A gust of wind, a flash of light and it’s gone….

When I’m in Los Angeles my schedule is bananas. Straight up insanity. I wake up early and get going and don’t stop until the suns nearly up again. I start around 8 a.m. being active- hiking, pilates, yoga, dance classes, teaching private lessons, teaching weekly classes, creating choreography, editing videos, blogs, vlogs plus an entire personal life full of regular, mundane demands like laundry PLUS a group of friends that I love to the ends of the earth and love to spend time with. I feel so ridiculously blessed at the fullness of my life and I am never as joyful as I am when I’m productive.
Long story short, I can move for 18-20 hour days in LA and I know it sounds crazy but I LOVE it. I don’t just love it, I thrive that way. The more I do the more I want to do, the more I create the more I’m inspired to create. I am a mover, a New Yorker deep down in my soul and busy-ness is the life blood that lights me up. It turns out I love being busy so much that just me being busy wasn’t satisfying enough so I hired an assistant, so I could make someone else busy too.
Fast forward.
I’m writing this to you from Africa. I’m somewhere in Tanzania- I don’t know exactly where because I’m in about hour 6 of a 16 hour bus ride from Arusha to Bagamoyo. Let me repeat that one more time: a 16 hour bus ride.
16 hours of sitting still on a bus with no wifi, no work, no nothing. Now that would probably be a struggle for even the most sedentary human, especially since it’s about 90 degrees here and this bus has no AC- but for ME!? Holy crap. This is like a next level type challenge. 100 to zero, real quick.
I boarded the bus, took a window seat -and felt restless within about 2.6 seconds. I figured I had two choices- run off the bus screaming and return immediately to Los Angeles OR sit still in this seat and learn this lesson that God has placed in my lap. I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so of course I stayed put.
At first I thought the lesson was in patience. It’s no secret that my lack of patience is my Achilles heel. My dad always said I was like a Tasmanian devil. That you’d just feel a gust of wind and see a flash of light before I was gone.
So I sat in my seat, boiling hot, staring silently at the seat back in front of me and without busying myself with any tasks at all I tried to stay calm and quiet. I didn’t fidget and I vowed not to complain. After about 3 minutes of that, I turned my head when something out the window caught my eye.
It was a young boy, running from his home (a poorly constructed shack with dirt floors and no electricity or water supply.) He was running towards me with the biggest smile I have ever seen. He was calling to me and waving. I smiled and waved back and he literally jumped for joy and screamed with laughter.
That’s when it hit me- this lesson was not only in patience but in presence. By being present in the moment and being still I noticed that young boy- I made his day by seeing him, and he made mine by greeting me that way. Had I been busy with something else or distracted with something outside the present moment, I would have missed him. That thought alone could almost bring me to tears. I saw him for just a brief moment, but I’ll never forget him.
The challenge now is to find that stillness in the craziness of my everyday life- to stay connected and present in each moment as it passes and not fret over moments gone or ones that have yet to come. I will find that balance, the quiet in the chaos and I know you can too.
This lesson was also in empathy and in gratitude. You cannot be in Africa and not feel the utmost gratitude for all the worldly luxuries home waiting for you. Most of the people here live on the bare minimum, about $100 US a month if they’re lucky. They don’t have AC or heat or even running water… but my God they are JOYFUL. They always say hello with a smile and laugh and dance, they sit outside with their children and bathe them and hug them and watch them play. There is real happiness and life here. It’s not squeaky clean or dressed up in designer clothes- but it’s breathtakingly beautiful.
We visited a Maasai village where a Maasai leader took us into his home. A very small shack built with cow dung, no windows, and a cow hide on the floor for a bed. I asked the Maasai leader if he enjoyed living there in the home he showed us. His answer was simple: “I would be happy anywhere.”
The simplest, most poignant thing I’ve ever heard. Happiness is not dependent on one single external factor. It’s a choice. One you can make whether you’re surrounded by cow manure or Italian marble.
That young boy has every excuse to be miserable. He doesn’t have money or any of the material things people tend to value, he wasn’t even wearing shoes. Still, he had one of the happiest faces I have ever seen. Just beaming- utter and profound joy… to see a stranger through a window on a passing bus. He is creating joy in small things and spreading it around like wild fire. After a $100,000 college education I learned one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever been taught from an 8 year old African boy I saw in a blink. A gust of wind and a flash of light, and he was gone.
So now, I choose to be happy; right now, on this endlessly long bus ride. I will continue to choose to be happy whether I’m home going a million miles a minute or sitting completely still on this bus in Africa or wherever my next adventure leads me- I will choose happiness, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad…I’ll think of that boy and choose happiness every single time and every once in a while I’ll make sure to stop (or at least pause for a second) and smell the roses. Please don’t forget that the time is now, we aren’t promised tomorrow. Life is funny that way. A gust of wind, a flash of light and it’s gone.