My grandparents first noticed each other in college. My grandfather noticed my grandmother’s intellectual curiosity, easy smile, and quick wit. My grandmother, however, noticed my grandfather’s annoying “big man on campus” persona. He was smart. He knew it. That, along with the fact that everyone thought he was “so wonderful,” made her crazy. When she told me the story decades later, she was sure to tell me she was just as smart—if not smarter—and just as impressive—if not more impressive, than my grandfather. He may have been the president of this organization and that organization, but she was a successful math major and was offered a scholarship to study theatre in London. And quite simply, she found his confidence irritating. But, just like in the most perfect romantic comedy, my grandfather pursued her relentlessly, and, over time, my grandmother softened. And again, just like in the movies, there was one obstacle to overcome before they could live happily ever after. And it’s this obstacle that forever strengthens my belief in the power of surrender.
My grandfather was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in his senior year of college, which in 1938, equated to a death sentence. With that, his dreams of being a fighter pilot were destroyed, but his life switched course to focus on a higher calling. My grandfather went to rabbinical school in Cincinnati, and meanwhile, my grandmother stayed in Albany, fighting for any job she could get while pursuing whatever higher degree she needed for bigger and better jobs. In three years, she had an advanced degree in math and social work. Over the miles, their bond deepened. My grandfather considered marriage, but not before my grandmother met with his doctor to fully understand his disease. It wasn’t great news. The doctor explained there was no way to know how long my grandfather would live. She would be marrying into a life of uncertainty, and in doing so, she would have to release any expectations of what her marriage and relationship should or might be. Now sure that being with my grandfather now far outweighed the unpredictability of the future and the relative inconsequentiality of her first impressions, my grandmother stayed with him, and they were married two years later.
In thinking about their story and their commitment to each other despite their reality of the unknown, I am reminded of yoga’s code of conduct, the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances). The niyamas offer guidance on how to strive toward a greater knowing of ourself, the world, and how the two weave together. One niyama, Isvara Pranidhana, challenges us to surrender to the unknown, to let go of expectation, and to put our faith in ourselves and something greater than ourselves.
Considering that many of us (myself included) prefer to control the trajectory of our lives, surrendering to the flow of life may seem particularly challenging. That said, to surrender neither implies nor means to do nothing or let life pass without action. Quite the contrary, surrendering is achieved through action. Upon greater understanding of my grandfather’s condition, my grandmother rigidly followed the rules set by his disease. She weighed every ounce of his food, kept a close watch on his insulin injections, and was always prepared with supplies in case of a diabetic reaction. Surrender is finding comfort within discomfort, overcoming obstacles by finding new paths, and defining and accepting boundaries. And that is just what my grandmother did.
To surrender to the flow of life and trust that it will lead you down the right path requires a deeper look into who or what is the enemy or opponent to which you need to cease resistance. You very well may be fighting against life’s twists and turns, and in doing so, perhaps you’re holding yourself back from listening to your intuition and experiencing life to its fullest. This week, challenge yourself to develop trust in yourself, physically, emotionally, and mentally. It is this trust in yourself from which surrender comes. For more guidance, check out our article on developing your intuition. As for my grandparents, in their 40 years together, she continually joked, “if I knew you’d live this long, I never would have married you.”
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