Bikers know what it means to “lean in” to the bends in the road. If they want to turn right at a curve, they lean right. At the same time, they countersteer by actually pushing the handlebars the opposite direction. Lean right, but turn left.
I have been known to do the opposite on both counts. I intuitively tend to lean away from the curve (why would I want to be that close to the ground?), and I steer into the curve. I even did this once with a friend’s three-wheeler. It ended badly, but I’m happy to report the tree was fine.
Those who learn how to “lean in” ride safely through the curves and continue on, the bike’s dirty side down and shiny side up. Too often riders lay it down, much to the delight of thousands of people looking for entertainment on “Ridiculousness,” and much to the chagrin of the one who walks away with scars.
I have noticed there a many things in life in which the counterintuitive choice is the right one. I intuitively want to lash out when I’m angry; kick the cat when it wakes me up at 2:00 in the morning last Monday; buy shiny things with credit cards; and eat whatever I want (hello, BWW!). After all, it feels natural. But when I do, I soon find I can’t handle the curves of life. The shiny side of my relationships, finances, and health go down in a hurry as I slide into the ditch, battered and scraped and in need of help.
When I make the correct choice that goes against my initial response, I survive the curves. I don’t hurt people when I’m angry; I don’t have to apologize to my wife about the whole cat incident; my credit stays good; my weight remains in the same area code.
That’s a much better journey. But in spite of all the positive results, counterintuitive is still hard. It’s good, but it’s hard.
Recently I was talking with some friends about grief. One was grieving the death of a career and a dream: the other the death of a marriage. They approached me because they knew my father had died, and that I too was no stranger to grief.
In the aftermath of loss, our initial, intuitive response is to lean away from the pain. Even worse, we simultaneously steer our lives the wrong way and miss the curves. This does not end well, as the curves in the road to grief recovery are not curves you want to miss. The ditches are deep, and very dark.
But that’s what happens when we avoid leaning in and steering well. In more practical terms, this involves leaning in to the depths of ourselves by thinking, talking and writing about deep emotions and poignant memories, and steering toward instead of away from God and others,