Life sure can hit us hard, am I right or am I right? All of us have had to navigate a curve ball or two (or 57!) on our journey – and ALL of us collectively navigated, and are still trying to manage, the pandemic and it’s aftermath.
How is it, though, that some people can get thrown a curve ball and knock it out of the park, while the rest of us stay stuck, minds swirling, tears flowing, anger growing with no energy to take a swing?
When life throws curve balls, why do some people hit a home run while others get stuck on the bench?
My First Curve Ball
If you have seen my TEDx talk you know that I was stuck on the bench (couch) when my first major curve ball came my way. When I found out my first baby was born blind I was stuck in anger, fear and sadness over the life I was “supposed” to have. The life I had planned. The dreams I had for my son. Blindness created the biggest, most devastating loss I had ever experienced. Or so I thought…
As you find out in the talk, I realized blindness may have been a loss for me, but it was not a loss in my son’s eyes. How can you feel loss over something you never had? Michael navigated his world just fine, I was the one crying on the couch, completely out of the game. I wouldn’t uncover this until much later, but what I figured out and what freed me to get unstuck, to get back in the game, walk up to the plate, and swing for the fences was this: I was focusing so much on what my son’s life should be, I was completely blocking my view to all that his life could be.
I had dreamt of my son throwing the winning touchdown, pitching the no hitter, valedictorian, summa cum laude… oh the scenes in the movie I wrote for his life! However, they were my dreams for him. What about his dreams?
How I Got Unstuck
When I stopped looking at blindness as blocking my dreams for Michael and all that I thought his life should be, I created the space for all that his life could be. I literally said out loud to him when he was three years old, “I don’t know what is in store for you, buddy, but I am going to be your guide, get you all the tools you need, and see where your life takes us.” Ok, so he was only three when I said that, all I got back from him was, “Oh, ok Mommy!”
If you know my journey or spend time here on my blog, you will see that Michael’s journey, and that of his younger blind brother, Mitch, (yes, I have 2 blind sons) have been nothing short of extraordinary. If they had had to live with the weight of my dreams on them, they would never have had the chance to soar into lives I never could have dreamed for them! (This article about Michael from Penn State will give you a glimpse of how good the “could be” ended up!)
I recently talked about this whole “should be/could be” concept on my Brilliantly Resilient podcast. You can hear me and my co-host, Mary Fran, discuss it more in depth in this episode. In addition, listen to this chat that Lewis Howes had with Jason Feifer, Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, on this very topic. Jason describes this with a brilliant loss/gain perspective. He says we get stuck because we focus on the loss (should be) in a situation instead of considering or looking ahead for the gain (could be).
How does this look in other curve balls that are perhaps in your mind, not as “big” as blindness? Well, when my husband of nineteen years walked out to pursue “other options” I was so upset that I was not going to have a 50th wedding anniversary, retire at the beach, etc (should be). I was stuck in sadness… until I realized I could finally be free from the devastating emotional agony that relationship caused and go after my dreams that had been buried for so long (could be).
When my daughter walked away from the sport I had coached her in her whole life I was so upset because we had a love of soccer in common and most of our friends were on that soccer field (should be). The program had gotten toxic and her mental health was at major risk in my divorce. She instead turned to basketball and a coach that was a healthy, happy man that built her confidence and grew her love of the game. She blossomed as a player and a person and is now heading into a college basketball career and is the happiest I have ever seen her (could be).
The Key Question to Ask to Get Unstuck
It seems every single day when I encounter curve balls big and small – I didn’t close the deal, the guy didn’t text back, we didn’t get the grant – I feel myself slipping into the “WTF” mode, which is my first step in the slippery slope where I end up sitting on the bench. As soon as I feel that trigger I stop and ask myself, “Am I focusing on what this should be (loss), instead of seeing it as an opportunity for what could be (gain)?” That is my first step to stepping up to the plate.
A Final Thought
The “should be/could be” concept is even in the Bible! I read the Jesus Calling book every morning as part of my Miracle Morning routine. Today’s passage states this: “Instead of regretting and resenting the way things are (should be), thank Me in all circumstances. Trust Me and don’t be fearful (could be).” You can listen to my interview on the Jesus Calling podcast here. I go very in depth into the “should be/could be concept”. If you are a parent, I strongly suggest you listen to the episode. I discuss the number one thing we do that causes our children to struggle with mental health (It’s tough to hear but it is an absolute game changer.)
Are you ready to shake off the “should be”, step up to the plate and swing for the fences? I’m cheering for you!
Kristin Smedley is a 2019 Champion of Hope Award winner. She is a two time Best Selling author, non profit leader and TEDx speaker. She originally planned to be a third grade teacher… and then two of her three children were diagnosed as blind. Kristin now speaks around the world sharing her journey to open the world’s eyes to seeing challenges and blindness differently. Kristin founded Thriving Blind Academy to solve the unemployment and literacy crisis in the blind community. Watch her TEDx talk here and order her book here. If you are interested to have Kristin speak at your upcoming virtual, live or hybrid event email her at Kristin@ThrivingBlindAcademy.org or download her speaker kit here.