Updated: Dec 28, 2021
You have satisfying work.
There’s enough money coming in.
You’re in a happy relationship.
You get on with your family.
Your friends are supportive.
If there’s a checklist for modern living, these are probably the big five – get these right and you unlock a life of ease and happiness, right?
Well…not so much.
It’s an appealing illusion, life by checklist. Because without any sense of shape and form life can feel a bit, well, big.
Unwieldy. Limitless. And our poor human brains don’t do so well with limitless anything. Hence the desire to turn to whatever constraints will give us an illusion of containment and, by extension, control. Get the ‘right’ job, the ‘right’ partner, earn ‘enough’ money and all will be well, all will be well, muttered quietly, ad infinitum, like a modern day prayer.
But here’s the rub; not much about the human experience can be mapped onto a graph like sales projections pointing ever upwards. And try as we might, these pesky lives of ours will NOT surrender to our control, even when we redouble and retriple our efforts. We live in a constant state of flux, and flux by definition isn’t controllable.
We may be really happy in our jobs, then come to feel frustrated by the lack of opportunity or by a new boss with a style we don’t enjoy. We may find that our happily-ever-after person has turned into a stranger we co-habit with, and wonder if there’s enough willingness to address what feels insurmountable. Our friendships may drift over time as people’s priorities change, children arrive, postcodes alter.
And whilst we might like to visit the Big Five Checklist from time to time, to clarify where we are and envision what we want, or help us to identify what matters most and to spot what’s missing, it’s not somewhere we should set up home. (Just like we can pop to Sainsburys to buy the missing ingredient for a recipe, but we can’t live there. They don’t like it.)
We simply generate a whole world of pain for ourselves if we chase the illusion of getting these things ‘right’. In the words of some famous singing nuns, how do you catch a cloud and pin it down? (Spoiler alert: you can’t)
But if we can’t control our lives and can’t get the Big Five cornerstones ‘right’, how are we supposed to cope when we feel off course, stuck or confused?
By allowing a little grace into our lives.
Grace isn’t something we have or don’t have – it’s not a personality feature doled out to some and not others. We can’t cultivate it, and we certainly can’t control it. We don’t earn it, and it’s not a reward for good behaviour. That’s the beauty of grace – we’re off the hook. There’s nothing we need to do. We don’t need to source it, store it, chase it down or multiply it. We don’t need to work for it. We just need to allow it.
Grace is like air. Though we can’t see air, we know that it is all around us. We co-habit with air based on faith that it is there for us to breathe in and out. We don’t need to see it to believe it; we exist as a consequence of its presence.
So it is with grace. Grace is available to all of us, in any moment, a resource that can elevate our sense of beingness, just like air filling our lungs.
Our part is to let go, let it in and let it be.
When we can, we experience moments of grace as;
feeling full of doubt about a new job you’ve taken…and being ok with the doubt
worrying that your relationship has run out of steam…and sitting in that place of uncertainty
not knowing why your friend has fallen out with you…and simply being with the discomfort
Grace does not pile judgement on top of feeling, but lets the feeling be.
Grace doesn't strive for the right action that will change what is, but supports us to simply be with what is. Even if that hurts.
Grace helps us to sit with ourselves as we are, no less, no more. Where we accept ourselves as complete, in the moment, with ALL our feelings and failings and fallibilities. Grace says, yes, I see that you’re fearful and lost and suffering. I see that you’re selfish and snappy and whiny. I see you. And I sit with you, as you are, complete and messy and beautiful and human.
No human ever feels complete until they can sit in the mess of themselves and simply be. Integrating the all of it, the warts and all of it. Being the conditioned humans that we are, this can be a profoundly big ask and deeply unsettling – but grace loves us and helps us to love ourselves because grace only knows unconditional love.
Grace is available to us at all times, so it’s for us to develop a practice of remembering. To turn our heads, cock an ear, drop our guard, open our hearts and allow. We’ll hear grace whispering to us in a language not formed of words but that will feel like an easing of tension, a smile in our bellies, a sense of homecoming; like watching the last of a beautiful sunset melt into night, we feel the presence of grace like contentment and peace, fullness.
We experience grace in moments, not to be grabbed at, but to be allowed in…and through…and gone, like clouds passing over the sun. How do you catch a cloud a pin it down? You don’t.