Make it a Lemonade
Yesterday, on the beach, I was tricked and my phone got stolen. I was supposed to be somewhere entirely different, but I had an ongoing dental problem that required me to go to the dentist each week and they rescheduled me several times, so instead of being in Sao Paulo visiting Metar’s sister, I was still in Rio. And I decided to go to Copacabana, which, in hindsight, is the most notorious beach for swindlers. As I was getting ready to leave the beach and texting with a friend, I put my phone down to put my clothes on. A guy came up to me offering me something, bracelets, something, and I looked at him for 5 seconds while saying “no, thank you” and then I turned my eyes back to my stuff and realized my phone was missing. I looked through my bag thinking I must have put it in there, but I couldn’t find it and then it started to dawn on me that someone must have grabbed it while I was talking to the guy with the bracelets. And I start looking around and a woman near me is yelling and pointing at a guy with a cooler on his shoulder who’s running away. And I grab all I have, including a massive plastic cup with caipirinha, and start running after him. A few seconds later I realize I’m holding on to the cup unnecessarily, so I throw it away and start running even faster. But he was fast and it obviously wasn’t his first rodeo. I gave it my best and even made it to the end of the beach still holding him in sight. I ran out in the street after him, barefoot, miraculously stopping traffic in all of my panic, when I spotted two police officers and started screaming in my broken Portuguese/Spanish for them to help me - ajuda me por favor, ele me robou, meu telefono - but as soon as they realize what I’m saying, they wave their hands and shrug their shoulders, as if it’s somehow out of their hands already. However, a civilian on a bicycle understood what I was saying and tried to catch up to the thief, but it was already too late, he already disappeared into the crowd with my phone. The civilian on the bike - blessing #1 - does find me two other cops on motorbikes - blessing #2 - and they seem willing to help, but it’s a moot point to look for the thief at this point, so their help is mostly to comfort me and to ask if I have anyone that I can call. Which I do, Metar, that’s who I’m staying with, and Metar also tracks my location, so I realize that he can potentially help me find the phone if the thief kept it on, so I get really excited about this. One of the cops, Gabriel, gives me his phone to call Metar. But I realize immediately, I don’t know his number by heart. And I think, I’ll send him a message on Instagram or Facebook instead, but I don’t also know my passwords for either. Our phones, that store information for us so well, have also made us idiots, eliminating the need for us to remember anything on our own. So I stand there, running out of ideas, and I ask Gabriel if they can take me home, a whole other part of town. And they can’t, because they have to stay local. At this point, I feel really frustrated, I’m still in disbelief and a little lost. I’m about to start crying. But at least the cops are not leaving me and they seem willing to help and as they are calming me down, I get a sudden flash - I know Beca’s number by heart! I’ve known this number for over 20 years and it may be the only number on the planet that I will never forget. So I call her, my best friend in Belgrade, and she picks up immediately and all I need to say is “It’s me, I have an emergency, send me Metar’s number to this number” and seconds later, I have his number. Blessings number 3 and 4 - my mind, solution-oriented, and my friends, there for me, any time day or night, anywhere in the world. It turns out that Metar sadly can’t track my phone, it’s been turned off already, but he can lend an ear and order me an uber home. And we use Gabriel’s phone for Metar to send me the car info and Gabriel stays with me until the driver arrives. Once I got home, I spent hours changing my passwords, just in case, because my iPhone contained my life and I didn’t want anyone accessing that. Apple care ensured me that once the phone was marked as lost or stolen, it automatically goes into lock mode and basically becomes a brick, unaccessible. That was a relief.
But in general, sitting in that uber on the way home to Metar, I felt fucked. I thought of all the way my life had been inconvenienced in the blink of an eye. Since I had no phone, I had no way to contact people, no way to call an uber, to check the weather, to pay my bills. And I think how I’m supposed to be flying home to Brooklyn in a week and I’m so used to having my phone on me for boarding passes and as a means of communication and checking time, just to mention a few. On top of the inconvenience, it’s such an emotional thing to lose. I journal in it daily. I use it to meditate, to listen to music, to take photos. We rely so heavily on our phones that being without it for a day feels like walking around naked. I couldn’t stop thinking of ways that I’d be using the phone if I had it.
To make things more difficult, we were just about to head out to the beach country side for the weekend, where there’s barely any internet, to spend time with Metar’s sister Yael, who I’ve been dying to meet for years.
This was surely an inconvenience, but I could have made it into a nightmare as well. What an opportunity to practice what I preach. One of my the things that I teach is that there are three crucial questions that we should actively ask ourselves, especially when we are triggered. The way we choose to answer these questions will determine the quality your life. The questions are: what are you going to focus on, what will you make it mean and what you will do about it.
How could I have made this a nightmare? By focusing on all the ways it’s inconvenient to be without a phone. By berating myself for not paying better attention. By blaming the changed schedule for even having been on the beach at that given moment. There are so many ways in which I could have added suffering to this situation. Please remember - there is WHAT HAPPENED and there is WHAT MEANING WE ADD TO IT. The suffering is entirely optional.
Here’s what I chose to focus on: the fact that it’s just a phone, that he could have snatched my whole bag or attacked me. That we don’t know why things happen and where this will lead, that it’s just a piece of a puzzle in a much bigger picture and who am I to judge, based on my own convenience, if this is a good thing or a bad thing? I’m focusing on my luck to have all these people in my life who care for me, who are willing and able to help me. I focus on gratitude for being able to afford a new phone without fuss.
What I am making this mean - because we can give anything ANY meaning - is that this is a blessing that’s teaching me humility, to pay attention, that it was a necessary initiation in my being an honorary Brazilian, as my friends in New York pointed out. That it gives me an opportunity to slow down, be more present, look up. I can literally make this mean WHATEVER I WANT. That there was a karmic debt that’s now been paid and I’m soaring to new heights. That it was a gift, since I was spending too much time on my phone and needed to give it a break. I do a lot of work stuff on my phone and I end up using it a lot throughout the day. And I want to be present, without it.
What I will do about it is get a new phone, probably something cheap here in Brazil just to be able to use it for the next 10 days for basic functions. I already arranged for a new sim card to wait for me when I arrive home and then I’ll upgrade to a new model. My phone was getting old anyway.
Even more importantly, I will make sure to enjoy this last week in Brazil without stressing, because I know without a doubt that this is not worth stressing over. And I’ll make sure to pay attention to where I spend too much time on my phone and see if that works for me and make adjustments accordingly. That’s it.
It would so easy for me to get stuck in how I would like things to be instead. I wanted not to have gotten robbed, of course. I didn’t want to spend money and time on setting up a new phone. But I would be focusing on the wrong thing, on something that’s out of my control, that already happened, which wouldn’t serve me in the least. I would start a battle that would inevitably end in my own loss. But what I’m doing instead leaves me grateful, calm and at peace. The choice is always ours.