8.4 Editor's Pick
August 7, 2023

Learning Moments don’t just Strike Once—they come at us Over, & Over, & Over Again.


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I am that person.

I’ll avoid buying water if I forget my reusable water bottle.

If I have to use a ziplock baggie, I’ll wash and reuse it until it looks like it survived a war zone.

I bring reusable produce bags to the store.

I have toothpaste tablets so I can avoid the plastic tube.

I’m that person.

I’m not fanatical, but I’m dedicated. I’m passionate. I’m determined. And I hate unnecessary plastic.

Is it easy to use? Sure. It’s easy and it’s convenient and it’s everywhere. Please, someone, tell me why they need to individually wrap cucumbers in plastic at the store? It has a skin.

I have loads of plastic in my life, so I try to avoid it when I can. My glasses are plastic. My computer has plastic pieces. My phone. The kinesiology tape on my arm right now is likely primarily made of plastic.

This is a story about my imperfection.

Sometimes, no matter how much we try, we have to let the current take us and live and let be.

Recently, I was a part of our first (live) Elephant Academy Find your Voice training of the Summer Session, listening to Waylon Lewis describe the Mindful Life Challenge to those in attendance. Honestly? I love the Mindful Life Challenge. It’s a mindful way of committing to making a change in our lives, one small thing at a time. It helps us realize that we can make changes and we can commit to them.

One of these challenge items we could choose to commit to was avoiding single-use plastic.

The next day, I found myself contemplating the mysteries of the universe when I was stuck in an airport inside a locked gate. My flight was delayed. First it was 20 minutes. Then it was another half an hour. And the time kept getting longer, and longer.

I searched the gate and there was nowhere to fill my empty water bottle I’d brought through TSA.

As the time ticked by, I was getting thirstier and thirstier as it got hotter and stuffier inside the small gate. The only way to get water was to leave my baggage and go through TSA, drink, and enter back through TSA again. Or I could purchase water in a machine at a juiced-up price, in plastic, and then be unable to recycle the bottle because there were only trash bins in the small gate.

I waited.

It got hotter.

I got thirstier.

Hours later, as we boarded the plane, I succumbed. The flight attendant came by with miniature bottles of water before takeoff and I drank like a fish out of water.

I remember clutching the bottle, staring at it. Disappointed in the situation.

Later when she came by to collect them, I kept mine…bringing it home with me to at least make sure it made it into a recycling bin.

I felt compromised. I didn’t have a lot of choices, but I didn’t like my hand being forced and it just left me feeling…icky.

And that was that. A vulnerable moment. A choice. Awareness of that choice and the moments of contemplation that came after.

It was what the Mindful Life Challenge is all about. If we cannot rise to the impossibility of perfection, the least we can do is honor the moment of mindfulness and awareness.

And so I did.

But vulnerability and learning moments don’t just strike us once. They come at us over, and over, and over again. They hit us over the head with what we’re missing. They tap us on our shoulder and beg to be listened to. They do not go away just because we think we’ve done our due diligence.

A few days later, I was getting a medical procedure done when I flagged down the nurse and asked her if a reaction I was having was normal.

The good news? It was.

The bad news? It wasn’t going to go away and there wasn’t much they could do about it.

There was that vulnerable moment again…feeling sick, feeling hot, feeling my back against a wall and needing…something…I asked the nurse for cold water.

It appeared in the form of that same miniature water bottle I’d seen a few days earlier.

I stared at it in my hand before tearing off the lid and letting the cold water roll down my throat, hoping to ease the sickness.

Once again, I opted to carry the bottle home with me to at least see it placed in a recycling bin.

But what I really carried away with me was the sense that yes, I was doing my best. I was noticing the times when I faltered and they were making me stronger, more aware, of the changes I can make and of the changes we as a population need to make.

Could the airport install a water bottle filling station, perhaps? I think I might ask.

Could I bring a water bottle with me the next time I have a medical procedure, just in case? I think I might.

Live and let be. I’m not letting it go because it drives me to make changes, but I am letting it be because I can’t change the past. I can only strive to make the future better.

And maybe, that’s what the Mindful Life Challenge is really all about.


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