by Mary Prefontaine
Leading up to the holidays I moved both mentally and physically into the fast lane as if I was driving a Maserati on the Autobahn. On the outside, I attempted to present my best Buddha self, when on the inside, I felt like a woman on steroids, three gins in and behaving as if her hair was on fire.
I am a seasoned traveller with well-worn luggage, so every December when I join the harried mass of humanity to get home to my family in Vancouver for Christmas, I know the crowds and chaos will require as much patience and compassion as I can muster. For the most part, every season, I have managed to travel with this in tact.
Not so much this year when my journey was derailed.
I experienced exasperation, annoyance and a close encounter with madness — most of which happened within me — as I faced delayed flights, Grinch-like service, a missed connection, no toiletries and line-ups of stranded travellers snaking up and down hallways and corridors of airports and hotels. My fellow travelers and I shared one thing in common – we were going nowhere fast.
When my husband inquired via text: “Are you okay?” and I responded out loud back at the phone: “Are you *#@** kidding me? Of course, I am NOT okay?”, I knew I was at my tipping point. People stared. Displaying empathy deserving of sainthood, he worked furiously to find me a hotel room and rebook me on the next available flight.
So, what do you do when the crazy woman you have kept hidden in the attic has escaped? When the insanity you are feeling is sending neon messages above your head that read something like: “Seriously, I don’t need this!”
In Super Brain, Deepak Chopra’s co-authored book with Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, they explore the idea of unconscious and conscious awareness of self. “If a rage-aholic cannot stand back and observe what is happening when he has an outburst, then his anger is out of control.” Hmm… was I on the verge of being out of control? In this state, I could sense my brain’s higher decision-making centers were weakening and poor judgment was closing in.
As I looked around, I remembered part of a line by Rudyard Kipling, “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs… the world will be yours and everything in it…” I liked that idea. I felt a slight shift and asked myself: “What is the best thing I can do right now?”
I took a long, deep breath. In that simple pause, my sense of reason returned and I accepted my new reality. I bought myself a glass of champagne and found a quiet corner to phone and thank my sweet husband.
It took a few hours of sleep in a Holiday Inn Express and a new boarding pass in hand, to really slow me down — where I could focus and be full of gratitude for the kindness that was shown to me. For the receptionist at the hotel who found me toothpaste, a toothbrush and water for free; For the gate agent who took me, and my bags, out of a block-long line up and ensured I had a seat on the next plane out; For the man who let me out of my seat first so I could run to catch my connecting flight (the doors were closed when I got to the gate); For the flight attendant who moved me up five rows, giving me more space and enabling me to to bend my elbows and write this blog.
At my mid-way point to home, I was stopped in my tracks by a huge, 15ft by 15ft; sign on the wall in the Denver airport. At that moment, I knew the universe had colluded to make sure I got the point. The sign read:
I have arrived
I am here
is in every step
Thich Nhat Hanh (1926)
Happy New Year…may you experience grace and gratitude, and a few moments in the slow lane, in 2013.