A Moment of Surrender

“There is no controlling life. Try corralling a lightning bolt, containing a tornado. Dam a 
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet. Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground. The only safety lies in letting it all in—the wild and the weak; fear, fantasies, failures and success. When loss rips off the doors of the heart, or sadness veils your vision with despair, practice 
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your 
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.”

— Danna Faulds

Tell me about a time you gave up control and surrendered.


  1. Fran Stekoll says

    I went to the water aerobics class at our pool. Came home and rinsed out my
    suit in the bathroom sink. The phone rang, then I proceeded to the kitchen to fix a snack. Soon there was water everywhere. Four of my six rooms in my mobile were flooded. Every towel in my linen closet couldn’t soak it all up. Two days later I was springing on mushy floors. The Insurance company came. Blowers were placed everywhere. It’s been a month. My cozy quiet home has turned into grand central station. Four floors have now been replaced. Everything was moved into the dining room. I slept on the couch among my belongings. It seemed time to discard things I though I needed to complete me. For the first time my bedroom is organized. The clutter that ran my life is now on the shelves of Goodwill. Each day I ask myself do I need this and another bag is discarded. Thanks to the flood and also the fact that my daughter and son-in-law are moving in I no longer need all those things I thought defined me. My kitchen counters are clear. I am more focused on what I need to do each day. Today I will clean out my purse and wallet . Tomorrow my car. No longer will I define myself as second hand Fran. No more yard sales.

    • says

      You just inspired me. I tend to gather things too…lots of cluttered surfaces. You go! I love that you’re breaking that habit after so many years. As they say, “You can’t take it with you.”

    • Ilana says

      Way to go, Fran. It’s amazing that you were able to let go of losses and use the experience in a positive way. Very inspiring. IM

      • Faye Beyeler says

        Many times these disasters are really events that we can look back on and be grateful for – especially when they prompt us to make positive change. Congratulations on your “Misfortune!”

  2. Hazel says

    I think I am signing up to take that same journey. Thank you Fran for making me think about all the “stuff” I don’t need anymore (and probably never did, if the truth be known). To bad about your house though, under water is not good for houses.

  3. sunny says

    Regarding this week’s prompt – hey, it caused me a bit of upset. “Allow… higher ground.” I wish I could affirm that sentiment, but sometimes the tide will drown you if you do not resist. There is a time to resist AND a time to allow.

    • says

      Yes, Sunny, I’d have to agree with you. But sometimes resistance is futile. What’s that song, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em?”

      • Ilana says

        Yes and “Knowing what to throw away and known what to keep.” I’ve struggled with that one all of my adult life. Nice allusion, Laura!

  4. beverly Boyd says

    My youngest son married into a wealthy Texas oil family. His bride’s mother had six brothers so Kaaren had a boatload of aunts, uncles and cousins who could afford to fly anywhere at the drop of an invitation. Kaaren’s mother arrived a week ahead of time. The two of them stayed in the Donatello, one of San Francisco’s luxury hotels, so they could easily make last minute arrangements for the wedding and other events near by. Unlike the weddings in our family: small gatherings in someone’s home, a public arboretum, or secret cove off the bay, with a rehearsal dinner the evening before in a Chinese restaurant, this one was held in a four story private club Kaaren’s uncle belonged to. The rehearsal dinner which our family hosted at the Fort Mason officer’s club was planned for eighty-seven to accommodate family who flew in the day before. In addition to the wedding and dinner dance for about three hundred guests,there was the bachelor party, a spa day for the bride’s attendants and mothers and a day after brunch at a frequently written up restaurant in Ghirardelli Square.

    Mid week at a small home gathering one of his ushers hosted, Richard, ever the philosopher, commented to me. “One thing about a wedding. It kind of takes on a life of its own!”

    • Ilana says

      Wow. It sounds like you really had to surrender how you would have done things. I hope you enjoyed the events as they happened. 😉

      • beverly Boyd says

        Yes, being somewhat of a socialbutterfly, I enjoyed the ride all the way! And I loved it that my son who had been very much involved with the wedding plans, in the end realized that it had indeed taken on a life of its own!

      • beverly Boyd says

        And I’m so lucky to have these inlaws. My son found a wonderful girl to marry who came from a large family who enjoy each other and are warm and welcoming any time I’ve had a opportunity to be with them.

  5. Barbara Keller says

    Surrender is what I’ve been trying to do since I realized in my 20’s that my efforts to control everything were useless and generally ended in catastrophe. Many examples come to mind including a long hard train trip from Calgary, Alberta to LA. I tried so hard to plan every little detail. Except life doesn’t work that way. While I was in the tiny toilet, my new husband told the customs people that he had no money, which was literally true, but he forgot to tell them that I had the money in the bathroom. So we were thrown off the train just south of the US border, with all our endless stuff and our dog. The dog had never seen the ocean and chased a sea gull off the end of the pier. There we were many hours, smelly, cold, wet dog, massive uncertainty, no place to sit. and my first experience with the difficulty of crossing borders.

    However letting go is a lot harder than thinking you should. It seems to be somewhere near the core of the Christian life. Am I going to do it myself, or let God? It’s hard. Trusting someone else to do it right, to keep in mind all the things I think must go my way, the little details I’m sure no one else knows or cares about including God.

    I don’t know that I can say I’ve ever really succeeded in letting go, but once at age 64, I drove myself and all my stuff in a 23 foot uhaul truck pulling a 14 foot trailer with my car on it. I asked the U Haul man if I could do this. He said “Sure, just don’t try to back up.”

    Not for one moment did I believe I could do it, but I didn’t see anyone else offering, so I gave it to God. I didn’t back up for 1400 miles. I cried a lot and I hollered at God “I can’t do this. I don’t know how to do this.” Big trucks moved over when they saw me trying to merge. Gas stations I could pull through appeared when necessary. I slept, sort of, in the cab, and on the ground and two times in motels with giant parking lots. I cooked gluten free food on a propane burner on tables in rest stops with diesels roaring. It took 7 days and endless tears and yelling. The day planner and passport I lost in northern California reappeared in LA, thanks to a kind truck driver. Getting the rig and me across the border into Mexico took 2 days and a lot more tears. I got stuck halfway between Mexico and the US when I was turned back at the border. The honking of cars trying to go both ways was mind boggling. Three Mexican men who were hanging around came to my rescue. A man who had never driven, a man in a wheel chair, and a strange man with gloves on who did back it up, and jockey the rig around till it was headed the right direction.

