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Choosing What Matters: Lessons From Broken Glass

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Over the last few months, for some reason, broken glass has come into my path in very unexpected and startling ways. The first incident happened on a plane in the sky. I was flying home after a two-week business trip in Europe and was looking forward to reuniting with my pillow. I was wearing two layers of socks (the special ones to wear on long flights so your feet don't swell), when I felt a sharp pain in my foot and managed to pull a sliver off glass out of my foot. I'll spare you the descriptions of what happened next, as I am sure you can imagine. It was not pleasant, and as a frequent flyer, this has never happened to me before. Instead of working the rest of the flight, I simply stopped to breathe.

The second incident happened last night. I was thrilled to be at a friend's book launch and was celebrating how she gave birth to a book that can help so many people come alive in their work and life. Afterwards, I went to dinner with friends and celebrated a friend who decided to divorce her job. We talked about how much we numb ourselves with work, food, shopping and that one the shifts we need to make is stopping to think and feel. We had both been to Arianna Huffington's book launch a few months ago and were talking about how important sleep is and how so many people deprive themselves for the fuel they need to live a full life. And for what reason? Doing a good job? We talked about a friend who has been informed of an illness and is trying to check items off her list because now death is staring her in the eyes. It was a full evening of thought provoking conversations and a determination not to wait for anything. Not to have lists of things I want to do some day. Instead, make changes to live them in the moment.

So imagine my shock when I arrived at the parking lot and found the back window of my rental car smashed with glass every where. I could imagine the rage of the fist or bat that smashed the glass in the hope of what? Getting my notebooks that were on the passenger seat? My first instinct was to feel violated and vulnerable. And then I looked at the broken glass on the ground and the jagged edges that were hanging on the window frame and felt a sadness for our world. This happens every day around the world and this is a minor incident in the spectrum of violence. I realized it was a gift that I was not close to the car when it happened.

When I called the police and Hertz, no one asked me if I was safe. They merely wanted to fill out the paperwork and go to the next person with a crisis. To them, this was another incident. Was I foolish to expect compassion since they were just doing their job and this happens all the time? How would they feel if this happened to their mother, sister, aunt, daughter or friend? Did they really need to walk me through all the details? Did they realize I was alone at night in a San Francisco parking lot and was scared the person might still be around?

On my drive home with the wind piercing my ears from driving with a broken window, I started thinking about broken glass. The window can be fixed and replaced. My foot has healed too. I was given a gift. The glass came to remind me to stop and think about what is in my control. Like many other people, I care less and less about stuff now. I wonder about the person who felt a need to break into the car and why they are broken. I wonder about our humanity of seeing the people in front of us. I look back at yesterday and I choose to celebrate amazing women who I got to spend time with last night:

  • My friend Ruth Ross for publishing her amazing book, Coming Alive, with a desire to help people live their purpose
  • .
  • My friend Connie for realizing that her job was killing her so she is walking away into an unknown future, fully knowing that there is no price for her soul
  • My friend Amy for doing her life's work and inspiring others every day; and
  • My friend Shamini for looking me in the eye and saying "Ayelet, please don't ever worry about anything ever again in your life again.

So with all this wealth of friendship, what meaning does some broken glass have? I will not allow anyone to make me feel like a victim. Life is messy. Life is hard. Life is an adventure of twists and turns. As Leonard Cohen sings so beautifully, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Do something today that matters despite all the stuff that is broken around us. It's as simple as having a conversation and listening to someone.