This post is going up a little late because everything has been happening a little behind schedule this week. As you may have heard, Mother Nature has been having her way with our section of the globe lately, although I take no blame because I was occupying my time on the other side of it for the past two weeks. My journey home began on Sunday in Vietnam, and finally ended more than 48 hours later. Was that the original plan? Not whatsoever. Did I have a choice? Not whatsoever.
Sometimes you gotta roll with what’s happening, even if it isn’t what you expected, or envisioned.
Easy for me to say, right? Well it sure wasn’t easy right about the third time I saw the word “cancelled” next to a flight I was meant to take during these past few days, or while enjoying the world’s smallest middle seat for nearly 12 hours, after already having not slept for more than 30. It wasn’t easy, but you know what?
It could have been worse.
I mean, obviously, there are a million worse things that could have been happening to me at that moment. I was freely globetrotting, and using the miracle of modern air travel to do it. I’m a lucky kid, no doubt. But, I was still irritated.
So, how’d I manage without creating an international incident? You know by now that I took some deep breaths (maybe 1000, I’m not sure). I knew that simply doing that would help my body tell my mind it was alright to reacquire some chill. Once I did that, it made it a little more possible for me to get real about what was happening, and the limited control I had over it.
Do you have a button that turns off hurricanes? Me neither, unfortunately. Since I knew that, I decided to just breathe, and be present with the truth.
That doesn’t mean I turned my brain off, though. When it came time to advocate for a better route during rebooking, I was awake and fully engaged. However, I was also calm and compassionate with the agents who assisted me. As they say where I live, you can get a lot more flies with honey than vinegar. (Let me know if that requires a cultural translation – happy to oblige).
In other words, I got present, which made me both more relaxed and more productive. I stopped struggling with the frustration of having my original plans changed. I got over my preferences, and prioritized my needs. I recognized those two things are not the same. I took control of what I could (small decisions, and my responses), and let go of the rest.
Few experiences in life set us up as perfectly for mindfulness as travel. Plans are necessary, and then they are disrupted. We share small spaces with strangers, who have their own plans and expectations. We cover long distances, cross cultures, and frequently miscommunicate. We encounter fatigue, stress, and irritation, all of which test our ability to respond with intention. Being mindful takes focus, and when you’re all of the above, focus takes willpower.
You have to want to be mindful. You have to be willing to call yourself out, without regard to the behavior of others, and do what you know you need to do to respond in a way that you’ll still be proud of the next day. You have to recognize that much of misery is self-inflicted, and decide to be less miserable.
I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying it’s possible, and that you have the power to make it so. Resisting the truth leaves you spinning your wheels and going nowhere. This goes not just for travel, but for any day or even moment of your life where your plans go astray. It was supposed to be, and now, well…it isn’t. That’s ok. You’re still here. You can decide how to respond, and make your next move in response to what’s actually happening.
The path forward starts here, because here and now are the only places that actually exist. Get real (and calm) about that, and your ability to influence (not control…influence) what comes next will be a lot more real as well.
Photo credit: me!