Few things remind us more effectively of our lack of control than air travel. I was faced with this reality three times in as many weeks, but it was only when fear entered the equation that I lost perspective...
At the end of June I headed to Chicago to connect with family. I boarded the plane eager to commence the weekend's scheduled activities, but as minutes on the runway turned into hours, it became clear our carefully crafted plans were for naught. As passengers grumbled, our captain kept us apprised of our status, but it seemed there was nothing he could do to change the circumstances. So we sat. And waited. During that time I could hear the admonishment of my mother: Don't let your blessings be a curse, and I did my best to reframe the circumstances. By the time the plane landed I was able to let go of my expectations and enjoy the balance of the weekend.
One week later, as my husband and I left for an Independence Day weekend getaway, we suffered the same fate. This time the plane took off without issue, but shortly thereafter we were placed in a holding pattern because of weather conditions at our destination. After an hour of circling, we were advised that if the situation did not clear in the next 10 minutes the pilot would have no choice but to reverse course and return us to our airport of origination - from which we would be unlikely to leave because of holiday weekend travel demand. So we sat. And waited. As the plane circled I did my best to stay positive, reassuring myself that irrespective of where we spent the next few days, we would enjoy our time together.
In both scenarios I was ultimately able to let go of expectations and surrender to my lack of control. But when confronted by a similar situation the following week, the stakes felt significantly higher.
After spending several days with my parents in the Midwest, my daughter was en route back to D.C. with her grandmother. This trip marked the longest we had been separated from the babe in her three and a half years of life, and my husband and I were eager to have her home.
I drove to the airport, parked, and walked inside to greet them upon arrival. The monitor indicated the flight was delayed by 10 minutes, so I took a seat in the waiting area. When the allotted time had passed, I checked the flight status online: Aircraft Diverted to Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh??! I felt my adrenaline kick in. This was not part of the plan. I NEED TO SEE MY BABY! NOW! I spoke with an airline attendant who confirmed the course change and said they had no additional information to offer.
Even in the moment I recognized my fear was irrational. My daughter was traveling with an experienced mother, grandmother, and entrepreneuer who would use her ingenuity and resources to get the babe home safely as quickly as humanly possible. But I felt helpless. So I sat. And waited. But this time I also stewed: Why did I think this was a good idea? I should have been the one to make this trip with my daughter. What if they get stuck in Pittsburgh? What if they have to spend the night? What a debacle!
Fortunately, my more level-headed husband and mother avoided the pit of despair about what we couldn't change and instead focused on what they could do. In less than an hour, they secured a car service to deliver the babe and her Grandmama safely to our door before the clock struck midnight.
Most of the frustrations we encounter are relatively minor and easily resolved. Occasionally we have to jump through a few extra hoops to reach our desired end, but we gain nothing by allowing our minds to be clouded by futile fretting.
When confronted by challenging situations, we benefit from pausing to consider whether we have the power to influence our circumstances. If so, we can - and should - take action. At other times we may be unable to effect change, but that doesn't mean we are powerless. We always have the ability to set aside irrational fear, assess our options, and proceed with clarity.
Next time you are confronted by your lack of control, I encourage you to set aside fear and move forward with your eyes wide open. Allow yourself to see things clearly.