There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“We’ll see,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“We’ll see,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“We’ll see,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“We’ll see” said the farmer.
Today I had my own personal experience of the old Zen master story. I was flying from Los Angeles back home to Denver. My flight was scheduled to leave LAX @ 5:30pm. Having completed things early and realizing it was only noon, I decided to see if there was an earlier flight.
I logged on to the Frontier website, found my 5:30pm flight and decided to check in and print my boarding pass while online. I then called Frontier, as they had an earlier flight leaving LAX at 3:10pm. They had plenty of space still available. Good news, lucky me!
Then the agent told me that since I had checked in online she was unable to change my reservation and book me on the earlier flight. Bad news.
She went on to say that I could drive to the airport and do it there. Okay, good news.
Traffic was heavy and what could have been a quick shot to the airport now looked like a daunting task. It looked like I would miss the earlier flight. Bad news.
Then the traffic broke and I was able to sail at 65 mph the rest of the way to the airport! Very good news. At this point, recognizing the ups and downs of this situation and my judgment and attachment to it, I could hear the Zen master in my head laughing, saying, “We’ll see”.
I stopped for fuel, only to find the credit card machine was broken. Spent my last twenty dollars cash on gas for the rental car.
I made great time on the freeway and now knew I’d make the 3:10pm flight.
I returned the car and took the shuttle to the terminal. The Frontier line was incredibly long and wasn’t moving. I stood in the same spot for 30 minutes and now doubted if I would make the 3:10pm flight. Bummer, bad news. (Or was it?)
After about 40 minutes the desk agent came and told us that due to weather in another area, our connecting plane was very late and the 3:10pm flight was delayed at least 8 hours, if it went out at all today. A lot of people were not going to get out of LA until the next day. Very bad news. My inner Zen master was chuckling.
When I finally got to the counter the agent told me that I was still confirmed on the 5:30pm flight which was leaving on time. Woohoo! Lucky me. “We’ll see” was still playing in my head.
The airport was already crazed with pre-Thanksgiving holiday travel and everyone was anxious to get to his or her destination. The plane was oversold and every seat was packed. I was assigned to seat 23F- the most uncomfortable seat on the place- the window seat in the very last row, which doesn’t recline.
Got a message from my husband that he was flying in early tomorrow, asking if I’d pick him up and the airport at 9am. I decided to take the shuttle home so that I could save driving tonight and also save a round trip to/from the airport in the morning. I figured he’d like having the car there when he arrived and it would save me about 3 hours on the road. Good decision, right?
Raced to the shuttle bus, which comes once an hour, only to realize I was $0.20 short on cash for the $11 cash only fare! Inner Zen master was now laughing.
A kind couple gave me a quarter and I got on the bus.
I was so grateful to be going home, when I realized that the remote to get in the house was in the car parked at the airport. Bad news.
At that point I laughed out loud. Writing this blog in my head, I figured that in the worst case I could always crawl through the doggie door into our home if I had to. I know it’s below freezing and I’m only wearing a light sweater. I just wasn’t going to worry about it.
Looking back over the day, I smiled at how the day unfolded. Once I realized the parallel to the Zen master story I experienced the drama with amusement and with no attachment to the outcome. Things seemed good or bad, when they were neither- they just were. By taking the later flight, I got home earlier. My catching the bus I left without the keys to the house. What seems to be good wasn’t. What seemed to be bad wasn’t. It just was.
So many times in the past this experience would have made me crazy. I’m not sure why today was so easy. I had to write this blog for me- as a reminder to read on days when I am attached to the outcome of whatever I’m doing, When I’m able to catch myself in the moment, appreciate life for what it is, without the expectations of what I think it should be, life is so much sweeter.
Will it be good news or bad news? It will be what it will be and my expectation or judgment of the situation doesn’t change anything except the level of my stress. And even if we have to go through the doggie door, life is still beautiful. Good news? Bad news? We’ll see.