Peru Photos, A Lesson in Compassion

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Peru Photos, A Lesson in Compassion
    My host father, Don Magno, lights the oven to make bread
Peru Photos, A Lesson in Compassion
    The view from the bus, Lima to Huaraz
Peru Photos, A Lesson in Compassion
Peru Photos, A Lesson in Compassion
  Peru Photos, A Lesson in CompassionFrankel and Keneth (my sweet-eyed godson) eat breakfast

As I promised, here are a few more photographs of my trip to Peru. These are some of the folks that I lived with for two years. They are a bit shy at first--my first time meeting them I was convinced that they didn't like me because no one talked or smiled--but once you get to know them they are kind, generous, and really funny. They supported me through some of the most difficult times in my life and continue to teach me a lot. they don't teach so much through their words--as I said, they can be a little quiet--but more through their example of how to live a simple life with integrity and joy.

I think of them now as I move through my massive to-do list and loaded calendar. It can pretty hard to connect those worlds. In Peru, most days are about the same. My host mom serves pretty much the same lunch of potatoes and rice around 1pm to the same people almost every day. While they eat, people really don't talk that much  to each other because there just isn't too much to report on most of the time. That lifestyle is really grounding and comforting in ways, but the truth is that I wouldn't trade it for the busyness of my life (whether or not my host family would trade for mine is a whole other question that I've thought a lot about and still can't answer). I love living in the city and chatting it up with lots of people and never knowing what exactly is going to happen.

But the hard part is when I don't realize it's too much. Last week was one of those weeks. In addition to my normal work, Adam and I were getting ready for our housewarming party and my dad had surgery and my grandmother is still not doing so well and my car maintenance light went on and etc etc. It was so much that I forgot to read my calendar and realize that I had a weekday afternoon photo shoot in Mclean to take holiday card photographs. I am usually really good at managing my schedule and being on time, so my stomach really dropped when my Google alert went off, telling me I had exactly ten minutes to make it to Virginia. oh yes, at that point my car was still waiting for me in the shop.

I called my client to see if we could reschedule and found out that she was leaving early the next morning and wouldn't be back until much later in the month. If we were going to get her the photographs she wanted, it would have to be now. It was 3:40 PM at this point and I quickly did some math in my head to see if I could make it. It would take me at least 20 minutes to ride my bike to Brookland and pick up my car. From there I could maaaaaybe get to Virginia before the sunset. Because it didn't seem like there was another choice, I told her I would try.

My plan seemed to be working until I hit the worst traffic I've ever seen on I-395. The cars stretched out in snaking lines across every lane and I couldn't see anything letting up ahead. Going under the tunnel, I was nervous but still optimistic. by the time I emerged to see the sun almost dipping to horizon, I just had to give up. I called my client to tell her we couldn't do the shoot. She was understandably upset and nothing I could say really made anything feel better at that point. I pulled off at the next exit, drove home and did what any yoga teacher would do in such a situation: I had a good cry, made a big bowl of popcorn and watched episodes of "parks and rec" until I could face the world again.

It was a really bad-feeling afternoon that I couldn't make better. I felt like I failed as a professional which is tied to many parts of my self-esteem. From experience, I know that it can be so easy to go in for the emotional kill during these vulnerable moments and make it mean something big about who I am. Yet, even through my tears, I was determined to practice a bit of what I preach. Of course, I fell apart a little bit, but I did it with some kind of consciousness, meaning I worked hard not to kick myself when I was down. I breathed, I talked about it to Adam and even during yoga, and I remembered the lessons of this book, which reminds me again and again that being human, not perfect is the goal. as much as it sucked, I got through it and emerged still feeling pretty okay about myself.

This lesson really made some sense when I showed up the next morning to a CPR training that I organized for my yoga studio. We were set to start at 9 AM and by 9:20 AM all 13 yoga instructors were there with no sign of our CPR instructor. I called the training center only to be told that the trainer had completely forgotten about our appointment and would be late. When he arrived, an hour and 15 minutes later, I was way more understanding than I would have been otherwise. Because I had been tolerant with myself, I could also extend that to another person who was having a bad day. In that moment, the perfect storm of the past two days fit together like puzzle pieces and I breathed a sigh of relief. No one, no where, has it all figured out and forgiving ourselves for that is the best work we can do.