Some of you will recall that, a little over two weeks ago, I took a trip from Boston to North Carolina. By way of quick summary, this involved driving down and flying back. The trip down, which would already have been long at 16 hours, turned into 27+ hours when the car’s transmission overdrive kicked out in the Bronx. This required that we drive all the way back home at low speed in the breakdown lane and with the blinkers on, then switch vehicles, and head out again that night. Mind you, this was all on no sleep.
Well, this past weekend was the reverse version of the trip. The plan was to fly back down to North Carolina to arrive Friday evening, and then set back out early Saturday morning by car for the return trip home. If you did happen to read that previous post, you can imagine how this second trip – a mere two weeks later – might have seemed to me going into it.
I arrived at the airport more than two hours prior to my 3:00 flight. I only had carry-on luggage and had already printed my boarding pass from home, so there was no need to stand in a line at the ticket counter. I went straight to security where, other than my laptop being randomly selected for “testing” with some sort of feather duster, it was uneventful. I was through in less than five minutes. So I bought myself a bottle of water with essence of pomegranate and tangerine, because it seemed like the type of thing people might drink when things were going swimmingly. Then I settled into a chair to read and await boarding.
While waiting (and as had happened many times during the previous two weeks), thoughts about the return drive crept in. As I told you, I feel I made positive choices in handling that fated erstwhile trip. But it still was by no means something I was eager to repeat. So, when my mind turned to consideration of the next day’s road travel, I told myself things.
I told myself that it would be another adventure.
I told myself that I was exceptionally resilient and youthful.
I told myself that I was really proving my mettle.
I told myself how much cooler my party story would seem, after tacking on another 18 or 20 hours of travel within such a short span of time.
I’m not sure I quite believed myself.
It was the best I could do.
Somewhere in the midst of telling myself such things, I became aware that it was approaching 2:15 and there was no plane at the gate. My ticket said boarding would begin at 2:30. When 2:30 and then 2:45 rolled around, still without a plane, people began to stir. The LCD display behind the service counter hadn’t changed. It still said 3:00. No announcement had been made as to the nature of the delay or the plan for our flight.
Or if there would be a flight at all.
I texted my mother and brother in North Carolina to inform them of the delay and to see if they could dig up any more information on their end. No word. I was in the dark.
Around ten-of-three, a plane taxied onto the tarmac nearby. Still no announcements were made to inform passengers. Eventually, the plane circled around and the accordion walkway protruded to meet it. Passengers exited. Food trucks and luggage trains and cleaning crews swarmed around outside. Finally, boarding began. Even if all went smoothly in the air, we would be 30 minutes delayed in landing.
All did not go smoothly in the air.
Approaching Charlotte, the captain’s voice came over the speakers, announcing that no planes were being allowed to land, due to thunderstorms over the airfield. We would have to enter a holding pattern indefinitely. If the airport did not give clearance within 20 minutes, we would have to reroute to another airport.
I started mentally running the numbers. Even if things had gone perfectly, I would only have gotten 12 hours at my brother’s place before facing the demanding drive the next morning. That number was rapidly dwindling. And now, there was even talk of rerouting to another airport. Just like the last trip, things were starting off on the wrong foot. Or wing, I guess.
Consider my last line in the paragraph above. I said, “Just like the last trip…” It’s technically true. The last trip had presented some unforeseen problems. The current trip was likewise presenting some unforeseen problems. Therefore, it seems perfectly legitimate to say that this trip was, in fact, “just like the last trip.” Right?
Except that this trip wasn’t the last trip. This was a new trip, with its own set of unique circumstances.
By allowing ourselves to think that something in the present is “just like” some past thing, we add the baggage of that past thing to our present. We rob ourselves of experiencing the present for its uniqueness and wonder.
Don’t we give in to this all the time?
The food or service at a local restaurant wasn’t quite to our liking, so we decide then and there that we will never return, launching into a missive about their ills every time we drive by the place thereafter.
A previous employer took advantage of us. So we start updating our resumé as soon as our new boss asks if we might take on some task that isn’t technically part of our job description.
A friend betrayed us. So we choose not to trust the next person fully. Or any future person. Ever.
A past lover became controlling or cheated on us. So we see the horns growing from our current partner whenever they make the slightest move without consulting us. Or we turn any mention of their lifelong friend – who happens to be of the opposite sex – into an emotional upheaval and certain proof that we really should just break up.
But the wonderful truth is that this server is not that server. And this boss is not that boss.
This new friend is not that other friend who hurt us.
This lover is not that abusive one.
While I waited for boarding in the airport, I used the extra time to observe.
A teen girl picked up where she’d left off in a novel, turning pages with the kind of fervor and wide eyes and slack mouth that come with total engagement.
A father got on the floor and played a card game with his kids.
An older gentleman pulled his concerned wife in closer and kissed her forehead, smiling.
And later, as we traveled in circles over Charlotte, I looked down and thought, How many people throughout all of time, past or present, have had the opportunity to witness the awe of a lightning storm — from above it? Yet there I was, one of them.
We did not reroute. We landed twenty minutes later. My brother was waiting. I got hugs from my niece and nephew upon arrival back at my brother’s place. We enjoyed a comfort meal of pork loin and potatoes and pineapple casserole, compliments of mom.
And you know what? While there was no way around the fact that the car trip back was still sixteen hours long, it was smooth sailing, without traffic, construction or other incident. The dog slept peacefully in the back seat. Mom and I listened and sang along to music, from her era and mine. We enjoyed the continuation of an audio book we’d started on the trip down. There were many opportunities for good conversation. We learned more about one another.
We let it be its own trip. And it was a good one.
Every journey in life is its own journey.
Today is not yesterday.
In fact, this moment is not the last moment. It’s this one. It’s new. It’s special.
Let it be.