05 Jul Wabi-sabi, or how to enjoy a high school graduation
Monday was a major milestone in my family’s life. My son Julian graduated from high school. Like most parents, I felt a variety of emotions, ranging from relief that I’d never again ask “Did you do your homework?” to pride when he unexpectedly received an award for excellence in art.
For reasons that I’ve yet to resolve, I feel anxiety leading up to these events. Will I be able to see the stage clearly? (I usually sit behind the tall guy.) Will I be able to hear everything? (I usually sit next to the person who forgot to turn off her phone.)
Therefore, I arrived very early to get a position at the front of the line of parents waiting to get in, so that I’d have my pick of seats. Instead of assuaging my anxiety, my early arrival just gave me more time to fret over whether I was standing in the correct place or if the group that came in after me would finagle their way in front of me. All the while I agonized: should I sit to the right of the auditorium or the left? Should I sit near the front or in the middle? I asked no fewer than three ushers about the layout of the theatre and even brought up the seat layout on my phone.
I know in these moments that a sense of scarcity is gnawing away in my insides, making unrealistic demands to both figure it all out and do it perfectly. This is impossible. Standing there with my family, who did their best to reassure me, I adapted my own stand for abundance– “there is plenty for everyone, including me”– to state “there are plenty of chairs for everyone, including me.” I was where I was in the line, and I would get the seats I got. When I felt the anxiety rising up, I repeated that to myself until it subsided.
And, as it turned out, there were plenty of chairs for everyone, for not only me but my entire family. Because we were close to the front of the line, in fact, we had our pick. With some relief, I settled in to listen to the event. That relief, however, did not last long. I did sit next to the woman who forgot to turn off her phone – which she answered and then had a whole conversation on through the valedictorian speech.
Historically, I would have spent the entire time distracted by her and a thousand other things that were going on around me. Instead I remembered a conversation I had with my sister earlier that weekend. We spoke of the Japanese concept, “wabi-sabi”, which can be translated as “the acceptance of transience and imperfection.” I had a choice. I could resent every ringing phone and side conversation, tell myself that I should have sat in the aisle seat so I could take photos, and barely hear what was going on, or I could accept that the experience was sure to be imperfect and focus on the parts I wanted to hear. It took some rigor, for sure, but it worked. I was able to block out most distractions and be present to the joy of my son’s graduation.
I’ve got four more years before my daughter Isabel will be graduating high school, giving me time to practice embracing “wabi-sabi” and be a chill Mom. There are certainly ample opportunities in life to do so.
Want to get your ideal seat at a graduation? Get good at asking! When people ask me how to create their ideal futures, I always tell them: the most important thing you can do to begin your transformational journey to abundance is to ask for what you want.
To learn how to harness the power of asking, download my free guide “The Power of Asking”