Full Catastrophe Living
Wonderfully hard, beautifully tragic. That is what life kind of feels like right now. I mean that in both possible meanings of the above phrase. My mind always seems to go there, to the worst case scenario...and that “skill” has been honed and sharpened over the years on the stone of my career. Divorce lawyers really do see the worst in people, often. So the fact that I can quickly and relatively easily conjure up all the possible horrible things that could and might happen in any given scenario, well, let’s just say that I am not lacking.
So I go there. To that place where I am sure that I have cancer, life has lost all meaning, friendships dead, romantic partnerships over. I see and often feel the full catastrophe of living. And I am often wrong...and I am just as often right.
But there is an upside when one tends to live in the constant analysis of all the possible threats and pitfalls...one gets to see that in every moment exists a choice. To go with the negative possibilities or reach further still for the higher ground which allows for only spiritual solutions.
Full catastrophic living means that you are in it. This whole life thing with all the blowups, near misses, the anger, the shame, the pain...you are in it, living it and that is a wonderful thing.
Well, it might result in wonderful things but it doesn’t always feel so great.
What has happened for me is that I have learned to be present in the chaos. I have learned to be ok with the worst case scenario, especially since I have decades of experience preparing for it, even bracing for it, and then having it never happen. Because most often the worst things that have ever happened, have not actually ever happened.
I think I go to the catastrophe because it makes me feel safe if I can think of all the potential ways a situation is going to blow apart. Like if I can just think all the ways, then perhaps, just maybe I can prevent a few of them. And I am right. If you spend the kind of time I do thinking about all the ways things could go wrong, you are able to take action to ensure that a few of those things actually go right.
But more important than the avoidance of a disaster or catastrophe, is that I have learned to rise above the conflict. Let me explain...
When your mind just habitually goes to the worst possible outcomes and in a rapid fire manner, runs through them all, you are quickly delivered to a place of surrender. Once I have listed out my parade of potential carnage, then I can relax. I have done what I can do, anticipate the danger. Next I can do what I can to avoid the mishap. I can take action in a protective manner to gird that which feels and may in fact be ungirdable. But after the action, there is nothing. I have to come to that tender and austere place of surrender. I cannot do anything else.
For me, I am surrounded by all the catastrophic things my mind has conjured, taken action to avoid those that are in fact avoidable, then I have to let go. I have to surrender to the idea that whatever is meant to happen is going to in fact happen and my approval or acceptance is not in fact required. Sometimes some pretty awful things come to pass. And there I am, knowing they are coming and all I can do it stare dumbly at them and watch them come.
Sometimes I can evade, duck and cover. Sometimes though, I just have to stand there and let the tidal wave of catastrophe consume me. And what I have learned is that it never is the way I think it is going to be. Ever. No matter how good my mind is at conjuring up the full catastrophic life, life is better and can deliver a whole shitshow of stuff that I cannot see coming no matter how hard I try, or how much control I exercise.
That is a fucking tender place to live, with a mind that endlessly spins tales of woe and worry and then with that same mind, a samurai surrenderer takes over and leans into the catastrophe and comes out the other side without a scratch.
See the protection is in the catastrophe. By leaning into whatever horrible thing you believe awaits you, you are untethered from the fear and the belief that you in fact have any say so whatsoever.
I learned my latest version of this kind of living from a woman who received a very hard diagnosis of stage four cancer. No one is ever happy with this news. But she has embraced it. She has allowed it to crack her further open and live more deeply. She is in the catastrophe and she is welcoming the rest of us in...she is not wasting energy trying to get out.
I laughed out loud when she said that instead of battling cancer she was supposed to be deciding if she wanted to get married. At first I thought she meant that was just what she was planning on working on, then I realized that she actually had someone that she was trying to decided if she wanted to spend the rest of her life with...and suddenly, the rest of her life just got a lot shorter looking.
But instead of being mired in self pity and flailing, she was just there, smiling and living and loving and enjoying the hell out of who she is and the way her life is right now. I am sure she has fear, but she is actually showing me that it is this ability to life the full catastrophic life that makes her life mean more, have more depth and substance and to be more hers than ever before. Because when you can see the worst case scenario, all of them, and still decide to love and live your best life, you are truly free because it matters not what the ultimate outcome. It matters only that you are here, right now living and loving to the very best of your ability. And if you are really lucky, you have a brain that will project all kinds of horrible shit onto your present and future, and then, only then, will you see that you are blessed beyond measure in the here and now.