. And in resistance.
So maybe surrendering to a situation that is out of our control isn’t really a bad thing. Maybe it is actually the key to peace.
My mentor Isabel Foxen Duke recently told me,
And I believe one of the biggest lessons this lifetime is here to teach me is surrender. So how are you allowing life on life’s terms to grow you?