fbpx

SUBTITLE: Why Discomfort, Unpredictability, and Breaking the Rules Matters.

“Most of us live conventional lives. We want to avoid the discomforts that arise from complications. But the full, creative life must be open to unpredictability. Jewish wisdom urges us to open our eyes to the possibility of change, even to the need to break a rule. Sometimes the only way to grow is to take a bite of the apple.” ~ Rabbi Irwin Kula

Fantastic. Powerful. And true.

Here’s where we’re headed:

  1. a conventional life = avoiding discomfort
  2. a full, creative life = unpredictability
  3. change = breaking a rule (or two)
  4. growth = taking a bite of the apple

Yum!

When I look back at my own life, my adamant demand of avoiding discomfort (for myself and for others) has caused me to choose what is generally done or believed — at the expense of my intuition, my wisdom, my very heart. The opposite has also been true: when I have listened to my intuition, trusted my wisdom, and followed my heart it has always been outside of convention, incredibly uncomfortable, and most-definitely (ultimately) worth it.

How about for you?

  • What stories come to mind? Where, when, and with whom have you diligently worked to sustain comfort (your own and/or others’), maintain the status quo, avoid discomfort and choose convention?
  • Think about your own experiences of being uncomfortable. Are they also the places in which you’ve gone against the grain, done what’s unexpected, and (hopefully) chosen what’s best for you instead of what everyone else wanted from/for you? What does that invite you to consider?

Instead of resisting discomfort, how might we welcome it? Could we learn to see “complications” as a form of discernment; a trail of breadcrumbs that lead us to what is unconventional — and far closer to what we truly value and desire?

Because I do not want to live a conventional life, discomfort cannot be avoided.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “state” of my life, now 61 years old, relatively-suddenly living on the other side of the country with my sister and her family, changing pretty much everything. It’s not the first time I’ve done something like this: seemingly random and unconventional. There is a part of me that wants to believe I’ve been the one to make this happen, but I know better. In truth, it has been the unexpected, the surprises, the random and seemingly-crazy choices that have ultimately shaped the life that is mine.

And just so you know, this pattern applies to far more than just “good” things! Some of the hardest seasons in my life were unexpected and completely out of my control — others’ decisions impacted me in excruciating ways, there were circumstances I could have no more predicted than flown, ramifications and realities were everywhere that I didn’t see coming. All unpredictable — and much to my chagrin. In the moment, the opposite of “full and creative,” but usually the means through which my life has found deeper meaning, more fullness, and yes, creativity, as well.

When we look back, we see all the twists and turns our story has taken; a plot that has been far less conventional and far more full-and-creative than we might have ever imagined or predictably planned on our own.

How about for you?

  • What thoughts come to mind when you think of allowing your life to be unpredictable?
  • Consider when you were most firmly grasping for control, what was predictable, and what felt safe. What words describe your life during those times?
  • What stories come to mind that you’d define as “creative and full”? How was unpredictability manifest in the midst?

When we find ourselves in places that feel the opposite of “full and creative,” it is probably because the need to control is dialed way up; we (falsely) believe that life is 100% ours to determine and shape.

[I certainly do not believe it’s all in the hands of fate. Agency and choice, will and determination — these things matter. Take heart: if you’re anything like me, there’s no risk whatsoever of these things disappearing! The challenge and invitation is allowing in the opposite, the unpredictable.]

When/if life feels empty and dry, unfulfilling and exhausting, it’s the unpredictable that’s called for — which means letting go, surrendering, releasing our grip.

I’m a huge advocate for breaking things: rules, traditions, assumptions, patterns, habits, beliefs.

I haven’t always been this way. In fact, far more of my life could be defined by following the rules — no matter what! It ensured that I’d be loved, accepted, and allowed, even honored and esteemed. And every bit of that worked for me — until it didn’t.

How about for you?

  • Do you agree that change cannot occur without rules being broken?
  • When have you broken the rules? What change occurred?
  • Can you name the rules that you’re afraid to break right now in service of your own change?

It’s important to note that rules — especially those that we follow as women — are a) what is demanded of us; and b) the very things that perpetuate patriarchy’s harm. It is defiant to intentionally break them — and it is critical.

If we want change, because we want change (for ourselves and for our world), we must be fiercely committed to being rule-breakers.

No surprise: I love this part of the quote the most!

Eve’s choice to eat the apple is what moved humanity forward, invited life in a more expansive world, even brought forth vastly increased intimacy and connection with the divine (vs. the opposite, as we’ve been told) and yes, compelled growth.

She serves as a woman’s best template, mentor, and muse. She provides a model of what it means to choose the unconventional, to be unpredictable, to break the rules, and yes, to take a bite of the apple.

And yet, what we have inculcated and internalized (even if unintentionally and unwittingly) through her story is just the opposite! Which makes me completely crazy AND explains, at least in part, why it’s hard for us to follow her lead. We feel the tension when we are perceived as:

swimming upstream
going against the grain
thinking for ourselves
acting on our own volition
choosing what we want
listening to and trusting our own wisdom

Every bit of this has been reinforced as “bad,” wrong, even sinful for thousands upon thousands of years!

How about for you?

  • What is your very first thought when you hear Eve’s name? What data does that give you about internalized beliefs related to risk, trusting yourself, or being defiant?
  • What IS the apple you most want to bite? Can you name what prevents you from doing so?
  • Once again, look back over your own life. What are the experiences that have enabled the most growth? How many of those held an element of choosing yourself over others’ expectations or demands?

Instead of seeing ourselves as defiant when we take a bite of the apple, we must recognize it as our truest nature; pursuing and cherishing growth is our truest nature!

If you ever want to hear exactly what I think about Eve’s story (and the way it’s been told), listen to my TEDx Talk.

*****

One more time:

“Most of us live conventional lives. We want to avoid the discomforts that arise from complications. But the full, creative life must be open to unpredictability. Jewish wisdom urges us to open our eyes to the possibility of change, even to the need to break a rule. Sometimes the only way to grow is to take a bite of the apple.” ~ Rabbi Irwin Kula

May it be so.