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SMITH: The wobble is where shift happens

I went to Spain to celebrate my 40th birthday.

On our unfilled, seven-hour flight from New York to Barcelona, I learned that there was an accidental stowaway on the plane.

Evidently, an Australian man had gone to the bathroom while the flight attendants cleaned the plane and then, addled by jetlag and Ambien, the man returned to his seat and fell asleep, unaware that he had not disembarked at his planned destination.

He awoke and looked out the window, expecting to see the sun setting behind Lady Liberty. Instead, he saw a dark night as he was ferried in the wrong direction.

My seat mate got all the details while waiting in the bathroom line.

The airline — probably terrified of getting sued — had refunded his ticket and bumped him to first class, with the enviable foldout beds and pajamas available on long international flights.

I have no idea what happened to that man, but I like to imagine he chose to stay in Spain for a few days before moving on, and hope that he saw his detour as divine intervention.

I imagine him outside the airport in the taxi line, wondering what destination to give the cabbie.

He didn’t bring the right guidebook, had no hotel reservations, didn’t speak the language, packed a rain jacket but no swim trunks.

What’s the local currency and is the water safe to drink?

I’m certain he felt what my daughter calls “wobbly,” that emotional mixed-nut can of confusion, fear and excitement.

2020 feels wobbly, like every prospect and plan we had got detoured.

Imagine being stoked for Yankee Stadium, pizza and Times Square but instead handed soccer, paella and La Sagrada Familia.

Barcelona is amazing, but it’s a very different sort of great than NYC.

None of us could have anticipated a global pandemic that would collectively send us to our rooms to reflect on our lives.

As we emerged months later, blinking in the light, we were bombarded by our new reality: political division, unemployment insurance, health care inequity, a failing economy, voices raised and feet marching for sweeping law enforcement reform.

Let’s not forget the oil spills and murder hornets and riots.

We are urgently being called to band together — but stay six feet apart! — to rise against social injustice.

Life went from a standstill to a carousel, and everything feels urgent. We’re angry. Frustrated. Exhausted. Irritated. Confused. Wobbly.

But wobbly is where shift happens.

Surrender to the painful and scary, those places we’ve run from and hid from and buried deep in our bones.

When we embrace the wobble, we create the opportunity for growth.

Maybe we should set down our phones and pick up the hard work of experiencing it all.

2020 has definitely been a trip. So we planned for Broadway and got a beach instead. Even if we hate the sun, we all know that, no matter how thorough the itinerary, trips never go as planned. There will be rain, delayed trains and sour stomachs.

Why are we thrilled by difference and diversity when we travel, but uncomfortable with it at home? Travel isn’t always fun, but it’s always rewarding, always proves we are more resilient and capable than we give ourselves credit for being.

Embrace the unknown like you would if you were traveling.

Wander about an unfamiliar terrain and don’t be embarrassed to admit you’re lost.

Ask the locals for help. Buy the book, dog-ear the pages. Immerse yourself in new culture, food and people. Leave each place better than you found it. Drink in the new and unfamiliar, liberating yourself from your limiting ego.

The further away we go, the more we discover ourselves.

Be awake to it all.

It’s the only way through the wobble.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness” and the online host of the OM channel.