    When I was almost to my house in Baja, facing the last piece of twisting dirt road, someone was magically waiting at the bottom of the hill for me. I turned over the truck, said “Thank you God,” and marveled that we, the truck and I, the potted plants, the car, my grandma’s dishes, the stuff I needed and the stuff I didn’t need, we had all survived.

    It looks like moving offers the hardest tests of my willingness to let go. I wouldn’t consider just going with the flow, but I get the good sense of letting God. I believe it’s an on going struggle. Till death. What I have is the proof that He did take care of it, never the inclination to let Him again.

    • Laura Davis says

      I was fascinated by your discussion about your power struggle with God. You just broke down one stereotype about religious life. The truck ride was pretty harrowing too!

    • beverly Boyd says

      What an adventure! I admire how you found the courage to get behind that wheel. I bet that experience has served you well!
      For several years I was frequently at the wheel pulling a seventeen foot travel trailer that we enjoyed with our seven children.
      I learned the trucker’s code and even now when I see a trucker needing a break on the highway, I hold back and flash my lights to let them know I am yielding to them. payback for all the times they did it for me.

      • Faye Beyeler says

        Wow – what an adventure! My favorite line is “I didn’t back up for 1400 miles.” You are quite the trooper, and this is a very inspirational story. Thank you!

        • Barbara Keller says

          Thanks. It was more comedy than courage. I started to write it up, called it something like “driving 1400 miles without backing up.” but I didn’t finish it. Just a very funny couple of pages.

  6. Jennifer Ire says

    I had been part of the planning of the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage for two years. I had walked shorter more local pilgrimages with the monks and nuns at Buddhist Temple in the years before this planning. And while I was in graduate school I had spent hours talking with Sis Clare Carter about her idea of doing a pilgrimage that focused on slavery. Sis Clare the nun at the temple wanted to reverse the karmic seeds of slavery, returning some of the energies that were lost because of slavery. This would be done by walking and chant throughout the American South tracing the route slaves took visiting plantations and slave markets etc., following a route that was to end in South Africa.
    She felt, and I agreed, that there was a need to address racism and all its effects at a spiritual level . Many years before I had been in the southern states, North Carolina , Georgia, and Virginia, and there I saw and heard many spirits still chained, still working, still trying to escape, still chasing Africans using dogs. I could not stay there. I did not understand how life went on in the midst of all that. Something had to be done on the spiritual level at least to release those spirits.
    So 1998 arrived and the plan was to leave Massachusetts and walk down the east coast to North Carolina, then through Georgia, Alabama Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida then through the Caribbean and on to West Africa, Senegal, Gambia, Benin, Nigeria, ending in South Africa. It would take a year. January 1998 was my graduation and I knew I would not have the physical umph nor the financial freedom to think about that journey. It entailed walking a minimum of 15 to 20 miles a day 6 days a week, sleeping on floors, relying on host communities for food and shelter, facing whatever the system of racism sent our way and working on the internal dynamics of the pilgrimage. I did not plan to do the pilgrimage, it sounded too much for me.
    May came and with it the start date. There was over 100 pilgrims, plans were made, communities throughout were intrigued to excited about it. There was an air of mystery as no one knew how it would go or what the challenges would be. The pilgrims were mainly young people, few of whom really understood the purpose of the Pilgrimage. The ethnic mix was nice and included international folks. When I saw that I was even more firmly adamant about not going. I expressed that to Sis Clare, the organizers and my friends,
    I saw them off, walked to the next town and returned to Amherst to get on with my life. Friends would ask when I was joining the pilgrimage and I would say I had no intention of doing so. Then a friend asked me why I was not going. I explained I had student loan debt that I would start repaying in a few months, I had no job, I was exhausted and needed to take care of myself. She returned a couple weeks after that conversation and said to me, If we got you funding so the loan payments and bills are covered, and you have enough funds to go on the pilgrimage would you go? I told her I would think about it.
    I was still not excited about the idea and so I went to the IChing and asked if I was to do this pilgrimage. It essentially said that it was something I was to do. “Wrong answer,” I said to myself. I figured the question was incorrectly stated and so I asked again, this time about the purpose of my doing this. This was even more frightening. It said I was to work with the spirits along the way and this I had to do. I sighed and decided to wait and see what would follow. The very next day this friend returned and said, Jennifer, the first person I asked for funds has given you $10,000. I was speechless. There was no opting out. I joined the pilgrimage. It was one of the most challenging and amazing experiences in my life on many, many levels and especially on the spiritual level. I came to realize and admit to myself only, that I loved working with the spirit level whether on the human, nature or animal planes. I had no regrets.

      • Jennifer Ire says

        I have been considering it since then and trying to find the way into what’s to be told. I have sort of
        let go of writing it. I will see what happens.

        • beverly Boyd says

          I agree with Laura.I want to know more about what must have been an incredible journey. I encourage you to just start writing. Don’t worry about “finding the way”. It will come just as the money to fund the journey did. You have such passion it will flow through you. Yours is only the hand that holds the pen!

    • David Colin Carr says

      My impulse was exactly Laura’s: Write it!

      Need help? Support is a call away. Let’s talk through how to get it moving until it coasts on its own.

    • Jennifer Ire says

      Just reading the comments. Thanks for the encouragement. Now that I have completed a very important piece of work for the benefit of my life, I believe these writings will begin to flow. I am looking forward to that. Thanks.

