Into the Ocean

Waves crashing on the beach in Puerto Rico.

A few days ago I encountered a fairly large professional failure and disappointment.  I was really upset about it, and it caused me to question my abilities and my future vocation.  I’m not going to go into the details, but I do want to share where I am with things.

I realize that I’m not obligated to share this with people, let alone the blogosphere, but after some introspection, I realized I wanted to, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get to talk about what I’m learning from it, and I also really like the idea of creating a virtual world where we aren’t perfect versions of ourselves, but honest, flawed ones–that’s just me, I guess.

Down in the dumps, I stumbled upon this post from Zen Habits, the gist being that our expectations for ourselves and for others are often more like stumbling blocks rather than lofty goals, and we’d do well to chuck them off a cliff…or as they say, “into the ocean:”

Picture all the expectations you have for yourself, your life, your spouse, your kids, your coworkers, your job, the world. Take them from inside you, and toss them in the ocean. A river or lake will also do.

What happens to them? They float. They’re carried around by waves. The current takes them out, and they drift away. Let them be washed away by the cleansing waters, and let them go.

Now live your life without them.

What’s a life without expectations like? It means you accept reality as it is, and people as they are, without expectations, without trying to force people into the containers you have for them, seeing things as they are. It’s a life where you don’t need to be disappointed or frustrated or angry — or if you are, you accept it, and then let it go.

That’s not to say you never act — you can act in a way that’s in accordance with your values, and influence the world, but never have an expectation of how the world will react to your actions.

As I read this, as I imagined those expectations tumbling off the cliff into the ocean, floating and being washed away, I took the deepest breath I’ve taken in weeks, and I realized how much they were weighing me down.  I don’t need them to live my life!  

I’m still dealing with this disappointment, and at times it does get me down, but I’ve returned to this post about three times in the past few days, rereading the words, breathing deeply, and meditating on God’s grace and provision for my life, and I’m doing okay.  In fact, I’m doing much better without those heavy expectations weighing me down.  Now the challenge is to really let them float out to sea, and let God use me in the here and now and grow me to who God wants me to be.

Bonus: Check out this diagram circulating facebook if you haven’t already seen it.  Maybe if I can tattoo the Zen Habits blog and this diagram on me, I’ll be good to go, right??

Worry flow chart, good for just about any moment.

6 thoughts on “Into the Ocean

  1. I love the worry flow chart! (It helps that I’m an old school computer geek.)

    errafferty, I hope you come through your current trials as quickly as appropriate and find your life back on an even keel.

    1. I know, isn’t it so simple, but so right on?
      Thanks for the words of encouragement, and I’m happy to report that when I really faced my fears this week nothing could be as bad as the fears themselves.
      Guess I’ve yet to take that whole not worrying piece to heart! Best to you as well…

    1. Thanks for your prayers, and I’m glad this was also a good reminder for you, Marcie. I’m still working on tossing everything into the ocean, and I wanted to share with you this from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost From His Highest. I read it this morning and it really reminded me of the tossing it in the ocean concept, just a bit of a different angle:

  2. Erin, I left a note on Facebook, but not sure if it went through. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas about “failure.” It’s an ugly feeling, but it is at those moments when we are most teachable. Thanks for your wisdom and courage to face the world anew. God’s creating quite a gem in you.

    1. And thanks for your encouragement, Dottie. It’s heartening to be reminded that failure means God’s definitely working on me. I always appreciate hearing from you!

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