From Australia, to Asia, through the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe, I can’t really say in which city or country I’ve been the most uncomfortable. It’s actually more accurate to say that I don’t want to say, because I feel it unfair and inaccurate of me to paint any culture we’ve encountered as unwelcoming. All have been exceptionally accommodating, especially to tourists who could be called lazy Americans who don’t bother to learn (more than “please” and “thank you”) a language other than our own.
What I want to say however is that along the way while traveling these last three months, there have been some uncomfortable experiences. Be it jumping 5 feet down from the boat into the dark wavy water to go scuba diving in the middle of ocean without land in sight, being split up from Geoffrey into different cars for a harrowing 2-hour drive through the desert without cell service, money, or my passport, meandering through the male-centric markets of Marrakesh alone, and/or being on a flight that mid-way, started smelling of smoke followed by a repeated series of stomach-drops and altitude recoveries, and which concluded with thunderous round of applause upon landing, I’ve been scared. But I’ve found/created/manufactured relief.
It is these three things have brought me the most comfort, and dare I say, success:
- I Project: Following my sister’s excellent advice, starting in my heart, I conjure a (figurative) white light and extend it outwards, ultimately enveloping my entire being and my loved ones nearby with its peaceful presence and calm. It’s a mind-altering exercise that if helpful, calls upon angels, ancestors, guides, and guardians to help manifest and hold this beaming bubble of comfort. When I know something I am dreading or am just simply scared of is about to come, this exercise usually brings immediate relief.
- I Pray: When I’m squirming smack dab in the midst of fear, I thank the Divine for being safe. I lead with the things I’m grateful for, most especially including a safe conclusion to whatever is currently happening. Rather than praying by “asking” for safety, I pray as if that thing has already happened, and I give thanks for its favorable outcome. It’s a simple twist on the same principle (prayer), but it gives me great(er) comfort to express my gratitude to God for this uncomfortable experience being behind me, even when it’s not…yet.
- I Smile: If in doubt or trouble or just hoping for the best, my real secret weapon is that I smile. When in the back seat of a taxi with bald tires, shoddy steering, and a very devout driver who whispered prayers for the entire 2-hour desert drive, (yes while I was alone with Oakley without money, cell service, and our passports), I smiled. I looked like I have never been happier staring out the window into unending, mind-numbingly repetitious, rolling hills of sand. Oh the joy!! Meanwhile, I was praying that we were safe at the hotel, and trying really hard to suppress the terrible thoughts of being kidnapped, tortured, and beheaded on the 7pm news. It can also be as simple as walking through a crowded airport, museum, or market with a smile. In the very least, at least my face looks happy even if it’s entirely, intentionally self-willed. In other words, sometimes I cheat and it works. And what’s more, most of the times, eventually I forget that I’m willing a smile, and like magic, it morphs into a natural, authentic expression.
I encourage you to find your own techniques (and maybe cheats) that help you through tough times. Because challenges and uncomfortable situations are part of living, no matter how far we are from home.
(PS – If you are reading this on Friday afternoon, don’t forget that the US Women’s World Cup team plays France in the quarter finals at 3pm. Go girls!)
With loving gratitudes and yes, a smile,