One of the biggest lessons that I’ve had to learn in life – and in the world of international development work – is to let go.
I’m a Type A control freak so this lesson isn’t one that comes easily for me. Rather, it’s a constant process.
For those who knew me in my former life as a finance manager, with my color-coded spreadsheets and perfect PowerPoint slides, this comes as no surprise. For those who don’t know me – you’ve now been warned.
So, when our beloved Elayne and dear friend and volunteer Kim called me yesterday to tell me that the online booking agency or the airline or both screwed up and never booked her outbound flight to Kathmandu despite the confirmation email we got, the control freak in me froze up.
What? We have to postpone the trauma healing staff training? But we’ve already delayed this training once before (panic sets in).
What about the teachers’ training schedules? And, the pre-training evaluations? And, the eBay Foundation grant? And, the kids? And, this thing… and, that thing… and… and… and…
And, then I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
I remembered the time when I was about to board my flight to Nairobi for a month-long journey of field work and getting a phone call at the gate that the Nairobi airport had caught on fire.
Or, Elayne getting a nasty flu in the Congo that was so debilitating that she was in the hospital on an IV drip and had to conduct part of the training with the caregivers gathered around her bedside.
Or, the running water going out for several days in Ethiopia. Or, the daily power outages in Nepal. Or, getting bumped off my flight from Nairobi to Addis and spending half the night in the airport. The examples are endless.
Life IS chaos.
Despite all of our good intentions and careful planning, things happen.
The Western world doesn’t tend to cope well with uncertainty and hiccups in our well-laid plans. Surely if something goes wrong, it’s someone’s fault, could’ve been prevented, and we need better contingency planning in the future. People tend to fall off the rails, lose their cool, and still – it doesn’t change anything.
However, the rest if the world has something to teach us about letting go.
Whether it’s the oft said “hakuna matata,” meaning “no worries” in Swahili or the many mantras and themes of “letting go” in Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, and Yogic texts, it’s all about realizing that there are things in life that we just can’t control.
In the end, it’s all about how we choose to deal with it. And, practicing gratitude for the breath we are still breathing and the lessons we can learn.
Nepal will be there tomorrow. As will the children’s home, the kids, the staff and the teachers. With a refund for the botched flights, the funding is still there.
We’ll just have to reschedule.
And, so it is.
NB: The Nepal trauma healing training has been rescheduled to January 2015.