Coach’s Challenge for 3/4/12 “Something Borrowed”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about something borrowed. To explain, I’ll start with the description of an experience I had this past week.

Early Wednesday morning, I was at the airport waiting for a flight to San Jose for two days of meetings with a client. I was sipping my coffee and checking e-mail, trying to get a few things done before I had to get on the plane. Suddenly, I realized that all three of the diamonds in my engagement ring were gone. My heart immediately started racing. “This can’t be,” I thought. But, sure enough, they were gone. I was devastated.

I started looking around frantically. But they could have been anywhere — at home, in the car, in my briefcase, in the ladies room, anywhere in the airport. I called my husband. He was very reassuring. “Don’t worry, honey. That’s what we have insurance for. I’ll look around, but if we don’t find them, we can replace them.” That may be, I thought, but the one in the middle of that setting was the one he gave me 10 years ago when he asked me to marry him. That’s not replaceable!

I had 30 minutes until my flight was scheduled to leave. I needed to do whatever I could to find them. In my mind, I retraced my steps. Luckily, my practice of trying to be present in each moment came in handy. If you don’t pay attention to where you are, you won’t remember where you’ve been. Fortunately, I remembered many details about my morning. I went back to the security area, even though I knew the odds that I’d find the diamonds were slim to none.

It was an extremely busy morning at PDX. People were making their way through security, emerging on the other side of guards and X-ray scanners — shoeless, jacketless, beltless — fumbling around, trying to put all their stuff back in their bags. I approached one of the guards and asked whom I could talk to about something I’d lost. He pointed me in the direction of a large circular desk. A number of TSA officials were at this desk trying to deal with all kinds of issues: weird looking bottles of stuff, people who wouldn’t cooperate, a child who had run through security just for fun, etc. It was complete chaos.

I got a guard’s attention. “Excuse me, sir, but I’ve lost three diamonds out of my engagement ring. Can I go back to the line I came though and look for them?” He looked at me as if I was completely mad. “Nope, you can’t do that. Are you sure you lost them here?” He was right. I was crazy to think I could find them. Completely discouraged, I turned to walk away, but then another TSA employee reached out to me. “Draw me a picture of them and fill out this form. We’ll contact you if we find them. If you can remember what line you came through, I’ll go look around now.” I looked in her eyes and could tell that she understood what the situation meant to me. Ironically, she looked just like my Aunt Flo (my favorite aunt and godmother) — but in a pantsuit and with a badge. I thanked her, and as she went off to search, I continued to look around as well. Her kindness gave me a little bit of hope.

A few minutes went by, and I saw her walking toward me. The look on her face said it all: She didn’t find them. In that moment, I remembered something my meditation teacher told us at my silent retreat last November. “We actually don’t own anything,” he said. “Everything is on loan to us. Even if we have it for a lifetime, when we die, it goes to someone else or it expires in its own time.” In that moment, I tried to remember his words. The diamonds were on loan to me, I said to myself, and now they will be on loan to someone else. It’s the way of things. I simply borrowed those diamonds for a period of time. Still, I had to work to keep the tears from spilling down my cheeks.

I was so grateful to the TSA worker for looking, even though I knew she had come back empty handed. In that moment, without a word, she held out her right hand to me and opened it. There, in the palm of her hand, were three beautiful diamonds. I burst into tears and grabbed her. “Thank you so much,” I blubbered through tears of joy. “I won’t forget you.”

My day was different after that. The idea that we don’t actually own anything, that everything is borrowed from what already exists, resonated through all my experiences. Was this my suitcase I was carrying or just one that I borrowed along the way to use on this business trip? What if my suitcase got lost along with all of its contents? Somewhere, someone would find it, and maybe they’d turn it into lost and found at the airline desk or maybe they would keep it for themselves. In any case, it would have gone from me to them, and at some point, it would end up in someone else’s closet or stay in the lost and found at the airport unclaimed. It might even end up at Goodwill or some landfill to be discovered by someone who doesn’t have much stuff. Then he or she would borrow it for a while until it went to someone else or fell apart and went back into the earth.

There’s no doubt that the potential loss I experienced had more of an impact on me because of the emotional attachment I have to that one diamond. Does that make it any different than any other diamond that exists? In fact, no, but in principle, yes. I can see that it’s not really about the object itself but rather about what it means to me. The more it means to me the more ownership I feel, and the idea that it’s borrowed for a time is much harder to accept.

This week, consider what you own and whether or not it actually belongs to you. Do you own your home or are you just borrowing it for a period of time until someone else buys it and moves in? Are your team members with you forever or are they just on loan until they move on to another job? What would it mean if you lost your most prized possession? Would it be the end of your life? Or could you accept that it had simply been removed from your life and possibly given to someone else? Once we realize that everything is only ours for a relatively short time — whether it be for a few moments, a few years or a lifetime — it becomes easier to appreciate it more.

This week, I will send the diamonds off to a good friend who’s a jeweler, and she will make me a new ring. Maybe they’ll disappear along the way, or perhaps the ring will be returned to me with a new setting that I can enjoy for many years to come. If that’s the case, I hope I can remember that I am just borrowing them for a while, and for however long they’re in my possession, I will try to appreciate them as much as possible.

Life is like that. It’s borrowed from a much larger existence only to be lived for the short time that we claim it. Appreciate it while you have it for it can all be gone in a moment.

Have a good week!

Kathleen

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