Last weekend, Zane had a birthday party at Galaxyland. Personally birthday weekends make me shudder, but it was Charlotte’s birthday, Zane’s pseudo-baby sister. So it was special. We couldn’t miss it.
Charlotte’s birthday was at Galaxyland, the amazing indoor amusement park at West Edmonton Mall. For a fee you can get a day pass into the indoor jungle gym, which consists of multiple stories of intricately woven tubes, nets, and tunnel slides. Tons of fun. It’s a fantasy-land when you’re 5. I was a chaperone, which meant that I spent the day on my hands and knees crawling up and down the tubes as well.
“Mama! Follow me!” as he took off up the tunnel. For me, it was like mini American Ninja Warriors course as I squeezed through the maze of tubes after my pre-schooler. At one point, he led me to a tube slide at the top of the third level. He turned, flashed me a grin and disappeared into the darkness of the tunnel slide. Apparently I was supposed to follow. I peered into the blackness. I groaned, took a seat and inched forward. In the darkness my first inkling was to hang onto the sides. But of course, the slide became steeper and steeper. I muscled it until I couldn’t hold on anymore. I succumbed to the incline and slid down the slide, as a rush of exhilaration swept through my body. By the time I was at the bottom, I was giggling like my 5-year-old. This is what it felt like to be a kid again.
The Lesson from the Slide
I learned a lesson that day. I am so used to being in control. All throughout my life I have been in control of my education, my career, my house, my finances, my fitness… But that day, at the top of the slide, as it became steeper, I was forced to relinquish control. I fought the incline. I was scared. I fought it out of fear. I drew on my fitness. I drew every ounce of my upper-body strength to muscle through and retain control. Then the point came where I could no longer hold on. I had only one choice. Submit to the incline. I had to let go. Ride the slide.
The Slides in our Life
There are so many slides that we encounter in our lives. Our first inkling is to control our situation. The more sh*t happens, the more we exercise control. The steeper the incline, the more we want to muscle through and hang onto the sides. We move forward relying on what we know to be true in the past. We rely on what worked the last time. We put more monitors in place. We scrutinize. We analyze. We micro-manage. But that doesn’t help. Not at all. At the breaking point where we can no longer hold on, it’s too much. We have to relinquish. In the wise words of Sir Richard Branson, “Screw it. Let’s do it.” Then, ride the slide. Succumb to the process.
I was talking about this to a fellow parent at Zane’s Chinese lion dance lesson this week. He was telling me how the process of letting go has been a recurring theme in his life lately. It started at a music concert where he spent four days in the middle of nowhere. Like Burning Man, once you were in, you have no contact with the outside world. There was no cell phone coverage; no internet. You set up camp on the grounds and enjoy the music for the next 96 hours. At first he kept checking his phone out of habit, even though he knew that there was zero reception. Eventually one of his friends came by and said, “ what are you checking? There’s no coverage! You’re here for 4 days, you might as well just let go.” So he did.
Why is it so hard to let go?
Let’s get real. The concept of letting go is so liberating, so freeing. But when it comes time to actually perform the act of letting go, it’s downright scary. It’s scary because we’re parting with the certainty of what we know, in favour of the blackness of uncertainty. But the blackness of uncertainty holds the realm of possibility. Anything can happen. The answer to our dreams. This is good news for us because if we’re in a situation in which we want to change, being forced to succumb to the process is akin to saying ‘f*ck it’ and going with the flow. And that may be exactly the nudge we need.
So often it’s more so much more comfortable staying in our ‘normal.’ In my favourite book ‘Beyond Positive Thinking,’ Dr. Robert Anthony illustrates the reason we hang on so tightly to a situation even though we know it’s far from optimal. We hang on for dear life because somehow, we get a pay-off for being in the status quo. What’s the pay-off? We get the comfort of certainty.
Jim Collins famously said, “Good is the enemy of great.” So true. We have so many checks and balances to keeping ourselves at ‘good.’ But the longer we keep ourselves at ‘good,’ the further ‘great’ becomes, until it’s a tiny fleeting thought that we have dismissed ourselves from ever achieving.
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