Here’s the good news folks: We don’t have to wait for perfect circumstances to be able to find a place of ease inside.
Have you ever had an experience that was supposed to be “hard” but turned out to be pretty lovely? I’m going to give you an example. But first, let me tell you about a ritual we used to do with Ben before he would go to sleep at night. It went something like this:
Ben: “What was your favorite part of the day?”
Me: “My favorite part was riding that big bicycle along the water.”
Ben: “That was my favorite part!”
Ben: “What was your favorite part daddy?”
Matt: “Let’s see, my favorite part was swimming in the pool with you.”
Ben: “That was my favorite part too!”
As you can probably tell, whatever you would say, it would be Ben’s favorite part too. After doing this for a while, I noticed a little habit of collecting favorite parts throughout the day to bring home to Ben.
As I headed to the doctor’s lab waiting to get my blood drawn one day, I thought of our ritual and started looking for favorite parts. Driving around for twenty minutes looking for parking? Not my favorite part. Getting blood drawn? Definitely not gonna be my favorite part, I thought. (I get super nervous and usually cry or pass out when I get a blood test)
But I imagined seeing the same moment through Ben’s eyes… and while I was with the technician I imagined how this could be my favorite part. As this question entered my mind, I saw the sweetness in the man’s eyes when I told him I didn’t feel well and I saw how connected he was when the tears started pouring down my face.
I noticed how he held my gaze and said, “You are safe with me. Nothing is going to happen to you. I’ve got you…”and how that made me cry even more. (Who was this angel man?) I noticed how he tried to talk to me about Alicia Keys, about how she was classically trained and writes her own songs and most artists don’t do that and how she deserved those Grammy’s… and I understood that he was trying to keep my mind on something else… I noticed all of it. And because I asked myself how this could be my favorite part, I could see something holy in it.
I could see how the favorite parts aren’t necessarily just the fun ones, but the ones where we see beyond the superficial into the sacred.
Our experience is often about where we put our attention. And the stories we layer on to an otherwise neutral occurrence. Blood draw. Just is. Totally neutral.
But I arrived at the clinic with a particular narrative- Blood draws. Bad. I hate blood draws. Blood draws scare me. I pass out when I get shots. Why do I have to do this? Poor me. What if the person doesn’t know what they’re doing? I hate this.
What made the difference was interrupting that habitual story with a new one – even for a moment – in the form of a question. What if this was my favorite part of the day? (That’s crazy, some part of me responded. Impossible.)
But I held the question just long enough to notice this man’s face. His compassion. His willingness to see me not as his next “patient” but as another vulnerable human being sitting with him. This pause, this moment suspended, was enough to open up a little oasis – one where the story became different.
We mostly miss these moments.
But one of the gifts of being vulnerable is that we are cracked open. Even just a little bit. We are porous. Kindness (even the smallest varieties) can seep in more easily. When I am the most vulnerable I notice even the smallest gestures and my heart fills with gratitude. Vulnerable moments are the best places to practice this.
Have you had a moment like the one I described?
A moment when you were vulnerable, softer than usual, maybe even cracked open + someone offered you something from their heart? Something real, something kind, and you were able to let it in? Maybe it was even your favorite part? A moment of ease, well-being, connection, intimacy inside a very imperfect circumstance.