A Long, Full Life.

“Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight–how to get from shore to food and back again.  For most gulls it was not flying that matters, but eating.  For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight.” – Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

I first read Jonathan Livingston Seagull in high school and it easily became one of my favorites. I haven’t read it in years, but I remember the moral. Life is not just about existing or surviving.  It’s much more than that.

All my life, I’ve wondered why I was dealt the hands I received.  It wasn’t that I was whining or wishing for something different, it’s just that I wanted to know why.  What was I meant to learn?  

I don’t believe we are put on this Earth to simply live here and die, but I’m not a religious woman and I don’t believe in heaven or hell.  I do believe that we are here to learn in our life and what we don’t learn now, our souls are doomed to have to learn in our next lifetime.

Why was I given one alcoholic parent who abandoned us and another one who abandoned us emotionally?

Why did we face the hardships we did? Why did I have to learn about finances, taking care of a home, cooking, home health care, do not resuscitate orders, powers of attorney, mortgages and credit years before my peers?

Why do I struggle with things that seem to come so easily for others?  Why can’t I make a simple decision without agonizing over whether it’s the right choice?  Why do I take things so personally without even knowing they are about me?

There has to be a lesson.  I wouldn’t keep facing the same issues over and over if there wasn’t. I wouldn’t keep battling the same demons, having the same conversations and arguments repeatedly, if I wasn’t meant to learn something from the experience.

And then, in the midst of yet another hectic week in what is proving to be a very hectic month in a very hectic year, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  

I was lamenting, yet again, my son’s difficulties with some recent transitions.  He doesn’t handle disruptions well.  He’s not a go-with-the-flow sort of kid.  He likes things just so.  He is inflexible.

He is just like his mother.

I do not handle change well.  I resist and rebel against anything that bucks the system, anything that alters my schedules and habits.  I am the one who would often continue to do things the hard way rather than learn a new easier method.

I am rigid.  I am inflexible. 

And it is this inability to adapt to the natural rhythm of life that causes me such stress.  So set in my ways am I that anything that doesn’t go as I planned is evil or bad or wrong.  And when others reap the benefits of new things or seemingly breeze through life, I am the one left resentful and angry.  I am the one left behind and sad.  I am the one who suffers from my own doing.

The lesson, I realized, is to accept change.  The lesson is admit that I cannot control everything that happens in the world around me but that I can control how I react to it.  I can slow down, take a deep breath and find a solution.  I can control me.

“Jonathan Seagull discovered that boredom and fear and anger are the reasons that a gull’s life is so short and with those gone from his thought, he lived a long fine life indeed.”

I can have that long, full life.  It’s not just for the lucky few.  

I’m going to go find my copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and read it again.  I think it’s just the kick off I need.

I’m linking up with the super-supportive crew over at Yeah Write, the best blogging community on these here interwebs.

34 Responses to “A Long, Full Life.”

  1. Vanessa says:

    The nice thing about life, is we can learn from our past. We can choose to not have the knee jerk reaction to changes and instead consciously seek out the benefits in accepting those changes.

  2. Go Michelle! I loved that book but I read it so long ago I can’t remember anything about it. Now, I think I need to reread it too!

  3. IASoupMama says:

    I’m wallowing right now and I know it. Not sure how to un-wallow. I can accept change, but why does it all have to change for the worse right now? Many, many hugs..

  4. I stopped believing the old adage, “you’re never given more than you can handle” a very long time ago. I just don’t think it’s true. And it puts a lot of pressure on the the receiver of burden to “handle” it well.

    I think, Michelle, bad stuff happens and some people get more than their fair share. Your job is to love yourself hard, ask for help, rest, seek healing, forgive, love, and know you are worth fighting for.

    Hugs to you.

  5. Bee says:

    This post really resonates with me right now, Michelle. I’m also rigid, things need to be just so. I resist change and am easily derailed by it. Thanks for the reminder that the thing we can control is how we react to those changes.

    • It’s hard to remember to only try to control what we can, especially for those of us who strive to control everything. It reminds me of the serenity prayer – the wisdom to know the difference. I think that’s what I need the most help with some days.

  6. I am buying a copy of this book, stat. I can’t believe I never read it. You certainly can have that long, full life, and I am certain that you will.