  7. Donna Aceves says

    It happened last month in the surgeon’s office. He said “you have a tumor on your right adrenal gland that is pushing into your liver. The surgery is dangerous because the adrenal glands sit in the middle of all these important organs. The surgery will take about seven hours. You will be in the hospital about seven to ten days. We can do the surgery tomorrow.” In that moment, I understood that I had to surrender everything. My appointments, plans, any semblance of normal life, and possibly my life.
    On that long drive home, resistance to what I had to do- tell my family, call clients, arrange to have all the details of responsibility covered while the walls of my normal life were getting ripped out, came whispering in. “Don’t call your daughter, she’ll be too upset.” “What are you going to tell your clients?” “How are you going to take care of your mother’s bills now?” And then surrender. “I have to do these things. It will be okay.”
    It happened two weeks later when I was still in the hospital, a full week past what was planned. Minutes before I was to be discharged, the surgeon looked at the small tube coming out of my belly and said, “I don’t like how this looks, please have it examined by the lab.” Several hours later he told me there was a rare complication, a secretion from a lymph gland, that revealed the organs near the surgery site had not healed enough, so it was not medically safe to send me home.” By now, I felt like I had been in a huge classroom in the school of life, and the classroom was ‘surrender.’ In the end, I was in the hospital 22 days. I had surrendered going to the bathroom without help, showering, fresh air, a good night’s sleep, and food. What I received in this twilight zone experience was a tidal wave of love and support from family and friends, and a deeper understanding of how much meditation, and mindfulness offers the capacity to know when to hang on and when to let go.
    I’m home now, getting stronger every day. I just learned that chemotherapy and a ‘difficult pill’, according to the oncologist, is in my future. I trust I will come through this with a deeper understanding of Danna Faulds words, “
In the choice to let go of your 
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.” I believe it is already happening.

    • Ilana says

      Wow Donna- So glad you came out of it okay. I found myself able to relate to a lot of what you said because of my brain surgery. I spent two weeks in the ICU and for the first one I was restrained. I really connected with the loss of “showering, fresh air, getting a good night’s sleep.” I also understood the idea of putting life on hold. I think all of it would have been much easier to deal with if I had had the courage to surrender. I wish you strength as you take your next steps in this journey. All the best, IM

    • Laura Davis says

      Donna, this is a odd way to learn about what you’ve gone through! I’m so sorry you’ve crossed over into the land of thosexwho’ve been severely I’ll. And so thrilled that you are on the men’s. I learned many of the same lessons whenni had cancer. In glad you had the inner and outer resources to see you through.Sending big love….

    • David Colin Carr says

      Donna, it’s as strong a shock to learn about your appointment with reality through a blog as in person – perhaps stronger because the totality of your physical expression is absent to balance it. Please draw on my heart’s capacity as needed – wish I were closer by to deliver chicken soup.

      • Faye Beyeler says

        Dear Donna, sending you strength and love to continue with your healing. You have quite a story, and as well as surrender, you need courage!

  8. Sangeeta S. says

    I’ve been trying to surrender for the last several years to “life.” As it turns out, my life took a massive turn that I was not expecting..but i’m glad. As many now know, I fell into a ditch and it took about 50 shovels to get me out. As it turns out though, with each new shovel, a new “me” emerged..
    And now, (as it turns out..) I’m encountering my “final” shovel–for this go-around at least. And boy, is this “final shovel” a doozy. I’m right at the top; my head is peering out; I can see the whole world around me; and now I’m going through my (25 years too late) teenage rebellion!!

    As it goes, i’m “falling in love” with cute guys like a teen; i’m watching bad TV –and enjoying it; I’m taking time off from work and feeling very confused about every aspect of my life; and i’m freaking out like a 22 year old who’s just trying to find her “sea legs!!” Like that fish out of water, I’m having trouble learning how to breathe again–but, for some reason, I think it’s going to be worth it!

    I thank all of the experiences I had during my journey, and I look forward to the next stage of my life–whatever it may bring…

    • Ilana says

      Sangeeta- I love the image of the new you coming out with each shovelful. As I read about you going through your teenage rebellion and freaking out like a 22 year old I felt very liberated. My mind said, “Go for it!” Beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      And let me throw in a boisterous Canadian “You go, woman!” I celebrate all those wonders with you. I’m just now rebelling and, rumour has it, I’m over 35. Falling in love and lust with things. Enjoying the old anew. I’m joyfully going through it all in my own way. Aint it a marvel? Precious. No matter what age or to what degree.

  9. Jim Dowling says

    There is no episode, or satori, I can pinpoint. For me, it’s more an ongoing process. Life, experience, change. I surrender by degrees, in fits and starts. Like the moth chasing the light, I go round and round, hoping to occasionally graze the light. And once in a while, without warning, it’ll happen. I’ll be swept up in something powerful and profound enough to realign my perspective by a few degrees. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like. There is no predicting or sure-fire formula. A sense of adventure and an open mind are only stage props, inviting something to occur. No guarantee. Desire, effort? — just wasted energy. As the quote reminds us, “There is no controlling life.”
    Years ago I jumped off the side of a mountain in a hang glider. I was a novice and attempting one of my first altitude launches. Take off was smooth and uneventful. I coasted gracefully about out in front of the mountain, taking in the views, absolutely enthralled by the freedom and sensation of ‘birdlike’ flight. After a few minutes I yelled down to my girlfriend to drive the car down to the fields below. I’d meet her down there after a little more fun in the air. I watched the little blue car bounce down the logging road, dust boiling up, then dissipating – and then she was gone.
    A few minutes later, I felt some lift and began a slow, gentle ascent from where I’d started. I thought, wow, I must be getting good at this. I’m going up in a thermal, doing what I’d seen experienced pilots do. The earth began to fall away. My variometer (an ‘audible’ rate of climb indicator) chirped a bit faster, indicating my rate of ascent was speeding up. The logging road where I’d launched, gradually diminished to a faint reddish thread. To my right an abandoned fire lookout on the peak came into view and then, it too, slid below me. Enough. I’d never been anywhere near this altitude before. It was a little unnerving. Time to leave the thermal and go land; call it a fun and very exciting day.
    I made a beeline out away from the mountain below me, intending to extricate myself from the air rushing up its flanks. It didn’t work. Out over the fields my rate of ascent exploded, the variometer going nuts, the chirp now a high-pitched whine. I banked the glider hard to one side and saw it there above me; understood beyond any doubt, the nature and depth of my predicament. This was no thermal. I was being sucked up by a cloud. Literally inhaled. A broad expanse of ashen-grey underbelly was but a few thousand feet above and closing fast. This hungry cumulus was feeding on all the heated air it could find, pearling up, magnificent…deadly.
    My god, this is it, I’m going… to die? That’s what I thought. For a few seconds, it was like I was under a spell – crippled by fear and morbid fascination. Powerless, rocketing upward, I was on the verge of entering this thing that would surely consume me and my flimsy craft, ensnare us together in a wild torment of dark, frigid turbulence. And after that? Solid ground, over a mile below. I’d heard stories. I wouldn’t be the first casualty of what pilots call “cloud suck.”
    I had to try something. Instinct kicked in. What I did next, no one taught me. I forced the glider into the tightest, high angle turns I could manage. One wing pointed toward the ground, the other practically straight at the cloud. We spun. It was dizzying. Wind screamed in the wires –the glider under stresses beyond what it was designed to withstand. But she held together and I repeated the maneuver three more times until at last I found myself below and free from the grip of updrafts. I eased her down and landed in the fields, feeling weak, utterly spent, and very, very alive. Raindrops, cool and refreshing, began to pelt the ground. The car showed up. My girlfriend hopped out and asked, “How was it?” I couldn’t find the words. Fact is, I never really have. It was like I was supposed to leave one world of incredibly intense sensation and come willingly back to the other. I wasn’t quite ready or prepared.
    So, yes, that day I’d say I was treated to “new eyes”. I suspect I came away “altered” for life. I like to believe the experience imparted a heightened appreciation for the fragility of life, the beauty of things commonplace, the transitory nature of our existence. It’s hard to know anything for sure.
    I do know I grazed the light.

