Because One Never Knows
This might be the only thing that we can all agree on in the wake of American news this month:
That we never, ever really know.
That things happen we never would have predicted, or expected, or desired.
That life . . . repeatedly . . . smacks us upside the head with things heading off in different directions than our emotional and logistical ducks were all in a row for.
Of course, what these kinds of switcheroos usually provoke in us are outrage and sadness. At people, situations, comprehension and opportunities lost. And at the difficulty and unfairness of things going differently than we’d assumed they went. And would continue to. And that we (at least sort of) understood. And that we’d planned our own lives around.
Often, life’s switcheroos also provoke anxiety. Because when we learn . . . again and again and again, each time it happens, after we have forgotten since the last time we had to learn it . . . that other people, circumstances and life itself are, at very bottom, unpredictable . . . well, that doesn’t feel so great. Because how is one ever supposed to plan for, and w ork with . . . t hat?!
I totally get it. I know this one by heart.
Until I turned fifty, my brain was a pro at guessing and second-guessing what was going to happen next, and how it should be handled in the way I considered most effective. “Unexpected” was not allowed in this equation.
And then, as often happens in the middle of our lives, I got an . . . unexpected . . . internal call to do things differently. Mostly because at fifty, it looked to me . . . unexpectedly . . . that most of the things I’d worked on so carefully and diligently and responsibly all my life had not added up to much that helped the world at all, or measured up in any other “successful” way, either.
It was another big switcheroo: to see that even if you’d always “done the right thing” . . . it didn’t necessarily mean life was going to provide you societal rewards in return.
And the internal call came again: “So . . why n ot trying doing what you want, instead?” Which . . . unexpectedly . . . turned out to be taking off in ways and to parts unknown and
unknowable until one just showed up and did them. Travel.
And it is how I now, two years after visiting the country of Croatia pretty much by accident (because I had . . . unexpectedly . . . been given a free place to stay for a week in the middle of a trip to other places), I’m now living here half of each year. (And if it weren’t for great offspring still living in California where I come from, and for European Union rules about length of tourist stays, I’d live here more.)
Responding to the call of travel, after life didn’t turn out as expected, has taught me time and time again that the more I can open up to what happens in each moment . . . regardless of fears, expectations, and what I think “should be” happening . . . the more life opens up in ways better and more magical than I ever could have planned.
Which is why I think travel is the best training ground of all for learning how better to roll with life’s inevitable switcheroos. Even the ones we really, really hate. And to see . . . because we really never ever do know for sure . . . that uncertainty is not just a vexation to the known. It’s a gobsmacking antidote to it. For it teaches us in every moment that all we really ever do have is each moment. And that’s a gift.