Cancer (and other road hazards) Risk and Reinvention Posted on Oct 24, 2011 by Susan Sparks

Blindsided: How To Recover From The Hits You Never Saw Coming

Taken from my blog at Psychology Today.

My first true love was a used cobalt blue 1976 Ford Mustang. We had a beautiful love affair my sophomore year in college that lasted four months, three days and two and a half hours. Sadly, the relationship ended — abruptly — when I was blindsided crossing an intersection.

What a strange and unsettling experience it is to be blindsided. I didn’t see the car coming, nor did I have any time to react or prepare. In the blink of an eye, my world turned upside down. Physically I was okay, but the accident made its mark emotionally. My sense of security – my belief that I could protect myself, that I could control my world — was undermined. It took years to get it back.

We can be blindsided from what seems like the safest of places:

Friendships: one day all seems fine, the next day stormy words come slamming in;

Relationships: one moment things seem fine, the next your partner or spouse is walking out the door with their possessions in a box.

Even the closest of family can blindside us with pain.

It’s too bad that life is not more like a cell phone contract where you can simply get insurance against “unforeseen circumstances.” You spill green curry on the phone, drop it in the bathtub, leave it on the bus? No problem. File a claim and get a new one. No pain. No prob.

Sadly, life ain’t like that. We can’t control our world, we don’t always know what is going to happen and yes, we are going to be blindsided in this life. That is part of the gig of being a human being alive on this earth. Welcome to it.

So what can we do about it? The way I see it we have two choices: We can hunker down in our emotional bomb shelters, closing ourselves off physically, emotionally, spiritually. Or we can find another way.

I am reminded of words of Nelson Mandela: “You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.” What if Mandela had allowed his heart to be locked down with anger and fear after he was released from his brutal twenty-seven years in Robben Island prison? How much dimmer the world would be today.

The same is true in our lives. There are people in this world that need our love, our words, our gifts, and our light. Not just any gifts — our gifts. If we closet ourselves away in fear, these gifts are wasted and the world is the lesser for it.

To put ourselves out into the world is risky. It’s dangerous. We could (and probably will) get hurt. But that is the price of a well-lived life. That is the price of being fully human.

As the poet Edgar Lee Masters wrote in The George Gray,

I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me-
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire-
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

Based on a sermon given at the Madison Avenue Baptist Church (NYC).