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Curve Balls and Other Disturbing Opportunities

“Surprise, surprise, surprise!” Gomer Pyle, sidekick to Andy Griffith on his long running TV series, would announce some “fix” or “situation” that required solving. It may have been TV humor, but it worked as a popular TV show because it tapped into our every day lives.

Perhaps your life, like mine, has held multiple interruptions, turn arounds, and unwelcome surprises. I have come to trust in the inevitable surprise which leads me to today’s blog. I think that plan as we might (and as we need to) the “isness” of life will throw us curve balls. So, why do we keep being surprised?

This morning a friend texted me that her life has recently thrown her a number of curve balls. All of which has her a bit flummoxed and over taxed by with life turns she had definitely not intended. As I thought about the specifics she shared, I thought how different my friend’s life is going to be. But as I thought of my own life, specifically about the things that had abruptly required a pivot on my part, I knew my friend is going to be okay. Part of my optimism comes from the reality that as I reflected on some of the “Gosh awful” things that have happened in my life, they have turned out to be some of the most life altering, transformative kinds of things.

For example, there was the time, long ago when my boyfriend, at the time, was moving away and literally at the going away party, I met the handsome young man who would become my husband for life. Or, there was the time when my professional life was soaring. I was consulting around the United States, sharing about my work and training people who worked in long term care to provide holistic care. But, the entire clinical/direct care portion of this work was brought to a screeching halt when I was paid a visit by the state’s director of long term care. He was paying me a visit, he said to inform me that he could close me any day he wanted. In his words, seared into my memory were these words. “You are smart and you can do these things. But if every nursing home in the state can’t have them, then you can’t either.” Yikes! I simply could not believe that our state oversight organization would not want cutting edge care. And what was he thinking? Colleagues and I weren’t trying to hoard this care but wanted to spread it across our state and beyond. (When we can visit longer, I can share more juicy tidbits about this whole power structure, cutting edge, revert back to mediocracy.) My fellow administrators in our long term care facility did not want to take on the state. So, met with this impasse, I had to make a decision. Did I rut along, do highly predictable but subpar work (my perspective) or did I cut my losses and take another path?

It just so happened that I was enrolled in an educational psychology course during which I was introduced to Martin Seligman who was advancing a new theory called learned helplessness. Helpless certainly was not anything I had any intention of becoming. Thus, I began crafting my exit and transition forward toward what I called empowerment. I enrolled in a doctoral program in life long learning and made learned helplessness the basis for my doctoral dissertation. That was in 1983. To this day, my life’s purpose and mission has been to show people their way beyond helplessness toward empowerment.

Perhaps you, too, have been thrown some curve balls. A friend you’re planning to go into business with, betrays your trust. You learn that you have an incurable disease. You’re at the height of your career when your company is sold and you are replaced by the new owners. Your child, who you adore, announces that he is a very successful drug trafficker. You invested all your savings in a deal that has gone belly up, leaving you penniless, embarrassed, and in a very difficult situation, given your are separated from your spouse and you have two children in school, one recently diagnosed with autism and explosive behaviors. “S--- happens! “ Curve balls are thrown.

Thankfully, we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us to show the way forward. It’s not so much that these heros or heroines set out to show the way. But just to show up. I’ve learned that greatness doesn’t happen to those whose ambitions drive them to be set apart as special. They are driven from something or some force within them that hounds them, not letting go! They do not let go of their dream. And, in the end, they may not reach their original goal. But, they can look back and realize they have followed their dream. And, it has

led them to adventures and outcomes that far exceed what they originally imagined could be.

Life has a way of doing this, when we don’t fight what is. But instead, when we listen deep within dare to trust our deepest longings and unrelenting images and awarenesses of what could be and create a path forward. When we have our why-purpose, and our what-mission, we may not always know “how” to move forward but taking each step, trusting that the “how” will show up we can find our way. We learn to expect some curve balls, to stay calm, to know there will be more pitches, and to believe in our capacity to hit the ball out of the park. The more we practice. The more we observe our practices the more we can learn. The more we watch others whose skill and success rate exceeds ours we learn from them. The more we remind ourselves that making mistakes never means failure if each attempt is observed in retrospect to learn from it and if we keep getting up to bat.

So, I sit here warm and cozy on this rainy and very cold January day appreciating that I can share with you this gift that my friend gave me this morning, when she started me thinking about my own curve ball experiences. Hopefully, as I am sharing with you, you can also be encouraged to observe, learn, and keep on batting!

I welcome your ideas, questions, and any recommendations about future blogs. You can find us here at Or feel welcome to check out my calendar to see if some times are available for a “no obligation” Zoom consultation. I’ll get back with you and we’ll check out what works for you.

Thank you for reading. I wish you many “wins” in this Game of Life!

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