“Everything’s gonna be alright.” David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney
My youngest child is in Mexico City right now creating a library for a school that didn’t have one. She and her friend spent a year planning this – writing emails, asking friends and family to post about their project on social media and collecting books. Lots and lots of books.
The fact that she actually took this idea from daydream status to reality makes me beam with pride. They went beyond simply asking people for books. They met with their elementary school librarian to learn how to put protective sleeves on hardcovers, they found an app that is helping them catalogue the books into a proper library, they worked out a system for keeping track of who borrowed which title and when it’s due back. It really seemed like they had thought through every little detail.
Except for one.
My girl doesn’t speak Spanish. And her friend’s large, friendly, loving extended family, with whom they are staying, doesn’t speak English. While she knew this, she had not thought through what it would mean to sit at a table filled with people chatting happily and not be able to follow the conversation. To be limited to a smile, a nod and some hand gestures as her options to participate. To be meeting meaningful strangers – people she would like to like her – and not be able to behave as the bright, funny person she is.
Let’s say there may have been an initial meltdown that left me lying in bed worrying more than sleeping. Yet the next morning she sent a text that we could all learn from.
“Just going with the flow. Not understanding. Not comfortable. But I’m alright.”
Not only is this a profoundly pithy and brilliant lesson in how to travel well, but it is sound, simple-to-follow advice on how to navigate the crazy twists and turns that life can take on any given day.
- You don’t have to be comfortable to be alright.
- You don’t have to understand to be alright.
- You do have to go with the flow to be alright. (Or to quote Star Trek, “Resistance is futile.”)
Reflect back to your first yoga class (or feel free to choose another “first” that resonates with you). Most firsts are not comfortable. My first yoga class certainly was not and I can vouch for every one of my students that neither was theirs. I didn’t know what to wear. I didn’t know where to put my mat. It turned out that my mat was not the right mat, so I had to borrow the teacher’s which I somehow decided was embarrassing. I didn’t know how to do anything that she asked us to do except lie down on my mat at the end of class with my eyes shut. Plus everything we did hurt.
Was I comfortable? Heck no. Did I want to go back? For some inexplicable reason, I could not wait to try again!
It is safe to say that I did not understand most of what my teacher was teaching in that same class. Truly, all I grasped were rudimentary instructions such as “step your right foot forward.” It was evident that there was much more going on. My first clue was that she was speaking in another language (Sanskrit), but that wasn’t all I wasn’t understanding. Talk about the breath sailed right past me. Talk about a gaze point confused me. Talk about quieting the mind? Well, it’s conceivable that I was actually laughing out loud at my own ineptness when she mentioned that, so I didn’t even hear it.
Yet I understood the blessing she shared at the end of class. In fact it touched me so deeply that I still use it in my own classes today. “May you be filled with loving kindness. May you be well. May you be peaceful and at ease. May you be happy.” I didn’t understand most of what happened in that class, but I was more than alright. I felt kind of blessed.
To this day, I am grateful that I chose to “go with the flow” in that first yoga class. In the purest sense of the words, resistance that day would have been futile. If I had resisted, I would have missed the whole thing – plus I would have missed much of the next 16 years of my life.
Believe you me, there were plenty of uncomfortable and unclear moments when it would have been perfectly natural for me to choose resistance. The music was “weird.” I didn’t know any of the people. The teacher was using another language. It turned out I was “not a natural” at the movements – in fact it reminded me of the first and last time I tried aerobics. I wasn’t bendy, and this seemed to be critically important.
Instead, something deeper inside of me than my madly spinning brain and hyper-reactive emotions, spoke up. Somehow, as my daughter did when she woke up on her second day in Mexico City, I chose to go with the flow. Because I did, I had an experience that changed me. I had an experience that would inspire me to grow and become, both subtly and dramatically, perhaps for the rest of my life.
First times and new experiences are gifts of potential. But, because they are often gift-wrapped in discomfort and confusion, we often resist them. The pointless futility of this resistance is that we miss out on a million unknown possibilities and opportunities. In the wise words of my girl, even when you don’t understand and you’re wildly uncomfortable, just go with the flow. You’ll be better than alright.
P.S. If you feel moved to help Sally’s project, she and her friend are now collecting donations that will help purchase bookshelves for the classrooms at Mano Amiga in Mexico City. Checks should be made out to Sally’s friend’s mom, Zulema Barcelata and mailed to 219 Ravenscliff, St. David’s, PA 19087. Please include a note with your name and address so Sally can thank you!