Rachels' blog: Falling Into Place

clock Released On 07 May 2024

Rachels' blog: Falling Into Place

Have you ever watched a toddler trying to do a puzzle?

I love the mix of concentration and confusion on their little face as they just try to jam the shapes into any of the holes in the puzzle board, with no regard for how the edges of the shape need to carefully match its unique space on the board.

Jam, jam, jam.

Sometimes the sheer force of the jamming garners results and the shape yields to the space, albeit uncomfortably! Mostly though, no matter the force or the passion with which the toddler might want that square shape to fit the triangle space, it will not go. And that’s when you or I (if we’re feeling kind or just wish to avoid a tantrum!) would sit with the toddler and gently suggest they try the square shape in the square space; relishing the smiles that inevitably follow.

Shapes are obviously basic when it comes to toddler puzzles. Though not a fan of them myself, I’m well aware that adult puzzles come in all sizes, designs and difficulty levels. Much like seasons in our lives.

Whilst perhaps a frivolous example, I was struck recently by how accurate this metaphor is for the journey of life. In some seasons of my life, as I’ve started to see a picture emerge, I’ve found there’s a gap in the middle and I don’t seem to have the missing pieces. At other times I’ve definitely been guilty of trying to forcibly jam the pieces I have into shapes that quite clearly do not fit, so that when I step back the picture I have created is a mangled mess; something akin to Picasso (think, ‘Face of the Woman’) but certainly not what I was hoping for or expecting.

I’m a type A personality. I like stuff in its right place and for things in my life to be organised in a sensible way, following the course I expect. But life has not, and does not, respect my type A requirements! The state of the puzzle of my life has left me feeling confused, frustrated and downright angry at times! I wonder if you can relate?

I recently watched the new series ‘One Day’ on Netflix. I remember the original film ending but watching it again, the back and forth of the relationship between the main protagonists has been strangely relatable. And it got me thinking. Thinking about the way people and friendships weave in and out of our lives; how many of us move jobs frequently compared to previous generations and how life today is so much more fluid than it ever was before.

I’d suggest, however, that we are not more fluid. We might want to be – even claim we are, on socials (#goingwiththeflow) - but I don’t think any of us truly are. I don’t think we were designed to be. I love adventure and the next new thing, sure, but I also know I crave stability and certainty. I like to know my square shape is safe in its square space. And when it all suddenly changes, as it often does in life, it can feel like someone has tipped up our puzzles and messed with our pieces. We can feel like we’re having to start all over again.

Let’s be real. Life can be really hard and unexpected; watching ‘One Day’ has reminded me of this. I relate to feeling unsure of my path, my career and my relationships. Much like the main characters, I have been different versions of myself over the years, been a part of different friendship groups and dated different people and yet the central piece of my puzzle has always been me!

In my last blog I wrote about two high performance habits that I learnt about last year – clarity and energy – and how being mindful of these significantly helped me. Well, a third high performance habit I learnt about is being able to demonstrate courage in your life.

I think that’s been the key to the pieces falling into place for me.

We could think of courage in layers - physical (walking a rope bridge strung high up with a valley miles below), mental (standing up for yourself) and moral (fighting against injustice).

But then, underneath all those, there’s authentic courage – understood to be the highest level of self-awareness and a significant indicator of a growth mindset. Being able to identify and start to develop authentic courage in myself meant I learnt to know who I am and celebrate that. It’s the skill of learning to appreciate the efforts I make - with myself and others, in my work, relationships and hobbies - rather than only considering the outcomes and results of those efforts. This was huge for me as I’d always been focused on results. But so many of the results in my life were out of my control. My efforts never are. And that was powerful to remember!

Courage can be a hard thing to explain and often we tend to jump straight to how it helps us overcome physical fears. That’s not wrong, but there’s so much more to it and it’s unique for each of us. Though I hadn’t acknowledged them as such before last year, examples of demonstrating courage in my own life looked like saying goodbye to relationships I knew weren’t what I deserved or truly wanted from life, even though it took time to admit it. It was taking an exciting job offer on a different trajectory, but also deciding to leave when it didn’t align with what I wanted from my career. It even looks like having an honest conversation about how I’d like to progress at work rather than putting it off because of what I expect a response to be to it.

My point is, I’ve discovered that demonstrating courage is just me being me, authentically, in all spheres of my life. And the more I’ve stepped out and acted on who I want to be and the life I want to live, the easier it has become to gain clarity on that and see things (and sometimes people) for what they are.

One of my pieces that I desperately hoped and prayed would be found one day, to fit the space that was waiting, was a partner. I’d had a number of relationships over the years but all of them felt like square shapes in triangle spaces. Until it didn’t! I recently got engaged to THE most amazing man I’ve ever met. It wasn’t like in the romcoms, there was no sudden burst of song from the random lady training her boxer dog nearby. The birds didn’t circle in celebration around our heads as we passionately embraced. But it was magical and romantic and wonderful! I’d finally found my triangle shape which fit the space. It’s remarkable how free and easy life can feel when the right pieces fit. I guess you could call it alignment or fate. For me, it’s my reality of answered prayers and being right where I believe God wants me, and who he wants me to be with.

 I’m not suggesting I’m anywhere close to being perfect! I still struggle with the uncertainty of what my future looks like – where I’ll work, where we’ll live, what our children might be like, who I’ll still be friends with in 20 years. And I still struggle with things that are massively out of my control. I’ve come to realise though, that I’m more bothered about developing and demonstrating authentic courage than I am about the other stuff and how people may perceive me.

Life is fleeting and I want to savour every moment of the pieces fitting, as well as being ok with my life even in seasons where they don’t quite seem to.

So, back to the ‘One Day’ storyline – and without giving any spoilers – I like how it shines a light on how messy our lives can be; how it can be hard to figure out who we are as individuals and what we truly want from life. I like how it exemplifies what demonstrating courage looks like in relationships i.e not settling, trying again and being vulnerable. And I really like that I feel I’m no longer in the thick of everything being uncertain. More of my pieces fit and I love how my puzzle is looking!


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