  7. Kathleen says:

    It’s so painful to see the traits we don’t like in ourselves manifested in our children. But your need to control things and fear of change are certainly understandable, given your own childhood. You are NOT your parents. You’re a great, loving mom, and you are going to get through this difficult time.

    • Thanks Kathleen. I do hope I do better than my parents (Most days I know I am, some days I feel just like them). I have to remember to step back and see things with a clear head rather than to keep reacting in the middle of things. Easier said than done. Thanks for the kind comment.

  8. The motto in our home, “There are no mistakes, only lessons.” It sounds like you’ve identified what you want to change, so you’re ready go!

    Good luck on your journey.

  9. Kim S. says:

    My last name is Siegal and I had a Jr High English teacher who called me “jonathan livingston seagull” despite my female-ness. Anyway, I never read it but now I’m inspired. But the lesson you point to here is a good one. We waste so much energy on wishing and working for the unchangable to change instead of looking for the beauty or the lesson in what is. It’s a great thing to realize!

  10. Wow, this was really great Michelle. I am learning this all through my son. He is as you describe, rigid and inflexible. I have always called him “particular.” But it’s so the opposite of me that I have a hard time. I’m his mother so I love him unconditionally but even at 3yo I look at him and think “don’t you realize you are making your life so much harder?” Clearly, I am the opposite. I AM the flow – as adaptable as they come. Of course that has a whole HOST of its own issues, but that’s something else. What I have realized since my daughter was born (she’s got forward momentum like me) is these children came into this world with these burdens to carry. I no longer think about trying to change him or ask him to be more adaptable or easy going, but instead I want to help him get the most out of who he is and the life he has to live. It’s an amazing journey and hearing it in your beautiful words really got me. Loved reading this.

    • All my life I’ve made things harder by not adapting to changes. It’s silly and I know it and yet I keep doing it. I’m a creature of habit :) I agree about not changing my son, but I do want him not to suffer because of his personality. I truly believe we can all thrive regardless of our flexibility if we learn to thrive. I wonder if it would be different if I had two with two distinct personalities. With just one who happens to be very similar to me in this way, it’s easy for both of us to get caught up in the control thing.

      Thanks for such a great comment.

  11. Larks says:

    This is a great post and a great lesson. It’s so hard to see traits we don’t like in ourselves show up in our kids.

    One of the things I like most about your blog is that you’re willing to seriously self reflect when challenged. No, “You guys this thing happened! And then THIS thing happened! Can you believe it, internet?!” to be found here. And that is so awesome and refreshing because I feel like too much of the internet is about chronicling the events of our day to day lives. There’s nothing wrong with chronicling per se but if that’s all there is it strikes me as all about detailing survival to the exclusion of flight.

  12. Lindsey says:

    Reflection will lead to change and make things better. I am a religious person, but before I was, I did feel lost all the time.

  13. Christie says:

    Love love love this. Truly. I am very inflexible too.

  14. Ginny Marie says:

    It sounds like you are on the right path! Change is hard! My husband and daughter are quite resistant to change of any kind.

  15. I have loved JLS ever since I re-read it in junior high. I didn’t get it at ALL the first time – “What’s all this fuss about a seagull?” But now it resonates whenever I pick it up, even for a few pages, it brings up a lot of the musings that you mention here. Thank you for reminding me to go dig it up once more. Perfect time of year for it – with all the self-created hustle.

  16. Nice reminder. I read all his books as a young person, including the freaky ones about how to leave your body and so on. Isn’t it annoying when your child shows you with perfect clarity some of your worst traits? I hate that!

    • I much prefer when my son mimics my awesome traits, haha!!

      I did read Illusions, but I don’t know that I read anything else by Bach. I can’t remember anything about that other book. But then again, I have a terrible memory.

  17. You’re inflexible and rigid and set in your ways because you had to develop a lot of grown-up habits and handle adult decisions before you were ready. The rest of us had our teens and twenties to screw up and figure things out over time. You got thrown in at the deep end.

    • This is true. I’ve read a lot about the behaviors of Adult Children of Alcoholics and I fit the profile quite well (lucky me). Knowing this, I am trying to work on these behaviors.

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