    • beverly Boyd says

      Jim, I loved this account of an incredible. I especially liked “crippled by fear and morbid fascination.”
      I envy your adventures. I lost my daring mojo when I came close to a bad accident going over a water ski jump I had taken unerringly many times as a teenager. I realized that my concern about leaving my three small children without a mother made risky sports even more risky.

      • Jim Dowling says

        I know. For me it’s all in the prompt. If something stirs, I write. Surfing the archives I read your piece on Maharaj ji. That’s a fine story. Brought back memories. I saw the Boy Wonder in Montrose, CO. Maybe I’ll get a chance to share that sometime.

          • Jim Dowling says

            Had the Astrodome levitated so much as an inch, I might be a smiling barefoot devottee to this day, but…Montrose did it for me. I was on a (failed) mission, trying to talk someone into coming back home to California.

    • David Colin Carr says

      Grazing the Light – great title. This piece is a strong beginning. What next? Or is “I couldn’t find the words” the punchline?

      • Faye Beyeler says

        This is a beautiful, riveting piece. “Grazing the Light” does sound like a great title! Thank you for sharingl.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Incredible story and storytelling, Jim. I’m always interested in what you post. These prompts really stoke the memory database, don’t they?

      • Jim Dowling says

        Absolutely. Laura’s prompts have got me writing about a whole lot of things I’d stuck on the back burner. It’s such a wonderful, accepting and positive forum.

  10. Dianne Brown says

    Out of Chile

    In 1997, my husband and I were in a cloudy and dark place in our relationship. We had just come back to California after being in Chile for almost a year. His dreams were somewhat down the drain, and our marriage looked like it was following suit.

    One day, one beautifully auspicious day, after a semi-quasi-hemi-sort of argument, my husband told me to get a friend. I felt deflated. I had been gone for a year; to whom could I turn?

    I shared my dilemma with a sage someone who advised me to just go somewhere away from my house, be alone, and just give it up to the powers that be. I was instructed to lay it down, or cast it to the wind, or surrender to possibility that may not look like anything familiar.

    I took my dog and walked up to an overlook high above the Trinity River. I knelt down in the soft grass and mentally shed my load. I asked for a direction that would bring passion back into my life. I surrendered my desire to control my relationship with my somewhat depressed husband and just asked for passion to come into my life—that my life would be ablaze again.

    After being on that high grassy bluff for over two hours, I called my dog and we trekked back to the house. I was only fifteen yards or so from my door when I heard a voice resound from within me saying, “Now go write.” I ran back to the house and grabbed a pen and paper and have not laid it down since.

    My husband? It’s been fifteen years now since I had what I call my “tent of meeting” with the benevolent forces of the Universe. We are both happily ignited and living in the flames of our passions. I teasingly call him “Carackticus Potts,” as his passion is designing machinery and gadgets. He calls me “Poem” and “she who is like no other.”

    This is the story of my surrender on February 25th, 1997, the day I laid down the reins and was benevolently released from my crusty carapace of control. I dried my shimmery, diaphanous wings and have been in flight ever since.

    • Laura Davis says

      Dianne, thanks for the inspiring account. I’m so glad you had your insight and moment of revelation. And that it stuck!

  11. Diana says

    Driving along the road that hugs the coastal cliff, I looked out over the glistening Monterey Bay. As the Boardwalk’s vibrant colors came into a view I became annoyed. As I hummed along to Paula Abdul’s “Coldhearted Snake” I thought of the warm evening run I would have to skip. Since moving to Santa Cruz, I had come to depend on my after work run along the ocean cliff bike path. Looking out over the ocean, watching the surfers glide along Steamer’s Lane, dodging bicycles and giving the silent hand wave to other runners had become my evening’s addiction. A ritual that washed away the frustrations of the ill- fitting job I had. That evening my agency was sponsoring a community reception in downtown Santa Cruz. All staff, especially management staff were expected to attend. I had enough time to eat dinner, change clothes and get to the event. I pulled into my apartment complex parking space, cut Paula Abul off mid-lyric and headed inside. The warm sun hit my face and shoulders as I crossed the courtyard and my resentment grew. Looking at my watch, I had 45 minutes before I had to be downtown. Inside, I settled into comfortable clothes, grabbed my leftover Tacos Morenos burrito and lied down on the dining room floor. Finishing this delicious burrito was a small consolation for missing my run. My boyfriend, Gary, is making tea in the kitchen and listens as I kvetch about my evening work commitment. As I start to take my first bite, the apartment shakes, the chandelier sways and rattles. I look at Gary and he returns my gaze wide-eyed. In one swift motion he crosses the kitchen, grabs by forearm and pulls me to my feet. “This is the Big One”, he says as we hear a growing rumble. We bolt out the front door and down the stairs to the courtyard. The undulating ground makes me unsteady on my feet and I sit on my knees. I watch as the buildings and trees sway. The rumble grows to a deafening crescendo. It is as if a sleeping dragon below the earth’s surface has been awakened and he is cranky. Other tenants begin to gather in the courtyard and for 15 interminable seconds we submit to the dragon’s groans. As the earth returns to stillness, we become aware of the magnitude of the destruction. We have no TV or radio, so Gary and I walk to Downtown Santa Cruz. We are stunned at what we see. The main street, Pacific Avenue is covered in a cloud of dust. We smell the musty order of dirt and mortar. The street is filled with fallen brick. Storefronts have completely collapsed leaving bricks, glass and stunned employees on the sidewalk. Trees have been splintered like dry kindling and uprooted to crush the parked cars underneath. It was as if we had stepped into war news footage of the Middle East.
    In the ensuing hours we learn of the canceled World Series game, the fires and fallen freeway in San Francisco. Apparently, the dragon was angry at being awakened. Over the next couple of days, the dragon settles back into a fitful sleep, rousing randomly to groan and rumble the ground beneath us. We all surrendered to his erratic wakenings.
    The dragon has since settled into a tranquil slumber. I know he is irritable and could awaken at any moment.

