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I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight yesterday, thoroughly enthralled with a toddler in a stroller adjacent to me. His mother was occupied with frantically trying to organize things for their travels, while he entertained himself beside her. During the span of five minutes, this beautiful little boy ran the gamut from total despair because of losing his pacifier over the side of his stroller, to ecstatic joy in finding his thumb to take its place. It was such a simple quest from loss to infatuation to soothing satisfaction, yet it rendered a dynamic rollercoaster of emotion.

It was hard not to hop on his rollercoaster with him, rather than just bare witness, and I silently cheered when the little one found relief in his makeshift new pacifier. It struck me that his frustration over losing his beloved ‘security blanket’ was also the impetus for finding something new to occupy himself, to stimulate his brain, to challenge his dexterity. Like I have found in my own adult life, this little boy’s loss, exasperation and tears were his greatest instigation for innovation. Pain is the catalyst for change, just like necessity is the mother of invention. In fact, both sentiments may be inextricably linked.

Most recently, one of my frustrations had been over wanting to feel better, more agile, lithe, in my body. I had been wanting to lose a few pounds in order to reduce the pain in my knee (after many volleyball injuries) so that I could feel more like my intrinsic athletic self. For the love of god, it had been a challenge. I had relatively newly vowed to treat myself lovingly during the process, as opposed to the temporarily drastic or restrictive diet and exercise regimes to which I had abided in the past. I wanted to treat my self with care, while still losing pounds effectively, efficiently, and sustainably. My frustration—like my weight—had escalated in the process. Until finally, my patience, like the boy’s pacifier, toppled over the edge, and rapidly descended into anguish. I felt heavy, inflamed, in pain, and horrible about it.

After giving myself a day to surrender to this wretched, alien-in-my-body feeling, I finally felt the inspiration to seek information, help, advice as to the root cause of my body’s response. I had realized, in my desire to physically treat my body well, I had forgotten to adjust my mindset along with it. I had forgotten to appreciate my body for all it had brought me through previously in surviving thirteen major knee surgeries to begin with. I had forgotten to appreciate how mobile I had become by that present moment. I had forgotten to love my body, this magical vehicle for my incredible adventure of life, as it was then, in that very moment, before desiring to change it. And as soon as I adjusted my mindset by acknowledging the beauty of what was, I experienced a cellular shift.

Just like the little boy searching for his thumb—something new with which to soothe himself—a part of himself that he wouldn’t have to rely on an external pacifier to fix—I discovered the change I needed that put me on the upward trajectory of that emotional rollercoaster. Not only did I find the healthy, sustainable means and method to lose the weight that I wanted, but I found the mindful mechanism to carry me to greater joy…in every sense.

We are not here to experience perpetual happiness while discounting the rest. We are not here to experience static contentment while berating ourselves for not being where we want to be physically, emotionally, or mentally. We are here to experience the full spectrum of human emotion. We are here to stretch the boundaries of who we are, into that whom we aspire to be. We are here to grow, to evolve, to transcend the inevitable pain and trauma we experience in simply being human—in simply living life—and become stronger, deeper, better for it. This is the rich, vivid tapestry of events that we weave together to form our unique patterns, texture, shape, and it is invaluable. That little boy discovered one of the greatest keys of this life experience in learning what it took to soothe himself in that moment of despair. He allowed himself to feel his loss, then took what he didn’t want and reached for better feeling thoughts until his innovative open-mindedness discovered something that worked even better, because it was an unexplored part of himself. One that would be with him wherever he went, until his desires required something more sophisticated, and he evolved past it. In those five minutes, he summed up our human experience. He allowed me to appreciate my own journey that much more. And it was invaluable.