Sometimes events in life appear to be overwhelming and yet, a silver lining shows itself in unexpected ways. I chose to surrender on this one occasion not because I was so wise and so courageous. No, not at all. I actually surrendered because I was cornered, completely stuck. I made the decision to surrender halfheartedly. Then something marvelous happened.
Several years ago, I had been looking forward to a family vacation in my favorite spot on earth, a 400 acres farm in the Catskills Mountains. My husband and I had always enjoyed escaping to this bucolic setting when we lived in New Jersey. Our children always looked forward to the activities of fishing and hiking and looking for salamanders for the five years that we lived in that region. The farm was stunning, set in the middle of the 400 acres far removed from the nearest road with streams and fields alike surrounding the farmstead itself. This time we had moved far away and I was really looking forward to being able to go back and enjoy a week in August when the weather would be warm and the fields would be golden. My husband asked that my father in-law be included along in this week since we had not seen him in a while. I was rather hesitant because many times in the past my father in-law had been quite rumbuctious and he had often upset us by drinking way too much. Over the years, my husband had asked that his father not drink in our presence anymore which had often been a point of contention between father and son. Often, I also needed to protect my children and I would reluctantly need to enforce the same requests. So I struggled with my husband’s request to include his father. I was filled with fear because I could see that being in a pastoral setting was really fun for me and my family, my father in-law may not share in such pleasures. I selfishly wanted what I wanted. However, my husband insisted and I could see no way out of the situation without a major rift between my husband and I. I knew that such a rift would be hurtful to him and my children. So I decided to give up my wish to have the farm to ourselves and decided to include my husband’s father.
A few days after our discussion to include my father in-law, I struggled restlessly through my feelings and thoughts. My thoughts kept turning to how difficult it was to be around my father in-law, to the many times he had insisted on being in control of our get togethers. I was not at peace at all and I knew I needed to change my attitude in order to have a good time. But I did not know where to turn. I had about an hour reprieve before I needed to pick up my children from school. So I turned on Oprah, something quite unusual for me to do. Gary Zukav, author of the “Seat of the Soul”, was on the show and explained that the book’s premise is that everything is always about you- no matter what comes to you, in the end your attitude determines the outcome. As soon as I started to listen to Gary Zukav, time stopped! It was as if the coincidence of hearing exactly what I knew to be true at the moment that I needed it so bad cast a different light and feeling on the whole situation! I suddenly realized that I needed to change very deeply in order to bring the outcome I desired, a week of fun and relaxation and love, deep, deep love. A love so big that it would open my heart to my father in-law without taking anything away from me, it was a pure gift so complete that it came from another part of me. It was a stunning experience! I remember going to my altar and kneeling in gratitude for the understanding of what my attitude needed to be. Then, completely at peace with myself, I let go without giving it another thought! I had been graced with a new attitude just as Gary Zukav was explaining to Oprah! The show had struck a chord with me. I understood that my attitude was more important than what actually happened. I saw that I could use whatever happened as a springboard to my own growth. As soon as I stopped resisting the learning, something magical happened. I totally understood that changing me was the only thing that needed to happen in the situation. And I knew I would establish a newer and deeper relationship with my father-in-law.
The days flew by. My sons were looking forward to their skateboarding camp near the farm and I could not wait for the magic of the streams and the quiet of the farm! Arrangements were made to meet my father in-law at the airport and to drive together to the farm. I continued to feel at peace and grace! When we picked up our guest at the airport, I immediately sensed that something was not right with him. He had been dealing with difficult health issues and I instantly sensed that something about his health was off. I could not have verbalized this thought at the time. I just registered it. And my father-in-law was genuinely touched and excited to have been invited, a feeling that was soon very contagious to all of us. What happened next truly amazed me. I could not have predicted the unfoldment in any way. The vacation was not tolerable, not average – it was great! I experienced a completely different side of my father-in-law that I had never experienced in all the 20 years that I had known him! A sense of harmony and fun permeated the gathering. We played games together and laughed riotously. This was an unbelievable unfoldment, a true miracle.
As the vacation drew to a close, our family gathered together outside to take family photos, a tradition in my husband’s family. I had experienced such happiness and freedom those days together. Gratitude flowed through me as we were about to say goodbye. My husband hugged his father. When it came time for me to say goodbye to him, this strong sense overcame my mind that this was the last time I would see him. This sense overtook my mind and heart and I felt breathless. I had no idea what was brewing inside my intuition but it felt so big it took my breath away. I reeled inside of me and looked deeply into my father-in-law’s eyes and stated without reservation: “I love you, take good care of yourself”. He gave me a great bear hug and turned around. I did not speak of my inner sense and wordless thought to anyone.
Shortly after the vacation ended, some problems surfaced in my husband’s family. One night, my father in-law called and I happened to answer the phone. Once again, I felt that vivid sense of freedom and love with him. We had a real conversation and listened to one another respectfully with no strain at all.
Several weeks later, we had made plans to meet some dear friends at a camp about an hour away from home. On the way there, my husband’s brother called but did not leave a message or phone number where he could be reached. When we arrived at the camp, I had a nagging feeling that my husband should call his brother back which I suggested to him. As I suspected, something was very wrong. My husband learned that his brother had found their father, who had died three days earlier. I was so saddened that he had died alone, just weeks after we had shared such wonderful moments together. And I was so incredibly grateful that I had had the breakthrough that enabled me to love him so completely and freely, just weeks before his passing. Deep inside of me, I knew that nothing had happened by chance. I knew I needed to confront my attitude. I also knew that my deep desire to change myself happened with grace, as if my limited human understanding was momentarily suspended so that I could attune to an effortless grace. I reflected back on that sudden, deep knowing that I would never see him again. I reflected back on the wave of love that sprung forth through my heart as a love that sees behind the veil of circumstance and knows what we each crave for: to connect deeply.