You know it, life can get overwhelming at times.
Like, for example, moving countries in the middle of a pandemic. What could have been a “purchase a flight ticket, pack up your belongings, get on a plane” became a “get vaccinated, prove you’re vaccinated, apply for a travel approval, pay for an on-arrival PCR test, purchase a flight ticket at 2 times the normal price, book a pre-flight PCR test, pack up your belongings, get tested 48 hours before your flight, test negative, print all your documents to be presented at the airport, get on a plane…”
And it doesn’t end there — there’s still the part where you make sure you have packed enough disinfectants, sanitisers, and face masks so you can wipe down (almost) everything you come into contact with and be the most protected you can be before, during, and after your flight.
Those who describe themselves as “rigidly organised” can probably relate — I’m obsessed with certainty and plans. It’s almost impossible to get me to do anything spontaneously. So the fact that there was so much to do before I moved, with so much uncertainty, was overwhelming.
However, the one thing that got me through the months leading up to the move (apart from keeping an ever-changing to-do list) was learning to cultivate flexibility. Whenever I caught myself predicting every possible combination of scenarios that could manifest itself and what I should do in each of them, I turned towards the things I could do instead.
If anything, the pandemic taught me a lesson on equanimity. When nothing is in your control anymore, the only thing you can do is surrender and learn to adapt. To quote Bruce Lee,
“Be water, my friend.”
On reflection, this lesson on equanimity did not merely help my with my move. It somehow also found its way into other parts of my life. Entering into another lockdown? Start a running streak to count down the days. Moving into a role at work with bigger shoes to fill? Learn quick, work hard, then trust that it will work out. When you stop being so rigid on what’s “supposed” to happen, how people are “supposed” to act, you start feeling less frustrated, less angry; you start feeling liberated.
I did arrive at my destination eventually, after months of checking off to-do lists (and a few sleepless nights before the flight). I don’t think I’m any less of a planner now, but it’s easier to calm that instinctive worrier in me.
If there’s anything I’ve learnt from this experience, it is that when you learn to be like water, you can take any storm head on and know you’ll get through it.