Woulda, coulda, shoulda. How many times have I looked back and second-guessed myself?  If only I had/hadn’t said/done whatever it was that didn’t go the way I planned.

Like many of you, I sometimes live under the illusion that I am powerful and have great influence over people, places and things. I have joked about feeling so responsible for everyone and everything that I’m the CEO of the universe. In fact, I’m not that powerful; I’m not powerful at all. To be honest, it’s mostly fear at work.

There’s not much I can control, just my own thoughts, words, actions and choices. As difficult as it is for me to accept, the rest of you are on your own and will no doubt find your way without the benefit of me trying to run your life. And that’s the hardest thing for anyone to accept — that all our caring and good intentions aren’t enough to protect the people we love. We are powerless, and that’s just as frightening as what we are trying to prevent.

Poet, author and cancer survivor Mark Nepo said, “There are no wrong turns, only unexpected paths.”  Life will take turns you didn’t plan for and can’t control. This is a great mindset shift. You’re not necessarily doing something wrong; however, life is full of the unexpected and the unpredictable. In fact, that’s the one thing that is predictable. You’re always learning, adapting and adjusting. That’s where resilience and courage are born.

It’s not easy to uncover and accept the learning that comes from the unexpected turns in the road. After all, you have a vision of how life is supposed to be. If you’re someone who has difficulty adjusting to change, you may find yourself resistant to that learning. You may become passive, perhaps a victim of your life. Wouldn’t you rather be an active participant, growing and thriving no matter what life hands you? Looking for opportunities instead of feeling defeated?

We went through some excruciating years with our kids. We had to temporarily ‘put the dream aside’ and figure out the next right step, and the next, and the next. It was downright scary; we were worried about our child’s future, and about our ability to grow enough to improve our life and his. Taking an honest look at myself and changing what didn’t serve me is some of the hardest work I’ve ever done.

And because there are times I don’t even know the right thing for me, how can I possibly know what’s right for someone else?  More unexpected paths around every corner…

Fortunately we had a lot of help in a rigorous and supportive community. With that support and accountability, we became receptive to discovering more about ourselves. We learned about our strengths… and about our less than flattering qualities, attitudes and behaviors. We turned to others to help us stay on track when the going got tough.  Boy, did it get tough.

Although I would never have chosen some of experiences we had as parents and in life, I am grateful for them. The detours and unexpected paths have changed me for the better and made me a more effective parent. 

There’s plenty of work left to do and life will always take me in directions I never anticipated or asked for. Pain and struggle will happen. Now I know that I will come out of them with new understanding, strength, and an unshakable commitment to facing the truth.