Ways of seeing: Eight words help restore calm

This is the best moment of my life. When I see this sentence on a young woman’s T-shirt as she walks with friends in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, I think, you know, that’s right. As I think about it more and more, I realize that I don’t recognize life’s normal moments as the best. Of course, they are, since at any time something could happen that changes everything.

So I keep saying it. I could get overheated in the Gobi Desert sun. I could become exhausted while riding a horse for four hours. My sleeping bag could get wet in a rainstorm. Whenever I need an attitude adjustment, I say, this is the best moment of my life. And something happens. I notice the good things. I am in Mongolia! I am healthy enough to ride a horse! Isn’t it great that the fire in the urts or teepee is warm enough to dry my sleeping bag before I go to bed?

And then my time in Mongolia is over. On the way back at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, thousands of people ahead of me stand in a snaked line for passport control. I would describe myself as an impatient person. I love Vermont’s small population and the lack of long lines. But here I am, tired, with a bag over my shoulder, pushing a roller bag carry-on, moving like a snail with thousands of other people toward a window, about to exhale with impatience, when I remember my mantra. This is the best moment of my life. Somehow, saying it gives me a chance to breathe, stop my inner complaints, and notice my surroundings.

I see individuals. Africans with their brilliantly patterned clothes. Asians in saris and Mongolian deels and Middle Easterners in soft white cotton. I feel the vibrations of languages — different tones and utterances as I pass the same people over and over. And I watch the ways people move along, push a baby stroller, prod a carry-on with a foot or a knee. Mothers with babies strapped on. Fathers carrying sleeping children. Men and women with backpacks or leather pocketbooks, with hair wraps or baseball caps. Faces with flat noses and high cheekbones, others with long faces and pointed noses. Eyes of green, black, brown, blue. Hair in weaves, or long and straight, or clipped close to the head. When a baby cries, the soothing words of each parent are different. This is the best moment of my life.

How could it not be? What a gift to experience this colorful scene. And how different to notice every encounter.

Finally, I am at the head of the line handing my passport to the man at the window. The man says my visa is not valid. It expired yesterday — an easy mistake because of crossing time zones. I breathe, say this is the best moment of my life while he tells me I have to go all the way back around the snaking line to another window and get a new visa.

While I am wondering how I can possibly go through the long line again, he tells me I don’t have to. I can come directly back without the line. So I walk around the clump of people to the Turkish visa window, get a postage-stamp-size piece of paper glued into my passport. I circle the crowd, to go directly to the passport window, but I need to go through a cordoned-off area. The airport police try to block my way, but I motion to the passport control person and he waves me through. This is the best moment of my life.

Sas Carey is an energy healer and nurse who travels to Mongolia when she can and is writing a memoir about her life.

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