Monday, May 22, 2017

The Longest Shortest Flight. And the Life Questions It Bore

Besides making me chuckle and making me feel like I am looking into a mirror (she is born one day after me, after all) Anne Lamott's books always make me evaluate my life. They always make me ponder upon such things like “where am I?”, “where am I going?”, “have I made the right choices so far?” (in case you are wondering, they are all “right” choices), and “are my thighs the right size?”. You know – the important stuff.

But this one time in particular, recently, I was reading an Anne Lamott book (“Some Assembly Required”) on a flight from Montreal to Toronto and I was not only forced to ask the questions, as usual. I was forced to answer them, too. After all, I had plenty of time. That plane was not going anywhere.

So, by now, you probably think I am crazy, because the flight from Montreal to Toronto should not be long enough to ponder one's existence. Oh, but you are mistaken. Pilots and airports lately can make the shortest distance seem never ending. The Toronto airport, as big and international, and “key” as it might sound, had only ONE (it calls for all caps here) runway open. ONE. That was it. When we arrived in the Montreal airport, several flights to Toronto were canceled because of early morning fog. Then, later flights (ours included) were being delayed, because they could only fly one airplane in at one time, and let one fly away, after that one. Given that Toronto is a super busy and super international airport, there were tens of planes queued up to land and take off.

We boarded the plane in Montreal and waited for the go from Toronto that we could leave. We waited for an hour, I think, on the ground, in Montreal. Then, the pilot let us off the plane because there was no sign that we would be given the OK to approach Toronto any time soon (the flight is about 35-45 minutes, if that!). We waited at the gate for another hour. Then, we finally boarded and we flew towards Toronto. We're all giddy with life and anticipation by then.

And we make it, we are told, to the capital of Ontario, but we cannot see land. We are all en-wrapped in clouds, and we are hovering. We can really feel like we are not moving forward, but just going around in circles, or just hovering. And we hang there. For another hour and a half, or more. A flight of 30 minutes took about two and a half hours from gate to gate. I have flown over the Atlantic many a times, but a flight never seemed so long as this one. When you're thinking you're there in a spell and you're not, the seconds linger and extend like balls of warm chewing gum between a finger and a thumb … So, then, during this time, with nothing to look at but sleeping people all around me, I am forced in mandatory confinement, just me, myself and Anne Lamott. Pondering life and meaning of it all.

Many a things came to my mind. Things I am happy about – like the fact that I made it on this other side of open heart surgery and I lived to tell the tale with only two or three maybe brain cells missing; like the fact that I have shelter, and a job and food good enough to eat at the end of every day; and the fact that my husband is there to catch me every time I fall, on my face, or otherwise; the fact that I had just visited my nephews who take my breath away with possibility and unbounded dreams; the fact that the war has not started just yet.

But then, there were the dark thoughts, too. Things I am not so happy about. Like the fact that some days I feel physically exhausted with putting up an appearance anymore – to live in Utah as an 'outsider' will do this to you after seven years. For those who know me well, you'll wonder why I bother with the appearance, since I never seemed to get the hang of it before. I am not sure I do now, either, but I have to earn my living, so putting up an appearance it is; or at least trying my damnest to do that. Some other things that I questioned during my confinement were: I miss my friends, I miss North Carolina, I miss the Ocean, and life is too short to not have what you want nearby, especially when you could, theoretically. I also am tired of having no friends, no real friends, close by … you know the ones you could call in the middle of the day on Sunday and just go out to the drive-in for ice cream, or something …

I never live for regrets, so being here in Utah for the past seven years has not been a bad thing at all, but it's like a circle that never completed. It's missing a big chunk of it, and it's starting to collapse into itself.

Then, I questioned my job, my role on this planet. I have felt a book, maybe several coming to me over the years, but now, that I have literally seen death, I should get the memo and the ultimatum that time is precious. And books are not written from the grave. Lots to think about it here. Huge sigh!

Like any Lamott book would do, it made me reconsider and redefine my relationship with my parents. As always, there is a lot of complicated “stuff” there. Lots and lots of love, with many a disappointment mixed in. But to quote my mom “it's a sad day when your kids judge you.” But what if they don't leave you any choice but to judge them? What if they can't see that? I know, I know … there is always a choice … blah, blah, blah – it does not make it easier, because we're human and they raised us smart and questioning, so we judge them … I know now not to let their lack of care for themselves make me cry and make me lose sleep. It's still hard, because, like I said, there is lots of love and lots of wanting them to live forever, but … I cannot pity them anymore. That is just it: my pity meter has gotten stuck on empty. And the refill station has closed for business. I hope for the best, but I have a life, one fragile, solitary life of my own to live, too … so I won't poison it with my frustration to their disregard of theirs. But it hurts, and it bleeds, and it makes me sad …

When we made it to the other end of the runway, I felt like I used to feel after confession: like all my worries were left behind me, washed away by some divine hand. And it's only going to be the straight and narrow from here on out.

Doubtful. But one thing I know for sure now: when in doubt about your life, impose some kind of confinement on yourself, and focus on something that centers and anchors you. Leave those waves alone to wash you clean of good and bad. And just remain solid, pure and unmoving – like the Gibraltar rock. Just cleanse your system and restart. With all the thoughts cleansed, your mind, your heart, the core of your being will be ready to fill up again with new possibilities. And just like that: restart. 

After the smoke starting clearing - above Toronto, ON