The Art of Surrender

Surrender. When we think of the word surrender, it does not typically conjure up positive feelings.

Surrender – verb. To cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.
“over 140 rebels surrendered to the authorities.”
Synonyms include: capitulate, give in, give (oneself) up, give way, yield, concede (defeat), submit, climb down, back down, cave in, relent, and my personal favorite, crumble.

As children, we are taught to keep trying, or never give up. And as adults, instilling perseverance in our children is important for many us. Indeed, the grit to keep going leads to success in many facets of life. So we dig in. We push through. We fight and claw our way toward the goal until, in some cases – we break.

The question then becomes, when do we charge on and when do we submit?

I am standing on the edge of my 33rd year and feeling reflective. Looking back I can see how certain words have defined the decades of my life. For example, in my early 20’s I was driven by happiness which in turn led me to vulnerability. And as I look ahead I see seven short years filled with the unknown until I am 40 – years that will bring new adventures and even more certainly, new challenges. My children will continue to grow just as my marriage will, and with that growth, there will inevitably be growing pains.

What’s notable about this reflection, is that I am a go-getter. I possess drive. And. I. Push. Through. However, grit is not the word that my gut tells me will guide this decade. It’s surrender. It’s a relatively new concept for me. I only became aware of the beneficial effects of surrendering yourself when I was preparing for the birth of my second child. I had had a difficult first labor and delivery, as most first-time mothers do, and went all in for the preparation of my second delivery.

Surrender during my second delivery

The focus was giving myself over to the process. Letting go and trusting my body to perform as it should. And having faith in the outcome. I did all of the above, and it was magical. We came out of the other side, Madonna and child – not in the way of the divine. But rather full of the peace and purity. I began my 30s with an of an arrogant sense of my ability to surrender as result of that experience.

But then…

In the three years that have followed, however, I have done everything but surrender. I’ve gone head to head with that sweet child, who is full of more grit than her small body can contain. I have trudged through the long and lonely days and nights of solo parenting as my husband sculpts a young business, our future, out of nothing (while foraging my own). And I have brought into this world another sweet soul, as our family expanded; only this time there was no surrender.

There was control, fight, fear, and in the end – I broke. There is a point during my labor to which I keep going back. I sat in frustration on my birthing ball during a fleeting moment between contractions. A moment I should have enjoyed and relished in as it’s those islands of refuge during labor that get us through. Instead, I was frustrated and reeling. They (contractions) were coming too fast. My husband kneeled down to my spot on the birthing ball, eye to eye, and exasperatedly asked: “What is it you keep trying to do? What do you need to be done?” All I could muster was, “I’m not ready.”

In trying to own and control it, I lost my power

I clung desperately to control during that labor without avail. Life kept coming. I simply came out the other side – exhausted with my body showing signs of intense stress (not experienced after either of my other deliveries). Moreover, I was disappointed. How had I let this last birthing experience slip through my fingers? How did I not get my magic? In trying to own and control it, I lost my power, and it saddened me. I’ve gone back to that labor many times over the last four months. And as I introspectively prepare to start a fresh year, I commit myself to surrender. Or rather learning the art of submission, as that’s what it is.

Let go and trust

It’s the wisdom and grace to know when to relinquish control and the faith in the outcome, and I am far from being a master. I share this with you because I think we all benefit from learning the art of surrender. Motherhood, life, and marriage require significant strength. We will be presented with moments with which we don’t feel ready. Or we will look ahead longingly to what is not yet our reality.

It’s those moments, in my humble opinion that we let go and trust. Let us remember that these endeavors are marathons, and conserving our force is vital. There will be times when it’s all crashing against us, and we struggle with a fierceness to break the surface. When in truth, if we stop treading water long enough to allow the water to wash over and soothe our spirits our power for all of it is immeasurable.

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