    • Ilana says

      Awesome analogy with the dragon and I loved the detailed descriptions before we even knew what was going to happen. Well done!

    • beverly Boyd says

      I too remember that fifteen seconds, staring at the young mother with her year old twins in a double stroller and becoming aware that I was standing ten feet away from a fifteen foot high plate glass window. Then it was over. Only six things fell off the shelves of the store I worked at in Oakland.
      By midnight I knew that all six of my grown children living in Santa Cruz and San Francisco were at least alive. I was not able to surrender my anxiety about one daughter in Santa Cruz. When the phone rang about three days later I rushed to answer and fell over a box of hanging file folders I was working on, badly gouging up my legs and arms. I called it my earthquake related injury.

  12. David Colin Carr says

    And indeed you did NOT have to show up for your work obligation, Diana. What do you do to irritate dragons? (There’s a great title in that – Irritating Dragons – with a nice play on words.)

    • Diana says

      Yes, indeed I did not have to attend the work function that night. I guess The Dragon was the more irritated of the two of us!!!

  13. Eve says

    Tell me about a time you gave up and surrendered- (15 minute)
    I remember clearly the day in 2006. It was April 1st, 2006 to be exact!!! Letting go & surrendering was not in my vocabulary or understanding at that time you see. I had been out on in the world & battled it for 33 years by that time. In childhood I had to learn to be strong, because I felt so all alone. It did not take long for me to realize this was a cold hard place. A cold hard space with only food to love & taste. I was at the peak or at the highest spot. At least in my own mind, but Gods it was surely not. Feeling high & mighty like I had this world by the balls! Only to find out that God was about to let me fall. Fall away from His love & grace was a space I was about to fill. Didn’t really care- I’d just take another pill. Another hit of X or nitrous in a can, it mattered not. Little did I know- God was about to slam the door shut!!! Shut it from His heart, so I could cause it no more pain- that is what I would have done!!! Instead He decided to send His only Son…
    I saw the flames of hell on that day- I saw the pit!!! I needed to see it, because in His face I had spit!!!!! So many times, so little thought had been provoked. You see – I was caught up in this world of which I have already spoke. Lying & stealing with a big smile on my face! It was all about me, and at that time I was really raging! The machine would not win this one, but only because of what He has done!!! I deserve to be in that place He showed me to live & to feel, but instead I have surrendered to His Love & my heart He did steal…

    Ever Grateful—–
    Love, EVE (End Violation & Evolve)

    • Ilana says

      EVE- Very thought provoking. The rhythm and rhymes give it a very poetic feel. I also love your name and what it stands for. My daughter’s middle name is Eve. Though for different reasons. Thank you for sharing and I am so glad my older daughter’s idea added to your Thanksgiving. She’ll be very pleased to hear someone else gained from her work. IM

    • says

      Eve, in another story some time, I’d love to hear more details about exactly where you were and what you were doing at that turning point in your life. You hint at a lot in this piece; someday I’d love to hear the details so I can re-experience it with you.

  14. Ilana says

    When is it Time to Surrender Control?

    Surrendering control. Hmm. It’s a multidimensional, multifaceted thing. As a child I gave up control regularly. It was a self defense mechanism for me. Children have so little power anyway. The grownups make all the decisions. Add a dysfunctional family system to that and it seems a foregone conclusion. So back then it was just easier to do as I was told ‘shut up about it’ so to speak.

    When I was a junior in college I got a phone call from home. “Pam is sick.” My dad said. Pam was my cousin on my dad’s side and my counterpart, as the middle child. I waited for him to tell me she had a bad cold or something and wondered why this was particularly newsworthy. “It’s cancer.” He finished. The air went out of my lungs. Cancel all plans for winter vacation. We’d spend three days driving in a snow storm across four states to spend a week sitting in hospital waiting rooms, listening to test results and trying to comfort her. Throughout that week one phrase chanted continually through my mind. “It’s not my time.” I kept telling myself that it didn’t matter what I wanted. I didn’t care what we did. It wasn’t my time. “I’m here for Pam.” Pam battled leukemia for two and a half years before she finally lost the battle and we lost her. During those two and a half years every vacation was spent flying out to visit her. “Not my time.” Surrendering control was the only way to survive. Otherwise it would have been a constant, unwinnable, war to try and plan anything I needed or wanted for myself. It just cost too much; too much energy, too much guilt and too much shame over having needs while my cousin lay dying, slowly and painfully. It was just easier not to have needs.

    Pam’s death is a clear example of this behavior but it was really the way I had always run my life. “Keep everyone else happy. It’s the best way not to get hurt.” When I met my husband I continued to work from this MO. “I don’t care where we go to dinner. Whatever you want is fine with me.” He didn’t like it. He wanted a girlfriend who had opinions and preferences, not a slave with no choice. Slowly, I began to express how I felt about things and by the time we were a whole family with three children, I claimed an equal vote in how we ran our lives.

    Only recently, have I learned about the beautiful side of surrendering control; in a healthy, safe relationship. Just last night is a perfect example. After planning and cooking my very first Thanksgiving dinner I completely relinquished control and responsibility. I had planned activities for the event. The table was covered with butcher paper and I poured out crayons and markers. It never got used. My oldest daughter had created worksheets for all five of us to fill out and present to the rest of the family. ‘What I am grateful for.’ I participated and it was wonderful. The butcher paper went into the garbage can with more turkey grease on it than art. Fine with me. We all had fun and learned from each other. Even after that, I relished not needing to be in control, of anything. “I can wash the dishes myself or you can help me if you want. I really don’t mind either way.” No, really, I didn’t care. He did help but it wouldn’t have mattered. “Who’s going to put the girls to bed and who the boy? I don’t care.” It went that way for the rest of the night and I enjoyed the quiet participation in what others asked for. No need to make demands and hope things went my way. No need to worry that things wouldn’t work out perfectly. After the children fell asleep we made love and I lay dozing in the beautiful, peaceful aftermath. But Zander couldn’t sleep. I would have been just as happy to go back to sleep but it was no sacrifice to turn on the light and read to him until he stopped responding to the humor in the book. It was a most perfect ending to a thrilling family holiday.

