Friday, 22 July 2011

Learning to Go with the Flow

Ever notice how water running down hill flows and winds effortlessly around obstacles? It’s helpful to remember this natural law, for in life, as with water, the most direct route to a goal is rarely a straight line. And as tempting as it is to label things “good” and “bad,” they are all just bends in the river.

Here’s a great example.

I had one goal this past Christmas: to fly to Seattle on Boxing Day with my son to join my big extended family for their holiday gathering. (Oh, and I also wanted an upgrade.) Being super organized – as I am – I was patting myself on the back for accomplishing all the usual travel prep plus making fresh turkey stock (boiled, cooled, strained and in the freezer) before our ride to the airport arrived. (GOOD!) Unfortunately, it was a pat too soon, as I forgot one crucial thing - passports. (BAD!)

I was too stunned to react when I realized my mistake, but things quickly went from bad to worse as I reached for my phone and noticed a flashing picture of an empty battery. Now my brain began to race….I thought I had charged the phone overnight, but apparently I had plugged it into a dead outlet! No phone meant no phone numbers to call those who might be able to help out. (BAD!)

Realising that the only thing panic would accomplish was grey hairs, I decided to consciously test one of my favourite pieces of philosophy: Events have no meaning except for the meaning we give them. I reminded myself that perhaps everything was actually in perfect order, and if so, then forgetting the passports was not a tragedy. With this in mind I mentally sifted through a few scenarios and decided that the best option was to call my neighbours (who keep a spare key) to ask them to locate the passports (on my desk where I’d left them!) and put them in a fast taxi to Terminal 5.

Meanwhile, my son was freaking out and the agent for the airline was sceptical that she could get us anywhere near Seattle on a different flight if our passports didn’t turn up soon as there were blizzards raging all over the country and many flights were being cancelled. (BAD!) I reminded him (and myself) that we were in the hands of fate and all we could do was “keep calm and carry on,” as they are fond of saying in the UK. I also mumbled a few favourite affirmations such as, “all of life comes to me with ease and joy and glory,” and, “how does it get better than this?” (Well doesn’t it?!)

It was a nail-biting hour as we waited and paced and eyed the clock, but in the end, my superhero neighbours did find the passports (GOOD!) but could not find a taxi (BAD!), so they pulled their Boxing Day roast out of the oven and drove like the wind to deliver them to us (VERY GOOD!) They virtually threw the travel wallet at us as they passed by, then we sprinted to the check-in desk.

Of course the flight was already closed (BAD), but I begged the woman at the desk to “Just see what else is possible.” She tapped away on her computer and shook her head. “They’re not letting me check you in,” she sighed (BAD). But just then her phone rang. “Uh huh,” she said, “Yes, two passengers…I know but they forgot their passports. Okay, thanks.” She looked at me and said, “Well this is your lucky day – the flight’s delayed and they’re letting you check in. They NEVER do that!” (GOOD!) My son and I jumped for joy and ran through Fast Track security (thank you very much) and had a leisurely hour at the gate before the flight finally boarded. When they called our row we were so happy and relieved that it wouldn’t have mattered if we were at the back of the bus, but guess what? Upgrade! (GOOD!)

We made it to the family party (only a couple of hours late) and enjoyed a really nice holiday. But the most valuable part of the trip was learning that staying neutral in the face of adversity is the most powerful thing one can do.

The moral of this story is pretty simple: keep your sights on your goals, and don’t let the twists and turns of life derail you. For when you truly learn to go with the flow, you just might get an upgrade when you least expect it!