We all experience loss. Over the past few weeks, I have personally experienced my share of loss. This is not the kind of loss in which one loses a loved one. This is the kind of loss in which I lost something of material value, completely through fault of my own.
Story #1. We were recently traveling in Iceland. It was a bucket list item to see the Northern Lights. Knowing that the end of February in Iceland is going to be rather brisk I decided to purchase heated jackets. The jackets worked perfectly, however, I was not accustomed to zipping and unzipping the pockets frequently as I reached in to take pictures with my relatively new iPhone. It only took one day - our first day in Reykjavik, for me to reach into the pocket and realize there was no iPhone. We retraced our steps; consisting of just a few blocks of walking in the snow and ice for about 10 minutes. No luck. No phone.
I tried to activate the Findmyphone app but this was not successful because I had no phone service, Wi-Fi, or cellular service. So I called the phone company and let them know to suspend the service and then hit the dreaded Erase All Information button so that if the phone were ever found, my personal information would not be available. We contacted the hotel and a few local businesses in case anyone happened to turn in a lost phone and continued our vacation. We enjoyed a total of 5 amazing days in Iceland with breathtaking and awe-eliciting visits to the Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle and the South Shore. After Iceland, we headed to Tel Aviv, Israel with short stops in London and Bucharest, Romania. The trip was fantastic enough that I could gently and briefly reflect on how I should change my behavior to prevent things from falling out of those pockets again and then I moved on to being mindful of the present trip and forget about the phone.
Story #2. On continuing our journey through Israel, we traveled from Tel Aviv to the mystical, mountain town of Tsfat and enjoyed a visit with my daughter who lives in Tiberius. After Jerusalem for a few days we made our way south to the city of Eilat on the Red Sea. There we went scuba diving among beautiful sea life and coral. The next day I had an amazing day booked starting with scuba diving with dolphins at Dolphin Reef Eilat. Next, we climbed the stairs to a tranquil paradise called the Relaxation Pools (at Dolphin Reef). It was peaceful and serene with soft music in the background and to top it off, they give you a 30 minute in-the-water massage therapy session! The whole experience is heavenly and pushing the limits of hedonistic pleasure when they add the free wine, fruit, cookies, warm robes and plush pillows on the wooden deck overlooking the sea. We concluded our stay here and were a little late getting to our next adventure. Quickly grabbing our clothes and packs from a basket, we took a cab to a new hotel. The taxi waited as we quickly checked in, dropped off our bags and continued our way to an underwater observatory. At the end of the day we got back to our room and when I looked at my bag, I realized that my ring and my fiancé’s engagement ring were missing! We frantically searched the hotel room without success. It was too late to make phone calls and very early the next morning we headed for the Jordanian border. With no Wi-Fi or phone service (and no phone) in the Jordanian desert for the day we were again unable to make any phone calls. We flew home the next morning. When we arrived, I made a few calls to various places in Israel where the rings may have been lost. I called the Dolphin Reef and they had not seen it. Our last hope had ended.
Throughout my life, my philosophy has been, if I ever lose something and I really need it, I’d eventually get it back. If it was something that I didn’t need, then I probably wouldn’t ever see it again and that was okay. It was my way of dealing with material loss. I would do everything in my power to find the item and if unsuccessful, would simply state that it was meant to be and out of my hands. Well, after exhausting all my resources for both the phone and the ring. I decided that I was not to see these things again and it was time to move on and accept my losses. I bought a new iPhone and I made several inquiries into how to replace the ring from the same jeweler in Israel who created the original.
And now…the rest of the story.
Story #2: The ring. I received an email from someone at the Dolphin Reef whom I had initially contacted months prior about booking reservations there. This person was extremely helpful throughout our previous communications and when we arrived to the dolphin center. Her email stated, I heard that you lost a ring here. Can you please send a picture or give me a description in case someone finds something? I replied to the email with a picture and a description. A short while later, she emailed me again. “Yes, we found it!!! It was found on the ground by the diving center.” The ground by the diving center means sitting in the sand from 4 days earlier. Unbelievable! She also asked if I lost another ring and provided a description. Indeed, I had lost another ring but didn’t think about reporting it since it was much less valuable – materially and emotionally. Now with full disclosure, while I had mostly given up hope, my fiancé who exudes positive psychology, continued to discourage me from getting another ring so quickly and was somehow pretty sure we still had a good chance of getting the ring back. As she reminds me, I should never doubt her, but I did doubt that we would get the ring back.
Story #1. The phone. A few days after we returned to the US. I flew down to Phoenix to visit my mum. As soon as I got off the plane, I received a call from someone in Dallas. “Hello, is this Neil Farber?” she inquired. “Yes,” I replied. She continued, “My name is ……. and I’m with Southwest Airlines. Did you just get off a Southwest Airlines flight?” Again, I replied, “Yes.”
