• Maggie Wheeler

Pull Back, Push Through

Hall's Harbour, NS, at low tide

(With the frustrations and setbacks from the Category II catastrophe and other life challenges happening right now, I remembered this entry from my SLAM: Self Love at Midlife blog and thought it would be fitting to share again. Still resonates. First published February 2014.)

I have been spending time lately watching little “twirly” circles. Most of these appear on my computer screen at work or at home, and must be fixed or just tolerated. Some, however, are not so concrete.

There are moments—and sometimes phases—in life where you realize you just don’t fit. Some call it being “out of grace.” Others might label it a rough patch. Whatever you call it, I think we have all experienced a time when no matter what we do (and even if we do nothing), life doesn’t fit. We get existential bed sores, stubbed toes and bruised shins. Sometimes, we psychologically get our front teeth knocked out.

I am dealing with the tides of being out of grace. When I needed grace, I had it; and that was for the big things like selling my house, finding one to buy, and surviving the move thanks to family and friends. Now, everything is a personal battle. I’m dodging disappointments in my personal life, spinning my wheels professionally, and feeling on all fronts unable to do more than keep my nose above the waterline. Even this entry has been like pulling teeth to get onto paper (pixels). This isn’t about negative change arriving; it’s about regular parts of life that always worked suddenly stalling on the tracks, losing steam or derailing completely for no apparent reason. And with being out of grace, the real test is that one has no idea when it will end.

It’s not life-challenging, but it does bring to mind the Longfellow phrase about the mills of God grinding slowly but exceedingly small…

At work, the IT support wants to scan my computer for suspected malwear to be removed. Ah, if in our lives it were that simple.

When the tides of grace are in full ebb in your life, what do you do? What can you do? To everything there is a season; life has its seasons that must be respected. I am in winter, I guess, and spring will come when it does.

There are, however, things that can—if not break the cycle—at least ameliorate it and keep you hanging onto the side of the pool until you get your wind back.

The first thing to do is to stop pushing against the universe. This is not a good idea anyway as the universe has a habit of pushing back and is much bigger than we are. So in all the areas that are trying your soul, pull back.

Let me be clear about one thing at this point—by pulling back, I do not mean for you to deal with any toxic situation by retreating so that someone or something that is truly hurting you can move in closer to cause greater pain. With those, one needs to close the door with a soft click, and then get help or run like hell (or both).

By pulling back, I mean to stop trying to manage or control something that is just not being what it usually either is or should be. When life is not responding to our efforts, it may be the time to stop trying so hard for a short time in those areas.

The old adage is that when fishermen can’t go to sea, they mend their nets. If the sea out there is too rough, stay ashore, get near a nice driftwood bonfire and start mending your nets. We all have them: things, skills, projects, tasks and ideas that we keep on the back burner because life is busy. Those things are areas we don’t worry about because we own them, or perhaps we just haven’t lately given them their true value in our lives because they don’t connect with the outside world per se.

With a little self-love, you can pick out a net or two in your life that could use mending. If you can’t get anywhere where you are currently focused, focus elsewhere. Don’t take the twirly circles personally. Find things that need your attention, mend your nets, and bide your time. Storms blow themselves out eventually, and the sea will someday be calm again. In the meantime, take the control back in your life where you can, take care of yourself, and take heart with endeavours that reward you by enriching and strengthening your private, inner life.

And with these, push through.

“Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Talk next week,


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