Where’s the wiggle room?

Not Everything will go as you expect in your Life. This is why you need to drop expectations, and go with the flow of life – Leon Brown

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My friend wrote recently about going with the flow, about being open to possibilities and not planning too thoroughly.

The idea of free falling and not having a plan sends chills up my spine, it has my head spinning and my palms sweating. That said, when I have been open to spontaneity (usually initiated by others) I’ve been delighted with the outcome.  Learning to go with the flow is a concept I’ve not yet fully embraced in practice even though I can see the beauty, wonder and joy that can arise as a result of letting go, just a little.

My friend’s story of arriving in a foreign town with no means of transportation to the next destination, feeling abandoned a and nearly giving up hope of continuing on his planned journey reminded me of a similar experience I had while travelling.

Last year I travelled to Italy. I planned my itinerary, booked my accommodation before leaving and had a rough idea of what I wanted to see while there. There was room within the plan for opportunities that might present themselves while satisfying my need for structure and order.

For one leg of the journey I’d booked a room in a motel in Riomaggiore on the Cinque Terra. When I arrived the room hadn’t been cleaned but the proprietor allowed me to put my pack in the room to free me up for roaming. After a long, hot day hiking between villages I returned to my room to find a dirty towel in the bathroom, used sheets and pillows on the bed. When I questioned the desk clerk whether my room had been cleaned he became incensed, claiming “of course” the room had been cleaned. He quickly escalated to yelling at me. Despite acknowledging the hair on the pillows, crumpled sheets and a wet towel this man maintained the room had been cleaned. Mindful of remaining calm, despite the hostility, I asked for clean sheets so I could change the bed myself and was promptly shown the door and told to “go”.

I was almost beside myself. Where would I go? What would I do? I was alone, in a village far from home where few people spoke my language. It was late, I was tired and bewildered at the exchange that had just taken place. As I wandered down the street, heart pounding in my chest and almost in tears, I wasn’t sure how to proceed given that I’d planned my accommodation from Australia in the comfort of my living room using an online booking agent. To make matters worse most accommodation “houses” didn’t look like motels in Australia. So I wasn’t even sure where to look for somewhere to stay.

Eventually, I came upon a doorway, entered, asked the elderly gentleman, who spoke no English, if he had a room. By some chance we communicated a price, muddled through the reservation process and he took me on a long, steep and windy path to get to my room.

The room was tiny yet it was magnificent. The sheets were clean, the bathroom was clean and, best of all, I had a view of the ocean.

image I’m all for planning, I’m not naturally spontaneous but had fate not intervened and dashed my plans, had I held on rigidly to my plans and stayed miserable and uncomfortable in a dirty room I would have missed out on a rich experience and my memories of Riomaggiore would not be fond ones. If I had held onto my plans, if things had gone accordingly I would not have had the lovely interaction with this man, who offered to carry my 20 kilo pack up the steep and windy path. Had my plan played out as expected I would not have met this kind and gentle man who sensed I was upset and offered me coffee and finally escorted me to a quaint little whitewashed room with a window that framed the most gorgeous view of the Italian coast. As fate would have it, I sat and drank in the changing light of that view all night. I have a wonderful memory, a few fuzzy photographs and a pretty cool story to share of that joyful night.

Are you leaving enough room in life for spontaneity, for fate to intervene and surprise you?

Have you allowed for wiggle room?

When plans go awry are you open to the joy and opportunities that may wiggle into that tightly planned schedule you’ve designed?

I wish you luck and the joy that comes from flow,
Shannyn

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The ripple effect of a $2 gift

 

Image courtesy of against the grain scholars

Image courtesy of against the grain scholars

My husband made me cry last weekend. He said the loveliest thing that tears sprang to my eyes and streamed down my face.

This story began one Christmas morning about twelve years ago when I gifted my husband and son a box each for Christmas. They were $2 boxes from the discount store, about 20 cm cubed with lids, bright, colourful and empty. Yes, that’s right. They were empty.

My husband, trying to remain polite, looked incredulously at this empty box. His expression conveyed his thoughts – what was the meaning of an empty box? At Christmas?

As I explained to the pair of them the box was a ‘Happy Box’, empty now so they could fill it with happy memorabilia.  I too had a box which I filled over the years with photographs, love letters, certificates, news clippings, small hand-made gifts. I filled it with things that made my heart sing. Things that bought joy to my life. Things I wanted to remember.  My husband’s box began to fill too.

About six years ago my beloved used his box as the focus of a motivational talk to his students. He is a Principal in a high school. I’m not sure exactly what he shared in his story. I wasn’t there but I do know that he shared with them the types of memories he collected, the joy of delving into the box to reflect on successes and achievements. He impressed them by drawing from the box a photo of their cohort and sharing the positive impact they have had on his life and the joy he received from working with them, seeing them grow and helping them reach their goals. Funnily enough, he shared with them too his reaction at having received an empty box on Christmas morning. That got a chuckle I’m told.

That story and the happy box, shared for the first time six years ago,  was such a hit that parents, teachers and students continued to comment about it throughout the year.  In the years since that first speech the senior students have asked for the ‘Happy Box story’ to be told at assembly. Parents, teachers and friends of friends have commented about the inspiration that simple story held for them.  Students have bought friends happy boxes for their 18th birthdays, parents have bought them for all of their children and themselves. Each year a cheer goes up when students become aware that the happy box story is about to be told.

How does this connect with my tears you might ask?

You see, we were discussing the popularity and the reach of the happy box story and my darling husband turned to me and said “Shannyn, from one small act you have changed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people.” He calculated that over six years he has told the story to almost 300 young people each year, who then share it with goodness only knows how many others.

He looked at me and said “You always say you want to make a difference in the world. And you do through the small things that come naturally to you. Each day you impact so many people in such positive ways.”

(Hence the tears)

I hadn’t considered this before, particularly in connection with the box. I’d not considered the ‘Happy Box story’ to be my legacy. I’d always marvelled at the inspiration my husband instilled in others with this story.  I’d not realised that a small gift I had given, with love, one Christmas morning many, many years ago would touch the lives of countless people.

I was humbled.

I realised too, that we never really know the impact we have on the lives of others.

I realised that it doesn’t have to be grand gestures that change the world, that small acts of love, consideration and sharing of ourselves can have the mightiest influence.

The idea of the ripple effect really sunk in for me. I have been mindful all week. This new knowledge has put a different perspective on the way I act. The way I talk. The choices I make.

Don’t underestimate the impact you have in the world.

Much love,
Shannyn

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Airy April in review

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”  Haruki Murakami

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It’s been an interesting process taking a photo a day for a year. I enjoy looking back over the album for each month and reflecting on its joys and challenges.

Last month, April, was a particularly turbulent month emotionally and physically. My physical health lurched so far off par that I lost my balance emotionally and spiritually as well. While I tried to maintain a positive outlook and focus on the good and I actively sought to create joy in my life; it feels like it was a thick and weighty, pea soup of a month that I waded through.

My photos tell a different story. There are lots of plants and outdoor snaps along with quirky treasures found along the way. It’s nice to have this visual reminder that while there were trials in April, all was not lost. There were wonderful times spent in nature, my refuge, a place where mind, body, spirit feel connected. Nature for me is a place where mind body and spirit rise up out of the abyss and I can breathe.


I am continually fascinated by my journey; the detours, the hidden paths unravelled, the rocky tracks and steep hills to be negotiated. It all makes for a wonderful experience.

Keep your chin up. Focus on where you want to be and take small steps each day.

Much love to you all,
Shannyn