These days, I’m often reminded how lucky I am to have a passport to be able to travel freely in the world.
Still, I can feel trapped by the mental narrowness of my ego that confuses control with safety, craving with contentment and self-righteousness with genuine connection.
Thankfully, there are often glitches in the ego-machinery that allow us to step back to re-evaluate and appreciate what is really important. It happened for me last summer.
It’s Friday 8pm in the South of France. I’m in the car with my husband Jean-Pierre and our daughter, ready to drive up to Paris and take our flight back to SF. It’s going to be a long over-night drive, but we are relaxed and happy to be going home. Jean-Pierre is about to start the engine, when all of a sudden, he closes his eyes and moans. Startled, I say: “- What’s wrong?!”
He looks at me with a smile:“How much credit do I get, if I tell you what we forgot?!”
Immediately I wonder what he forgot, but with delectation, he announces: “WE forgot ALL the passports that YOU put in the safe!”
True. It is the first time on vacation that I had insisted that we put our passports in the house safe. The house we rented three years ago was burglarized. I had decided that this year, we should be more cautious. Driving 850 kilometers to arrive at the airport without our passports would be a disaster.
Suddenly, I’m in AWE of my husband. Seating in the car, I delight myself with all sort of “What could have happened” thoughts:
I imagine us arriving in Paris -or even in Lyon- and realizing what we had forgotten. And then I see myself hopeless, bleating “Why me?!” or “Why do YOU always forget something”, “Why do I have to remember everything…”
I see myself incapable of breathing the round-trip kilometers, pissed off at myself and at Jean-Pierre for wasting so much time, money, and energy. Missing our flight anyway and feeling completely victimized by the situation, even though I know intellectually that there are far worst things that could happen.
Forgetting our passports would have put me into a High-Risk zone .* The beauty of the moment is that I can investigate my habitual mental patterns without having to suffer the intensity of the situation. I don’t have to pay a hard price in order to work on my fixed beliefs. Here and now, I can truly be in the learning zone, let go of my mental gossip, and enjoy the comfort of my good fortune.
Jean-Pierre is in ecstasy too, though he confesses that he has no idea how he remembered the passports.
Regardless, I am full of gratitude. I solemnly give him one year of credit. He can just say “passport”, as a magic word to stop any of my old complaining tunes.
My daughter who is quietly living her social life on her iPhone device, has an amused smile on her face. She knows exactly what music I’m talking about.
Once again, I was wrong with my cemented opinions that “my husband never remembers”, or “always forgets…”, or “I can only count on myself”, or “something bad is going to happen if I let my guard down…”
It was exhilarating to be wrong. I actually wish I would be wrong more of the time!
On the verge of losing my material identity, my passport, what I lost instead was the tight grip of my ego, without having to experience misfortune and pain. That was a rare opening into uncharted territory.
What a luxurious place to be on vacation.
Reflective questions: Have you experienced being in uncharted territory where the grip of your ego let go? How?
*Note: I refer to three learning zones: comfort zone, challenging/learning zone, excessive/high-risk zone. See blog Why bothering about our Comfort Zones.