Life is Full of Surprises

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“Life is full of surprises.” It’s a statement we hear all the time, so often that it’s become a cliché. Just when we think we’ve got things figured out, life lunges from around a corner, throws us into an unmarked van and whisks us away.

I was never so naive in my adult years to believe I could foresee the future. I realized a long time ago that long-term goals are futile, that aside from a few common sense preparations, my time was best spent living in the present. Still, I found myself making plans. I’d decided I would live more frugally, that I would save a ton of money so that I could take a year off work to focus on my writing. I was strong in this conviction, and I was actually disciplined enough to make significant progress toward that goal.

Then I met my girlfriend Win, and a year and a half later I was moving to The Philippines to be close to her. Just like that, my short-term plans had evaporated, and once more I was starting from scratch, trying to figure things out, wondering if I would ever figure things out.

But you know what? I’m happy. Before I met Win, I thought I knew what would bring me joy. Then I fell in love, and I discovered what joy actually was. I had to give a lot up, and it’s been a daily challenge for me. But the struggle is rooted in love, and after being here for a few months, I couldn’t imagine living any other way.

So often, uncertainty makes us anxious. It’s not an entirely unreasonable reaction, because not every surprise is a good one. But I’ve learned that to be happy, I have to let go and allow life to steer me in the proper direction. The course isn’t always easy, but it’s always rife with unexpected opportunities for personal growth. Life is a mystery to be embraced. If we spend too much time worrying about what may or may not happen, we wither and die like malnourished flowers.

So I’m taking things one day at a time, and I’m trying to focus less on achieving some pre-determined outcome and more on discovering the outcome I was destined from birth to fulfill.

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Showdown

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Fear. It surrounds me.

I awoke this morning to discover that dangers and perils of every kind had gathered around me during the night, intent on doing me harm. I look each in the eye. I swallow.

A showdown.

How did this happen? I cast my mind into the distant past, try to pinpoint the exact moment the trajectory of my life turned in this direction. I fail.

I shut my eyes against the inevitable. “Take me,” I whisper, “I won’t be afraid anymore.”

I wait.

Slowly, I open my eyes. They haven’t gone, but neither have they moved. This time I thrust my chest out more boldly. “I said, take me!” I cry into the morning, naked and vulnerable, daring them to attack. “Do what you came to do.”

Silence.

I begin to shake, not with fear but with adrenaline. A giddy absurdity overtakes me, and the enemies that stand before me are transfigured. Weapons, armor and bared teeth become plastic toys, children’s costumes and empty gums, flailing before me in a parody of force.

I learn the truth.

My enemies, who had been so strong in their denouncements, who had whispered of my destruction in the middle of the night, who had vowed to tear me limb from limb the instant I ventured into the world they’d been guarding so jealously; they had only ever been harmless spectres, useless projections sent to prevent me from taking what had always rightfully been mine.

I stand.

I look at my aggressors, impotent and without life. I step forward. They shout at me through silent lips, brandishing their plastic pitchforks and red-capped toy pistols. I laugh. The sound is a deep, earthy rumble. It consumes me, makes me whole.

The spectres disappear.

I am reborn.

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