“I was thinking about the GPS in my car. It never gets annoyed at me. If I make a mistake, it says, ‘Recalculating.’” – Sharon Boorstein, in an interview with Krista Tippet
I don’t know about you, but before I stumbled across this bit of wisdom, I had never considered the role model my GPS could be. Calm. Even keeled. Gracious. Creative. Endlessly patient. Even (especially!) when finding solutions to some ludicrous mistakes and wrong turns.
Can you imagine accepting your mistakes and wrong turns with such poise? Can you imagine extending the same grace to your partner or your children? What would it take (short of being a piece of technology) to navigate life with such a certainty that all will be well? That all that is needed is a moment to calculate a new route?
“Feeling all the feels” is a part being human
Please know that I’m not imagining an existence where I don’t feel frustration at my dumb mistakes, fear that my child has lost their way, anger at my partner for a mess-up that is going to take us a bit to bounce back from, or even pain that life isn’t going according to plan. These feelings are real. They are valuable. I wouldn’t trade them in for all the equanimity in the world. They give life its seasoning.
I am imagining an existence where I can take a beat to “feel all the feels.” Better yet, where I am able to recognize that I’m having a big feeling and, therefore, it might not be exactly the right moment to choose my response. All the while, I will totally trust that the moment will come when I, like my GPS, will respond calmly, “recalculating.”
Pain vs. Suffering
You see, suffering is not frustration, fear, anger or even pain. Suffering is when our minds are unsatisfied with reality. Reality simply is. Reality involves mistakes and successes. Reality involves existential “holes in one” as well as futures we never imagined. Reality involves express routes and unexpected detours. Reality involves things we never wanted to happen and also dreams that come true.
The way to avoid suffering (I need to emphasize that I’m not talking about pain. Pain is part of every life.) is to receive reality as it is – and to stay as willing to recalculate your route as your GPS.
What if you lose your cool?
Unlike your GPS, your ability to be calm, patient, and gracious in the face of mistakes and wrong turns – be they your own or your loved one’s – is going to be challenged. You are most likely going to need more than the two seconds that your GPS needs to access the algorithm and spit out a new route. You may even yell or cry or say something snarky.
Luckily for you, moments like this are just more wrong turns. Your new mantra “recalculating” works just as beautifully when what you need to do is take a breath, make an apology, give each other a hug, and get to work finding a new route.
You could get a hug
You might like to reread that last sentence because you’ll find one of the treasures of being perfectly flawed humans hiding in there. While your GPS never has to apologize, it also never gets to give or receive a hug. This might just be me, but if I had to choose between hugs and being perfectly poised and patient, I choose the hug!
In the end, we can follow the spiritual guidance of our GPS and calmly, kindly, willing respond to mistakes, wrong turns and life’s surprising detours with an inner response of “recalculating.” But unlike our GPS, we humans have the joy and privilege to also respond with love – and some really good hugs.