Responding Gracefully to the Unexpected

One of the ways I make it through the afternoon slump (or morning slump, or any time of day slump…) when napping isn’t an option is by working while I walk on the treadmill. Back when the gyms were open, I’d rarely spend my time there actually “working out” except for during the winter when it was too cold to run outside. Instead, I’d walk on the treadmill while I worked. I actually really love treadmills because they let me get my blood pumping while maximizing my ‘office’ productivity at the same time. I’ve spent hours upon hours over the years (probably days and days worth) walking at a brisk pace while studying for exams, prepping for boards, writing notes, prepping for patient cases, etc. etc. etc. I just prop up my laptop on top of the little keypad area and type/read away!

But one of the really annoying things about these treadmills is that they automatically switch to “cool down” after 30 minutes. The speed drops way down and it locks me of the touch screen. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to turn this feature off, and the only way I’ve been able to combat it is if I remember to set my “goal time” to be longer than 30 minutes. But I pretty much never actually have a “goal time” and so I almost always forget to do this. It completely drives me crazy! I find it so, absolutely frustrating to be mid-stride and in the zone, and that some sort of outside circumstance that I CANNOT control totally interrupts my work (out) flow.

Gosh, isn’t that just a metaphor for life, though?

I originally was typing up a different post than this one when my treadmill suddenly started shutting me down. I immediately felt myself getting irritated. But for some reason, I somehow managed to take a moment, reset, and stretch out while I waited for the treadmill to turn off, re-boot, and re-start its programming. While I was stretching, I suddenly had the realization that my mood and attitude were completely different even though I was again under the same unfortunate circumstances. By gracefully adapting to the change in plans, my entire experience was likewise changed — for the better.

Cue: this post.

As someone who generally likes to be in the one in control, I’m not a fan of last minute changes to plans, sudden twists and turns in my schedule, or when predictable situations play out in unpredictable ways. (Ehem…quarantine, COVID-19, etc.) Most of the folks I know don’t necessarily love it when those sorts of things happen, but they don’t seem as disrupted as I find myself feeling in those situations. I notice that my husband in particular is especially good at just ‘rolling with the punches’ when unexpected things happen. This goes without saying, but his steadiness under stress balances out my lack thereof very well.

[I must admit, seeing my then-boyfriend get down on one knee and ask me to marry him was NOT originally on my schedule for this day…but I’m so very grateful that those plans changed!]

A lesson that God is continually teaching me is that I’m not as in-control of my life as I’d like to be, and that there’s immense blessing and freedom in that truth. Stretching out mid-way through a walk or a run actually feels really good. Often times, the unexpected twists and turns in my journey end up working out to my benefit, like when I didn’t get into med school the first time, and when weight loss didn’t actually make me like my body more. I’m learning that choosing to respond with grace and gratitude when things don’t go my way can completely transform the outcome of a situation. In the case of COVID-19, I’m seeing the truth of this with greater force than I ever could have imagined.

Even when life returns to normal (if that is actually even possible at this point,) I know that my life is still going to take twists and turns. Especially as I get busier, I know that more and more things aren’t going to go perfectly according to plan. Once my husband and I (God willing) start having kids, I know that I’m only going to make it harder for myself if I can’t learn to adapt and be flexible. Staying calm and collected is the key to a peaceful life, not making a perfect plan and being careful about sticking to it. I’d set a goal for myself a few months ago to focus on letting go a little more, and it seems like God is providing me with an abundance of opportunity to do just that. I guess we have to be careful what we pray for…ha ha!

Are you the flexible, go-with-the-flow type, or do you prefer to stick to the plan?


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