    So looking back over the times I have surrendered control and the times I have exerted it, I come to one very valuable conclusion. Moderation in all things. There is a time to be in control and there is a time to relax and let other people call the shots. For me the most important thing is to make a choice and take that rout because it is the best choice for me at the time.

    • Eve says

      What a great story & a great idea for family engaging over dinner. I am going to try to construct a tool for Thankful communication right now as we are having our Thanksgiving tonight (had to work yesterday). Happy Thanksgiving!!!

      • Eve says

        P.S. Your daughters idea was a great hit at our Thanksgiving feast last night!!! Thank you… I just wrote each person some random things about each of us that they were thankful about & gave them 7 minutes to fill out the card. It was awesome!!! We found out that we are very happy about the tune of farts in our house…(too funny)

      • Ilana says

        Thanks. I’m sure you are right. I managed to do the same thing with my Bat Mitzva today and made no mistakes! (Thought I think the months of intense studying may have had something to do with it too.:)

  15. Paula Hill says

    It was Spring of 1989. My marriage had ended abruptly, the shock of which catapulted a part of myself outside the confines of skin, blood and lymph. As the alchemy of emotions hovered mysteriously, misting me with darkened ethereal hues, friends mostly stayed away, but a few came close to offer love. Melanie and Casey invited me to join them on a trip to Oaxaca. Up to that point, I had not been on a trip without my daughters, nor was it an inclination of mine, but the thought of an exotic adventure away from home-turned-nightmare felt in order.

    As I recall, flying into Oaxaca takes one through what seems hundreds of miles of high altitude farm lands. The terraces of green are stunning. Tourists often stay in a motel along the zocalo where coffee venders with pastries set up carts, and multitudes of bold children call out “chickley, chickley”, wanting the few cents the travelers can cast their way in trade for the chewing gum. Exhausting our time in that thriving town, we decided to catch a plane to Puerto Escondido. Many Americans visit this coastal beach to surf the renown waves. It’s a blessed place of pristine beaches, blue skies and tropical temperatures, where breakfast is served with varieties of juicy cooling fruits. It’s also a place when during the sleeping hours and the moonlight shines under the door, something stirs you awake, and the stark outline of a large scorpion, complete with threatening curly tail, crawls through, challenging the feeling of safety in one’s bed.

    The small commuter plane took off. Melanie and Casey took seats on one side, and I on the other where the aisle is located alongside the wings of the plane. As the plane lifted and leveled out, I noticed that the wheels were flopping and a small motor was revving up to lock them in place…..to no avail. By then Melanie and Casey noticed the same dilemma. We became privy to the problem whom other passengers were oblivious until fifteen minutes later, after the motor’s many attempts to lock in the landing gear, the pilot came over the intercom making the announcement. He said we would be circling the fields for about an hour or as long as it took to use up the gasoline before attempting a landing, a landing which would be made in the agricultural fields away from the airport.

    We had noticed that a couple of women with young children had been escorted on the plane with special attention, as though of an aristocratic class. These women instantly cried out and their weeping could be heard through the whole duration of the ordeal. Melanie, Casey and I exchanged concerned looks, but each of us turned inward to our own solo journeys.

    My children came to mind, and I felt an overwhelming sadness. My whole life became pictured in the silence of imagination, each segment brimming with life, each character bright and vibrant. As I realized I could die, or be badly injured, I became philosophical. There was absolutely nothing I could do to make the situation better; the pilots were in charge. It was as though the panic of some of the other passengers kept me the more stoic and accepting. At the time, there had been in news headlines two major airline crashes with tragic endings, and I remember thinking, “things come in threes”. So, for over an hour I swam through the tension with a sense of surrender and, though not religious…prayer.

    Meanwhile, that little motor sound became a mantra, one unsuccessful attempt after another. However, moments before a landing was attempted, the wheels seemed to have locked in as though by a feather’s touch. I can remember staring at the wheels the whole time, though we had been instructed to brace ourselves in a certain position. We circled closer to the fields until the pilots flew low over the land for what seemed an eternity. The plane finally touched ground… the wheels held…a belly landing was averted.

    In a short while, sirens could be heard, approaching us from the airport a mile away. Soon, a limousine arrived, gathered up the family of aristocrats, and the rest of us walked back to the airport. I couldn’t help but think of the irony of life, the common sharing of the fate of strangers; the distinct comparison of treatment towards those who shined with a more gracious gallantry as compared to the behavior of those who ended up being specially treated. But also, as I took each step there contained a grace, strength and gratitude for my humble life, a life I came to more fully understand within heretofore voids, as greatly held by larger hands on a grander scale.

  16. Faye Beyeler says

    Stress Balls

    There is a pile of sand in my purse
    My brand new purse!
    It’s even in my brand new wallet; on
    My lipstick, hairbrush, and mascara, too

    Which I sometimes wear for special events
    And I need them all to be sand-free.
    Some sand is also on the floor and carpet
    Because my purse fell, landing upside down.

    Everything inside my purse fell out. I
    Do not carry many items beside
    A wallet, compact, lipstick, checkbook, floss
    Pen, mascara, hairbrush, Advil and a kippah (!?!),

    And the now-deflated outside of my
    Stress ball. This is the second time I broke
    A stress ball. The first was gelatin filled
    And it really made a great big oozy mess.

    Well, this is very stressful. I don’t know
    If I can ever fully clean it up.
    Sand is in the pockets, seams, and corners.
    Making my brand-new purse seem kind of old.

    A long, long time ago I took a class,
    Psychology 100. We answered questions:
    Do you have financial problems? Is your
    Health bad? Has anyone important to you died?

    How about security on the job?
    We got points for our answers. If we
    Hit 100 points, according to the test
    Our lives were stressed. My score was 313.

