A warm and sunny Memorial day. A perfect day for a trip to the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. A perfect place for a 7-year old – a place where you can ride a mini-train, while watching animals. On a 1.5 hour drive from Seattle, I pictured a magical forest, full of bird songs and rustling of animals. Smiling rangers opening for us a door to the wonderland. This pleasant picture crumbled into dust, when we saw a parking lot filled with cars to its full capacity and a very long… a very long line. People. Crowds. Noisy kids. Standing for at least 2 hours surrounded by human beings – I knew it was more than my husband could bear. “Well, I guess we are not going there.” I said to my son.
If you ever experienced something like this, you know how it feels. It is this moment, when a warm and pleasant day can be hopelessly ruined in a blink of an eye. I pictured driving home with a crying kid and cranky husband. And then my husband surprised me by not becoming cranky. Very carefully, I ventured a proposal, “May be we can go somewhere else?” And he agreed. I pulled out our GPS. OK. “National park.” Search. Oh, yes! There is a Mt. Rainier Carbon River national park. It is only an hour drive. “Only?!” Well, we weren’t really prepared for this extra trip. We had two bananas and a box of crackers for Michael plus a couple of juice packs, but no food or water for us. And now even Michael’s food was almost gone. We had no proper shoes on for a mountain hike. Michael was wearing crocks.
I said cheerfully, “Oh, we won’t be driving for an hour. We will find some trail before the park.” I pictured a drive through a magnificent forest with many trail heads conveniently located along the way. We decided to go.
Michael said, “I want to go to a lake or a river.” Well, I hoped there will be some river. We hopped in the car.
For the next 45 minutes we kept driving through a series of small towns and farmlands. Not exactly what I pictured. There was no trails or forest and we had to drive on.
When we finally entered the forest (driving 5 miles below the speed limit behind a very slow truck), we had maybe 10 minutes left until our destination. Now we had to go all the way until the end. We left our house at 10 am. Now it was almost 2 Pm and all we did was driving.
Finally, arriving. The view, which opened had nothing in common with my internal pictures. A wide, mostly dry riverbed with the main flow swirling and sweeping over the rounded rocks and many smaller and more shallow streams running along. A perfect Nature playground! Even though we all were a bit hungry and weary from long driving, we just couldn’t miss an opportunity to explore and play. And Michael’s crocks were perfect for this terrain. We threw rocks and sticks into the river, we built castles and dams from rocks and boulders and we splashed in the water. What a perfect day!
As I was building a dam across the little stream, watching the water swelling and finding more ways through, I started thinking. From the very beginning, I started creating some expectations of what awaits us on this trip. None of my internal pictures turned out to be true. This was one of those days when reality didn’t want to cooperate. It had its own plans. No matter how angry, frustrated or upset we would become, the reality would not bulge. All those emotions would become the boulders blocking the flow, creating more upset and more unhappiness. By making a choice to be flexible, to be ready to let go of any internal picture that wouldn’t match reality, and by focusing on our intention to have fun, we opened the flow and received the abundance of joyful moments.
I realized that this is the same with stuttering and anxiety. Every time I create some rigid expectations for myself, such as “I should not stutter. I have to look smart. I have to show I am competent and professional” my inner river gets blocked. Those thoughts become heavy boulders blocking the flow. Every time I start creating rigid expectations for life, I start being afraid that reality won’t cooperate and that something will go wrong. As fears, frustration and anxiety pile up, the river of life gets blocked. And every time I focus on my goals to enjoy life, savor every moment and be ready to be flexible when things wouldn’t go according to plans, the river flows. It works for speech and it works for life.
When reality doesn’t cooperate – stop, regroup, take a deep breath, remember your goal to enjoy your life, smile, make another plan and go with the flow.