I was in New York shortly after Sandy hit. The Mega-storm.
Of course, I didn’t know there would be a Sandy when I bought my ticket and proposed a yoga detox workshop to a handful of women. I didn’t know that the last minute decision to fly into Newark and not LaGuardia would actually ensure that I could actually make it in to the city. The day before my flight, the car rental agency I had contracted to rent a car from in the city called. “Er, we’re sorry, but, we have no cars.”
I sipped that word slowly. Sorry. I drank it down with the tea I was savoring.
Sorry was nice, but it wasn’t a car, which was what I needed far more than an apology. Sorry wouldn’t transport the vegetables and fruits and yoga mats and musical instruments and the chef who was waiting for me in Brooklyn. So, as nicely as I could, I said as much.
“Well, you could try another car rental company!” suggested the agent. “It’s not that we don’t have the cars, we do. It’s just that there is no gas. And a car without gas….”
“Let’s talk about the options,” I pressed.
I was put on hold. I sipped the tea and the lump of sorry patiently.
“Well, I do have a damaged mini-van with 1/2 of a tank of gas.”
Smiling a country away, I snapped up the offer. ” A damaged mini-van with a half-full tank it is!!!” I squealed in delight.
And that is when the greenlight way emerged.
When I arrived in Newark, the streets were empty. No one had gas. But, the chauffeur of the car service did, and it was because he had braved the three-hour line at the pump at 4 am to be able to service customers. We swept me into a city I have always loved, triumphantly.
New York, New York. So nice they named it twice.
When I got to the car rental agency, the manager, Austin, said, “We don’t have the mini-van.”
I waited, smiling, patient. Trusting.
“But….I did manage to get you a sedan with a full tank of gas,” he added, wondering whether I’d notice the efforts he must have gone through to make a customer happy.
I hugged him. What else could I do?
I drove out of the garage in style, accompanied by a GPS and my goofy grin.
On my way to Brooklyn, I hit every green light in the city. Every single one.
I found a parking space in front of the chef’s building. Chef Abby and I loaded up the trunk, and with the raspberries and coconuts and carrots perfuming our ride into Long Island, we made it to our destination in record time.
Miraculously, the women all showed up.
One had lost a home. Another had had to go from home to home with two small children as her building, below the line of catastrophic demarcation, could no longer be accessed . The Welcome Mat was submerged. Another one, despite the odds that storm-jumbled re-schedules had reeked on everyone’s already impossibly busy lives, came in. Breathless, and late, but present and accounted for nevertheless. Everyone made it. Everyone showed up.
After the settling in period, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
Breath. Centering. Cleaning. Cleaning. No coffee, no sugar, no wheat. No alcohol. No junk food. No junk thoughts. Just glorious, nourishing, healing foods and constant yogic practice. Meditation. Sound sleep. Safety. And a common purpose: to find peace in the storm.
During our lockdown, there was still no gas, the presidential election, and the Noreaster, bringing high winds and cold. We even got a power outage. But we stayed the course we had committed to, and as spirits lifted and the green light way kept leading us to the next miracle, the next adventure, the next discovery or breakthrough or release, our minds and spirits got quieter and quieter until all we could hear, even in the wake of that freakish storm, was joy. It came with sadness and tears and laughter and fun and music and dance and play. It flew in on Eagle wings and rented bikes and backbends.
By the time it was over, strangers had become friends. Friends had become family. Family had become a place big enough to hold the wind and the storm and the tragedy and the struggle and the gnarly beauty of being alive and together to appreciate and share it all.
When it was over, we celebrated our good fortune, ready to help, able to help. Available.
On the drive back to the city, Abby pulled out her ukulele and I unveiled a healing song and together, we laughed our way back to Brooklyn.
I told Abby about the green light way. I said it is what happens when we are aligned and committed to the good in life. To the good in people. To the good in us. When instead of breaking down, we break through.
Tonight, I think about this path. We can’t heal the whole world all at once, but we can heal the world that is within us, and reach out to the people along the road. We can make a small difference, a real difference, a today difference, a one-light-at-a-time difference.
By being well, by being happy, we can help others to do the same.
Though I like red, and yellow, it’s the green light way that has me humming.