    That’s when I bought my first stress ball, I think.
    It seemed like such a good idea until
    The damned thing broke, oozing out and making
    That big goopy mess. I’m looking at my

    Purse’s contents, upside down and sitting
    On my now sandy floor. Scratching my head,
    And stroking my chin, I think – hmmmmm
    It doesn’t look like very much has changed!
    I don’t know the number for my life now;
    I don’t want to quantify the pain.
    That doesn’t seem a good response, nor does
    Cymbalta, Prozac, or a glass of wine.

    I’m going to give up on stress balls and
    Instead embrace whatever comes my way.
    Nobody ever said life would be easy:
    The next sand on my floor comes from the beach!

    Faye Beyeler

    not for anyone in particular

  17. beverly Boyd says

    Faye, I loved the irony of the stress balls creating even more stress! I hope you get some beach sand between your toes soon.

  18. Debbie says

    Blinking back that now familiar pressure burning behind the lids
    Forcefully willing the tearducts to constrict, to close.
    Pausing, satisfied
    I shut my eyes allowing only the smallest droplet of emotion to escape.
    What do I know of surrender?
    Surrender feels like chaos.
    Waltzing between wild abandon and dark despair.
    Vacillating between jumping for joy and jumping into the abyss,
    Sometimes in a matter of mere seconds.
    Surrender feels like despair.
    Unrequited searching for the oft heralded freedom that is supposed to occur.
    Instead will is gripped by icy fingers of fear in suspended animation
    Praying to loosen the white-knuckled grip
    Only to paw wildly for a handhold with the first slip.
    Surrender feels like defeat.
    It is a triple somersault from the high wire trapeze without a net.
    There is no net
    Yet, or surrender.

    • Ilana says

      Wow Debbie- It’s beautiful. I love your imagery. Being someone who has done that drop from the flying trapeze, I can connect with the comparison. It takes in immense amount of trust to let go of that bar and hope the guy on the other trapeze will catch you. In the end, though, it took trust in myself, that I could cope with the consequences of whatever the other person would do. Thanks for posting it! IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Wow Debbie. The imagery is amazing. I try not to think about this part of surrender: “Vacillating between jumping for joy and jumping into the abyss.” But, that’s the feeling for sure, a constant companion. Like a kid brother you’re just starting to need a little break from. Hey, I’m coming up with more words than usual. 🙂 Rest and tenderly caring for myself sure feels good.

  19. Terry Gibson says

    Surrender. I never was good at that. When I think about it now, I remember last July at a retreat and tackling a ten-minute writing exercise on “The Disease of More” and I was eager to give it a go. As the piece unfolded, I admitted how nice it would be to have two pairs of shoes. Please know that I am not lamenting here: I do not need another pair. As I wrote, I knew a pair of dress shoes would be nice if by fluke I had to go to a social event; I wore those shoes years ago to the Orpheum to see Maya Angelou and I was embarrassed but let it go quickly. Otherwise, what I have is just fine.

    They were also perfect for wandering around Land of the Medicine Buddha (LMB) in Soquel, California. This 108-acre property is sacred land. It is steep, rocky, and surrounded by redwoods whose bark looks as if someone repeatedly ran a steel rake up and down the length of their trunks. Quiet? It was so steeped in a foggy hush, I waited for people to burst out in exhale suddenly, from a collective holding of breath.

    I held mine in fear and awe as B’s car chugged up the vertical inclines and deposited us safely at the gate. We made it! We did arrive too early, which made me uncomfortable. I wore that feeling up the stairs to Laura’s cabin. B. wanted to discuss retreat-oriented details and both of us were eager to see Laura’s latest work, a two-volume book written and published for her Mom’s 85th birthday.

    Once inside, I bent down to take off my shoes and placed them neatly against the open door. For a moment, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I needed to sit but felt too shaky to just do it and too awkward to ask. I knew it would be fine but I was such a bundle of nerves. Instead, I kept saying, “Whew. It’s nippy,” and took to rubbing my hands together fast like a cricket in the frosty air.

    “We’d better close that,” Laura said. “It’s cold in here.” Someone moved to do so, perhaps it was me; I don’t remember but do know I moved my shoes out of the way. I’m sure it was okay to leave them on, given neither B. nor Laura were standing in their socks. Even if I did look a bit silly, I left them off.

    Being at LMB, with its huge prayer wheels and thirty-five foot Buddha, threw me back to my shoeless days in Japan. The Japanese people love slippers or Uwabaki, which are mostly for home–although some companies provide them for their employees and some people wear sturdier versions out in the street as well. There are special ones for almost every room, including the bathroom.

    Awestruck by the rustic beauty around, my system flooded me with the buoyancy of laughter one night in Kyoto. We’d been drinking Kirin beer, enjoying the hot tubs and the tasty spread of food they put on for us at dinnertime, complete with dancers. Finally, tucked into my tatami in the dark, I mused about our arrival at the Inn late that evening. There must’ve been thirty or forty pair of slippers just inside the door. I never saw anything like it in my life.

    Laura’s co-facilitator, David, suddenly appeared which snapped me from the wisp of memory. We’d already exchanged hugs and hellos outside so we greeted each other with smiles. “If there’s anything I can do to help …” I offered again, letting my words trail off. I was eager to volunteer, to be busy, to enjoy every second until I could rest again.

    “There is,” he said. “When they’re finished cleaning the rooms, you can put a special treat on everyone’s pillow.” That sounded great to me. I loved being a part of surprises for people. Then he was gone. I was so excited to be there!

    I still felt like a zombie had just munched on my brain as I flipped through the thick and hard-covered Volume one. I handled it with care. I openly admired a picture of Laura and her Mom. I was so tired my defences were down and I experienced a fleeting moment of sadness that there was nothing left of my own family.

    A couple minutes later, it was time to go. Laura opened the door while B. still studied a page of the book.

    My eyes darted to every corner of the room. “Did you see my shoes?” I ask them, feeling a bit stupid. Inside, I am grilling myself, ‘What did you DO this time Terry?’

    I scanned the few feet of open wall space. I couldn’t believe it. I knew where I left them but not where they were at that second. Quietly, I interrupted B. and Laura who were talking again, “Did either of you see where my shoes went?” I thought that maybe Laura might have moved them for some reason. I always ‘clean up’ things at home and then promptly forget where I put something. Was that what happened? Or was I psycho?

