Saturday, June 8, 2013

When You Want To Squeeze Tighter, Push Harder, Force the Way: Yield

"Abundance is the process of letting go; that which is empty can receive." 
-- Bryant McGill

A week ago, my bag got lost after my airplane flight. It never circled around.  The baggage claim was empty and bag missing.
At first, it was no big deal.
Bags get lost.  They show up.  That's how it works.  The ladies who worked baggage claim looked weary:
so many missing bags + so many complaining people = dreadful job.
I really wasn't too worried.  I'd made it home and the odds were good that my bag would meander there too.

But the next day, there was nothing.  They hadn't located it and they went through their ready-made speech: 97% of our bags are located within five days.
The seed of doubt was planted...could my bag be in the 3%?
I asked the question out loud.
The lady on the other end of the phone was straight talking and real. Yes, some bags are never found.  If that happens, you'll get a travel voucher.
That wasn't

That was when I started counting.  I mentally picked through my bag: all of my toiletries, my new glasses, my super comfy fleece lined hoodie, my favorite jammies, Caroline's teddy bear...and my grateful journal.  Suddenly, without meaning to, I couldn't let go of these items.  I needed them, desperately, right this minute.  Like hitting refresh on the computer, over and over in my mind I kept remembering things that were in my lost bag.  Things I needed.  Things that I very likely might not ever see again.

There were tears of loss, sad to say.  There was an exasperated husband who tried to get it.  And there was me counting my missing items, obsessing, perseverating, needlessly agonizing.

What's the point?  It's just stuff.
I know this but I couldn't let it go.
 All I could see were the missing items.

Years ago I had just landed in Hawaii with our family.  The sky was stunning.  The airport so tropical it could be partially outside.  Literally, a rainbow greeted us.  Yet, there was a guy yelling and raging over his lost luggage.  I remember hearing the man who was the unlucky recipient of this guy's misplaced anger: "Have you turned around?  Look outside.  You're in Hawaii.  You only need a pair of shorts."

I remember scoffing in my mind at the weary, angry traveller.
"Yeah, guy, get over it. You're in Hawaii."
How irony loves to play with us.

Flash to my Sunday.  I wasted the morning, precious hours never to be seen again, focusing on that crap in my suitcase.  It was my daughter's 18th birthday.  I wanted to wallow, I really did...but I knew I wasn't getting today back and it was a pretty special day.  Remembering Mary Kate's birth, the joy of the pink blanket and her 2 1/2 year old brother marveling at her beauty and her amazing name (in his mind), Mary Cake, could only make me smile. I pictured her in tap shoes, in a soccer uniform scoring that thrilling first goal, holding the lacrosse stick, in her goggles covering up her baby blues for a science experiment and suddenly I could let that suitcase go.

It no longer mattered.

As soon as I stopped counting what was missing, I could see what wasn't.

I could see my sweet daughter, my day off to celebrate, my family, my health, my opportunity for a great day...and as soon as that happened...
I got a phone call.  They had found my bag.  It was on its way home.
Of course it was.

A long, long time ago I took a yoga class and the teacher taught me something very counter-intuitive and life changing.  I was trying to work my way into a position and the teacher advised, "When your instinct is to push harder, to force the way, don't.  Instead, yield."
Yielding has been the wise choice on so many occasions -- once I helped a guy trying to fix something in my garage with that advice. He was trying and trying to force something.  I told him about the yoga worked like magic and he looked at me like I had just punked him.

It took me awhile to get to the yoga yield on this one but there it was.

Stop counting what's missing.
Stop looking for what isn't there.
Stop noticing the way it isn't working.
When you spend that time on all of the things that should be but aren't, you miss out on all of things that are,
magically, perfectly, are.
All of the abundant blessings that are always there but are just never noticed.

This type of thinking has a name: it's called the deficit model.
It happens in education all the time.
We list all of the crap in the suitcase that's missing.
Your kid can only read at x level, his comprehension is at y level, this is blank % below grade level.
We perseverate on it.
We endlessly agonize.
We set a goal to move that number by 15% and call it a day.

We never see what is in front of our eyes.
We don't list the artistic talent, the creative writing abundance, the natural empathy, the ability to make friends, the skill that connects the dots across different parts of the curriculum.
We focus on the can'ts.

We miss the rainbows.

Last Sunday I relearned something I've known for a long time.
If I keep counting what's missing, I'll never see what isn't.
Happy Rebirthday to me.
Happy 18th to my favorite cake of all,
Mary Cake.

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