I’ve been thinking a lot about layers lately; that an experience can be looked at from so many different angles. If we are open to receiving, we can keep finding new, enriching meanings long after an experience is over. Peel off the top layer and you have another lesson, a deeper meaning, a story within a story. Reflecting on all of the layers makes life so much more rich, full and filled with purpose.
Things aren’t always what they seem; sometimes they are even more than what they initially appear. There are a lot of layers. Conflict can lead to resolution; discomfort can bring growth. I’m still peeling the layers off my trip to Europe, but I have a good start. I’m making a list (blog post to come), but so far there is one line, spoken by my cousin Jennifer, that stands out for me.
“Sweat is good.”
Yup. That’s what she said. “Sweat is good.” After sightseeing on a hot July day, two bus transfers (that took longer than a walk back would have), a missed train (that was within touching distance) and a frantic drive to the next town to catch said train, my only words when finally boarding, finding a seat and taking a gulp of water were, “I feel gross. I need a shower.”
Jennifer, who grew up in Germany and now lives in India with her husband, Santhosh, says, “Why?”
Why? Are you serious? I’m hot, I’ve been chasing transportation for half a day, I feel sweat dripping down my back as I speak, I’m already worried how I’ll have enough clothes if I sweat this much for 20 more days and before we go out for the evening, I need a shower. So I say, “Don’t you feel sweaty? And gross?”
And that’s when she says, “Sweat is good.”
I can say, I’ve never thought about sweat as good. Sweat is to be avoided. Sweat is discomfort. Aren’t we told not to sweat the small stuff? Not to work up a sweat? And the deodorant commercials that say, “Never let them see you sweat.” Nope, never thought of sweat as good.
After the hurried train ride back to Munich to meet my cousin, Jefferey, there was no time to shower and luckily, no time to even look in the mirror. We checked my luggage into the hotel and sped to the home of friends where we watched the World Cup, a game that put Germany one step closer to the finals. And ya know what? I didn’t even think about needing a shower then. And people (bravely?) sat next to me, so I guess I didn’t need a shower as much as I thought I did.
Ever since then, I’ve been peeling layers off the “Sweat is good” comment.
People all over the world live in discomfort. They are hot, sweaty, lacking clean water, hungry, hurt. The list goes on. And I just feel a little sweaty. People in big cities, even in my own country, walk farther every day to the subway station than I drive to work (less than a mile). In many cities and countries, people have no choice but to walk. They might not be able to afford a car. Or perhaps the streets are so congested, it’s just not efficient. Or there isn’t space to park the car when they get to their destination. I live in Nebraska, the land of endless cornfields and parking lots, but many cities are landlocked and walking is the only option. So I wonder, “Is my sweat better (or worse) than anyone elses?
Perhaps driving to school is a luxury I don’t need. Maybe my body would actually prefer the walk. Maybe it will be uncomfortable at first, but I’m thinking there will be a good lesson in bringing a little bit of Europe back home with me. I will walk to school. I will use my body the way people around the world use their body. I will need to get up a little earlier, wear some good walking shoes, take nice shoes to change into. I’ll feel a little sweaty. I think this is something I can do. I think this is a layer I want to peel off, a lesson I want to learn more about.
So I’ve been walking to school most days for a month now…and I like it. I like the quiet time on the way to school. I say my morning prayers and enjoy the huge Nebraska sky; I remember Germany and I use my body. And I’m a little sweaty when I get to school.
But then again…I’m always a little on the warm side. (My age, perhaps?) How many people do you know who fan themselves with a hard tortilla, meant to be used as a plate at a medieval German restaurant (no utensils provided)? I’m not proud. I can use a tortilla as a fan.