    I didn’t want to snoop around Laura’s stuff and adjoining room. That would be rude but I was stumped. Where could they have gone?

    “David was carrying a bag,” I said. That had to be it. “Do you think he might’ve accidentally picked them up?”

    Laura and B. turned and looked at me. I wondered if they thought I was joking. Some people know me to be good at the art of deadpanning, with the only hint of my real shenanigans lurking in a teensy gleam in my eyes. This was a true mystery. My only foot cosies were gone.

    “Buddhists don’t steal,” B. said. I nodded. I knew that to be true, which puzzled me even more. Would someone steal anyway? Why my shoes?

    They were not special except to me. However, if anyone knows the exception to a rule, it would be me. Life usually goes that way for me, which cracks me up after my usual head shaking in disbelief.

    Everyone was ready to go. B. left first. I hung back hoping my runners would magically appear again. It was not to be so I took the stairs after her, clicking my walking poles on the each step.

    My feet hit the cold hard ground. It felt wonderful! My toes and soles tingled and felt damp. I made it! I was at the memoir retreat I had wanted so badly to attend. Thrilled. Motivated. Unconcerned about anything else.

    Laura’s voice came from behind, “Are you walking out there in your stocking feet?” She sounded a little incredulous and amused, I thought.

    I smiled. “Yes,” I said, keeping the focus on my feet. I had no shoes, nor money to buy new ones, which meant there could be no overnight delivery. In addition, what of it? I did not know what was ahead of me in the next thirty seconds or half-hour. Certainly not in the next three days.

    Who cared? I loosened my grip, my control. Nothing mattered except the present, the freshness that enveloped me. That tweaked all of my senses despite my exhaustion. I accepted it all in one cycle of breath.

    I would not sit in my room. I would not miss a class or group. I would not sleep in. Pneumonia could creep into my body through my unprotected tootsies. That would be fine too.

    I would show up rabid with fever. I would swallow fiery pain in my back. I would drag a bloody stump across the threshold of that common room for a reading group. Nothing would stop my full participation. Bring on the memoir classes.

    Fate tested my commitment from the beginning, right down to leaving home at 4:40 am to meet a Quick Shuttle Airporter to Seattle. Lucky enough to find a window seat with an empty beside it, I plunked my pack down. Damn. I forgot to take out my drink. It was in the bus’s storage compartment underneath. Ugh! I had no water for four hours.
    It would go fast, I told myself, given I would be asleep for the entire trip. That’s what I thought.

    A half-hour later, I opened my eyes to a breathtaking sky. It was like watching intricately laced pink snowflakes hanging against a burgeoning purple sky. My eyes glued to everything around me, except the inside of my eyelids.

    “Terry, I’ve got an old pair of shoes in my car. I was just going to get rid of them, “ B. said.

    Wow. Really? “If they were the right size, that’d be great.”
    “Be right back.”

    They fit. I never wore Italian leather in my life. I took a few steps. It felt amazing. And I did believe I felt a swagger coming on. What other magic was in store for me?

    After saying goodbye to B., so ecstatic that we got such a huge chunk of time together, I met David and accepted the huge plastic container with room keys in it. I felt like a sneak as I opened each door, ducked inside, and left the ‘treat,’ which I cannot reveal as part of my sworn oath. Only, things weren’t moving very quickly. I was slowing him down and others were starting to arrive. The sleek and sexy ‘slippers’ for a queen made me hobble and quickly at that.

    “I can’t walk in these any more,” I told David, laughing. Back to socks.
    A couple minutes later, he had gone and come back. With a huge smile, he held up my running shoes. Yep. They were gray with a light mauve stitching alright. Oh my gosh! “Where WERE they?”

    “Behind the door.” I was overwhelmed. What door? “Behind Laura’s door.”
    We had a great laugh while I slipped into this queen’s slippers.

    So you see, I’ve got this go with the flow thing down pat. Bring on the next exit. “The Disease of More?” Still? Where’s my new writing prompt? I know Maya would be pleased.

    • Ilana says

      Terry- What a great story. I know I could not have been so cool. I freaked out the whole first night because I’d “lost” my key to the room. Ha! It was in a zipped pocket in my purse so I wouldn’t lose it! I loved how you were able to enjoy the retreat regardless of having lost your shoes. Thanks for reminding me not to take life too seriously. 😉 IM

  20. Terry Gibson says

    Thanks Ilana. I don’t know about me being cool but my feet sure were.
    I’m so saddened right now. My beloved Teika, my companion of 10 1/2 years died this morning. Suddenly. (Wrote about her in prompt about the senses.) No way to know she was sick.It’s devastating to me, while parents in Newton are burying their little children. I know you can’t measure pain or shouldn’t compare it by any means but I somehow think it’s supposed to hurt less. I’ll miss her so much!

    • Ilana says

      I hear you Terry- I always have a hard time feeling the right to mourn my own losses in the wake of someone else’s loss, especially if their loss is “bigger”. A friend of mine, suffering from cancer (thank God she beat the odds) explained to me, “What is happening to you is not smaller because something big happened to me. You have to experience your feelings regardless of what I am going through.” I hope something wonderful happens for you to ease your pain. Be well, IM

  21. Sangeeta S. says

    I believe that the last few years of my life I have actively and continuously chosen to give up control over my life and simply surrender to what will come. It has not been easy–perhaps lifetimes in the making. But I tried it the other way and I kept hitting a brick wall. So finally several years ago I started letting go; just a little, then a little more, then a bit more. Now, for all I know, I could end up in the space shuttle on Mars tomorrow- either literally or figuratively, and not be all that surprised! But you know what? A funny thing seems to be happening the more and more I let go.

    As I let go, I’m finding that the things that are coming my way “feel right.” They feel like exactly what I was supposed to be doing all along but that I had to go through “it” before I could get here. hmmmm, what a surprise!

    No Mars, no space shuttle, just me. So, now what? Nothing, just keep letting go, and wait to see what comes. humph-what a trip!

  22. says

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    • says

      Dear Karasu, Welcome to the Writer’s Journey Roadmap. Just wanted to let you know that people rarely go back and look at older posts, so you probably won’t get any response to this. If, however, you respond to the current post, you will!

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