(Post by Carolyn Solares)
My computer screensaver at work used to flash “Let it Go,” ostensibly as a reminder to me. But honestly, I put it there because it sounded Zen, not because I practiced anything remotely resembling Zen. Secretly, I probably hoped that co-workers would think I was enlightened. In hindsight, I’m not sure I even understood what these words meant. Never once did I ever let anything go.
This truth finally registered when I lost two iPods in four months. I lost the first one on a plane ride to Paris, and of course, stewed about it for the entire trip. When I returned, my friend lent me hers. It was an extremely generous offer—and also a brilliant one, which undoubtedly spared her from hours of listening to my complaining.
Nevertheless, I replaced the lost iPod in a belligerent fit of therapy shopping, only to discover it was missing while I was packing for a camping trip. After futilely emptying my purse, pulling apart my packed suitcase, and tossing my apartment, I called my friend.
“Ismyipodinyourcar?” I shrieked.
It was not. So in my panic, I enlisted her help in my search—and downward spiral. The two of us retraced the path of our purchases the day before, but with no luck. As I headed into a full meltdown, my weary friend implored, “Let’s eat lunch, and then we can keep looking.” Begrudgingly, I agreed.
While eating our sandwiches, we remembered having shopped for supplies at Walmart and groaned at the thought. Neither of us felt very hopeful of finding it, but it was the only place left to look. On the drive there, my obsessing escalated.
Where had I left it? How had I lost it? I don’t want to have to replace it…again. I am not at my most attractive when I spiral like this—more like repellent. Thankfully, from my one remaining corner of sanity, I had this very realization in the car. It’s just an iPod, I thought—inconvenient and a little expensive to lose—but just an iPod.
Chagrined, I turned to my friend and told her I thought I might need to work on surrendering. She enthusiastically agreed. But what was obvious to her was a revelation to me. I obsessed endlessly about everything. The two lost iPods were merely a symptom, not a cause.
I took a deep breath, laughed, and exclaimed, “OK, I get it. I need to work on surrender. So… I surrender my obsessing about the iPod.”
Minutes later, we pulled up to the Walmart entrance. Finding the iPod no longer felt all-important, but deciding it was still worth asking, I ventured into the store.
I explained my dilemma to an employee at the service counter, expecting her to roll her eyes. Instead, she sprang into action, first looking in the Lost Sunglasses & Keys Box, then checking the Lost Coats Box, and finally calling a manager to unlock the Lost Valuables Room. Who knew that people lost so many things at Walmart? Who knew that kind people returned so many lost things?
When the manager arrived to check the Valuables room, I explained my predicament, and that the iPod was in a little black fabric case.
“Yes, it’s back there!” a woman behind me said excitedly. I turned around to see a young couple standing there. (I had been the only customer there a moment earlier. Where in the world had they come from?)
The woman asked me, “Was it pink and very thin?” Stunned and baffled, I croaked, “Yeah.” Then the two of them recounted finding my hot-pink iPod in the Camping Section the day before.
Upon hearing this crazy exchange, the manager unlocked the Valuables room and returned the iPod to me with a smile. Before stumbling out of the store, I found my voice long enough to thank the couple and the staff for their help.
I approached my friend’s car bemused and wide-eyed. When I showed her the iPod, it was her turn to be stunned.
“No way!” she said, shaking her head as I got into the car. But before we could drive away, I leapt out and ran back into the store to properly thank the couple.
They had been making returns, so I expected them to still be near the service counter. But no one was there, not even the employees who had helped me. I looked up and down the store aisles, but saw no one, which felt very odd. On a Sunday afternoon, Walmart is never empty.
I slowly walked back to the car, shaking my head in disbelief. “I couldn’t find them anywhere,” I said getting back into the car, adding in a whisper, “I think maybe they were angels.” My friend, who was still in shock, could only nod and agree.
Bewildered, the two of us sat for a moment in the parked car until I broke our silence with a loud THANK YOU—to my friend for putting up with me and to the universe for this unique lesson in the art of surrender.
These events marked the first time I not only recognized, but actually interrupted my habitual obsessing. And the remarkable outcome reminded me that the universe, like my friend, is both generous and brilliant. Even several years later, every time I listen to my iPod, I think about this unlikely story and remember the simple wisdom in letting go.
Carolyn Solares, Minneapolis, MinnesotaTweet