Southwest Agent: “Did you just lose a cell phone?”
Me: “Just now, no I did not,”
Southwest Agent: “Did you lose a cell phone recently?”
Me: “Yes, about 3 weeks ago, but not here.”
Southwest Agent: “Was it in Iceland?”
Me: “How in the world did you know that? I wasn’t on a Southwest flight to Iceland.”
Southwest Agent: “I just received a phone call from Iceland. Someone found your phone and today your screen showed a page from your daily calendar that said Southwest flight to Phoenix and provided a confirmation number. He is wanting to return it and didn’t know your name or address.
I was flabbergasted. She provided me with his email address and I immediately sent him a message saying that I heard he found the phone and how much I appreciated him making the effort to call Southwest Airlines in the United States. I told him that I would gladly send him money on PayPal to ship the phone back.
A short time later I received an email response from this person in Iceland. The letter began, “Dear Dr. Farber.” I thought that rather odd since I never mentioned that I was a doctor. The message continued. “The Neil Farber!” It turns out that Gestur Hilmarsson, an honorable Icelandic soul is a regular reader of my Psychology Today blog and very familiar with much of my work. He is a post-graduate student of philosophy focusing on positive psychology and developing a system to bring positive psychology into workplaces, in a similar way that I have done. He is also a believer in minimizing “pseudo-psychological influences” and referred to my work on dispelling the myth of the law of attraction.Gestur Hilmarsson can be found @GesturH on Twitter.
My new friend explained that since his fiancé found the phone, he has been passionately attempting to find the owner. Following the clues that my calendar notifications provided each day, he contacted bus companies in Iceland scheduling Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon tours, he phoned hotels which had similar pickup times, he emailed every Air BnB apartment owner on the street we stayed in Jerusalem, contacted a Jiu Jitsu school in Milwaukee when they sent a class canceled notification, someone at Arizona State University where I had a meeting scheduled, and several other people, venues and events. This became a mission…and he succeeded. He mentioned that the Southwest flight with a confirmation number was a “Eureka moment.”
To top this off, he offered to cover the cost of shipping in exchange for some time to share his thoughts on positive psychology.” I look forward to this exchange since I can learn just as much from him. This person has much to teach about drive, goal-achieving behavior, resilience, fortitude, innovation, problem-solving and positive attitude. He joked at the end of the letter that he would refrain from sharing this story with believers in the Law of Attraction since they might try to use this as evidence that it really works.
Is this the Law of Attraction in Action? No, sorry.
The ring was returned because someone with whom I had made a connection, took extra time and diligence to look around again where others did not. I did the work of making inquiries and she took more action. This task became more meaningful to her since we had developed a working relationship and she was in a managerial position.
The phone was returned only because someone had the drive and ambition to do so. Luckily for me he became passionately involved in trying to solve the mystery of the phones legal guardian.
In both of these cases of personal loss, I alone was personally responsible; through carelessness and mindlessness. These were great lessons for me as I like to consider myself very careful and mindful. My losses showed me where there is obvious room for improvement. I was being very present-minded about the scuba and relaxation pool experience and in so doing, became oblivious to other important events.
Additionally, in both of these cases, I had given up hope. Bought a new phone, started shopping for new rings, and declared that these items were no longer my possessions. Indeed, I did everything possible to assure the universe that I no longer owned or wanted these items back. Yet, they came back, despite my negative mindset which completely doubted the universe’s ability to return them to me. This is a prime example of what I have termed the Principle of Attraction. Positive tends to beget positive and negative thoughts and actions often lead to negative consequences. This is based on social, personality and positive psychology. It’s NOT a law of the universe. It obviously doesn’t always work. In these two cases, I thought negative and got a positive. I did exactly what Law of Attraction experts say that you shouldn’t do. According to these so-called experts, if you want something, imagine that you already have it. Have no doubts in your mind that the universe will get it for you. Take no action (because that shows the universe that you doubt its ability to handle the job). Only think positive thoughts and you will attract positive rewards – every time. According to the Law of Attraction, negative, doubting thoughts will ALWAYS lead to negative results, ALWAYS! Except this time, of course.
There was no universe mysteriously handing over my phone and ring. Dedicated, honest people with an inspiring mix of taking personal responsibility, the ability to problem-solve and the fortitude to not give up were the reasons for having my lost items returned. I thank God that people like this exist in the universe. I believe that’s as far as the universe gets involved.
This is a lengthy way of saying “THANK YOU” and expressing my sincere gratitude to those individuals involved in helping these losses remain short-term, in helping me appreciate that there are so many great people all over the world, and in reassessing the work that I need to continue my own quest for mindfulness.
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