For something to “turn on a dime” actually refers to a vehicle or something turning quickly without expectation and with precision. When we apply this to life, it has come to refer to a sudden shift in direction without notice or warning.
I think it was at least a decade ago, or more, I received a late call from a woman I had never spoken to before. She must have seen my advertising for my counseling/coaching office and desperately needed to talk. I sat on the floor on the phone next to my bed just listening as she sobbed and explained how her husband had come to her all of a sudden and told her he had been seeing someone else. He not only wanted a divorce but he gave her papers that explained he had wanted her to move out of the house they had lived together in for almost 25 years. She was in her late 50’s and could not imagine what she would do with her life now.
The next morning, we met for breakfast. Through sobs she said, “I never saw this coming.” My heart went out to her. She had so much life still ahead and yet so much of it had been lived with the same man for so long. She could not imagine what life was going to be like. Her life had turned on a dime.
Another woman I had met had given birth to a baby girl several years prior. During her pregnancy she had learned her child would be born with a rare birth defect and was given the opportunity to decide to end the pregnancy (which she chose not to). I listened to her story as her eyes filled with tears, recalling the day she received the news. Life would never be the same again. This child would need continual care the rest of her life which would require the woman to give up her medical career she studied and worked hard for. Her life turned on a dime.
Yet, another couple struggled as they watched their young daughter fight for her life after being hit by a car. She was in a coma and had a very slim chance of living. Up until then, their lives had a pretty set routine. As one of the most precious joys of their lives slipped away in front of their eyes, with tears, they shook their head in disbelief. Yes, their life turned on a dime.
Not all sudden changes are good news. Many of them are very trying. As I look back, I can recall many times when life changed very quickly and without notice. I wonder, “Is this God’s way of shaking us up a bit, or maybe waking us up?” Of course, there are those who have amazing turns, like getting an unexpected promotion or the surprise of a marriage proposal. Even still, life is going to change. Dramatically it will change a person’s history and future. There can also be the sudden fulfillment of all we ever dreamed of. I suppose in the scheme of things, we all would rather have those shifts but life is not always like that. For some reason many of our life’s turns are those that follow difficult news to choke down.
We are learning here. Our playground changes scenes and sometimes the players change as well. It often feels like a cruel force of nature but we face the challenge of needing to be flexible and pliable. Think of the palm tree. These tall massive trees with thin trunks tend to bend and bow like a Q-tip when faced with gale force winds or hurricanes. Rarely do they snap. At any moment the trees might be subjected to something that will cause them to rely on their firmly planted roots and pliable trunks. By comparison, many other less grounded trees can be uprooted, broken into pieces, and torn apart.
You know where I am going with this already, right? What kind of tree do you want to be? There is a choice. You can choose to be stiff and rigid like many of the trees we have on earth, or like the palm, deeply planted and rooted and pliable against sudden changes. The message here, is those who are the survivors are strong yet flexible. If you are not now, guaranteed you will learn to be, because life can turn on a dime and you will find yourself with a new direction staring you in the face. You will need to make new decisions, and change the old ones. Life will make a U-turn and the scenery will change.
Will you be strong and flexible?
Dr. Jenine Marie Howry