Getting off the Train of Expectation: On Disruption and Aliveness

Photo by Barefoot Ben Fader (me) on Saturday, May 4th 2019

Photo by Barefoot Ben Fader (me) on Saturday, May 4th 2019

Most of the time, riding mass transit in Seattle is a relatively quiet experience. Not always quiet, but generally uneventful. This was not the case Saturday night. Saturday night, Sound Transit was working on the southbound line of track between Rainier Beach Station and Tukwila International Boulevard Station. Whoever planned the logistics around this… I don’t know if they should still have their job. Although I imagine they did their best. The first train I caught seemed normal until I heard a sudden announcement two stops later to get off the train and catch another train and catch a different train when I got to another station after that. I was already a little tired after having just got off work. It was late enough that I was not going to phone a friend to come get me, and the people I reached out to via text message were otherwise incapacitated. I pulled out my phone and looked at Google Maps… estimated time to get to my stop was nearly an hour. This moment presented several choices, I could be frustrated, upset, angry, or I could accept what was and make the most of it. I didn’t want to scramble to find another way home, so I did the latter. After getting on another train which was frequently stopping or moving quite slowly, I noticed something. No one, including myself, were just “going about their business.” We were remarking, talking to one another, baffled at the ridiculousness of the situation. Spontaneously, conversations were erupting and while many people were irritated, this irritation was leading to bonding and human connection. The next time we all had to get off the train, with crowds of people filling the platform at Rainier Beach Station, whole groups of people were interacting with each other. The same person wearing a stuffed donkey on his hip came by to compliment my hair multiple times.

We were all disoriented, dislocated, disrupted by these events, but I have never ridden on the light rail and experienced such collective aliveness. I think these two are related.

When life moves merely as expected, when things go quietly according to plan, we can quietly inhabit our own little world. We can pretend to be isolated individuals, disconnected from others and unaffected by them. It can be a very productive space, albeit not a transformative space. I can write on the train for 40 minutes and not talk to anyone which can be lovely. I can listen to music. I can be in my head. Nothing wrong with any of the above. But Saturday night, people were sharing and caring and reaching out to one another and asking questions and sharing their perspective and hooting and hollering and clapping when the train moved and sharing their sparkle with the humans around them.

In our lives alone and together, we need disruption.

We need to wake up, to have a shake up, to break-up with routines and expectations. We need this. To be fully alive, fully ourselves, and to open up to the connection to life around us. Disruption generally involves discomfort. We LIKE our safe, happy, comfortable bubbles of expectation. But just because we like our physical spaces and perceptions of reality to be comfortable and climate controlled doesn’t mean it is GOOD for us or others. Challenge invites growth. The stimuli of disruption offer us a challenge and a choice: We can react with all kinds of negative emotions, or we can accept the invitation to learn, to grow, to be and to become. No exposure to germs, no immunity. No exposure to risk, no resilience. No disruption of expectations, no adaptability and curiosity.

It’s nice when things work. I like things going according to plan. And…

Every moment is an opportunity. Even if it’s disruptive.

Here is to living in the present, taking each curveball as an opportunity and moving forward with

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

What shake-ups are you taking on as chances to wake up?

Can’t wait to hear.

Much love,

Ben