Sunday night, I spent four hours at the Raleigh-Durham airport, waiting and hoping for my flight to take off.
I am well-practiced at pausing in situations like this, at using what time I've been given to read or reflect or talk—but that doesn't mean I am very good at it.
This unexpected pause often comes at airports because more often than not, flights are delayed these days. At least mine are, a side effect, perhaps of flying into Chicago. The weather map on Sunday night at the Durham airport showed an icy blue gash over Chicago. One weather glitch like that&mash;apparently visibility was low at O'Hare and I do believe pilots need to see where they're landing—and the airport is set back hours.
In situations like that—unasked for changes that can be major and inconvenient—we have two basic choices: accept it or get upset.
That getting upset choice has many possible sub-choices: throw a fit that something didn't go your way. Worry about what this will do to your day, your week. Take it as an insult from the airline industry, the weather, and possibly God.
I'm not saying that flight delays aren't major inconveniences. They are. People miss weddings, bedtimes, meetings, dinners, and just time at home, which is something I crave.
All I "lost" by this four-hour delay was an early bedtime and those extra few hours at home, quiet downtime in my own space, unpacking and drinking coffee from my own mug. Compared to the people who were trying to get connecting flights home or to vacation or to a little getaway that already felt too short, my inconvenience was conveniently easy.
But disappointing as a flight delay is, you can't do anything to change it. You can't change Air Traffic Control, and I doubt you'll have much of an effect on freezing rain icing the runways, no matter how fiercely you glare at the weather map.
I've learned that you must accept these schedule changes, and I try to see them as opportunities for rest separate from the rest I get at home. I'm stuck in an airport, an in-between sort of place, neither here nor there, and I can, for example, do the chunk of reading I feel guilty about doing at home, when I think I should be vacuuming instead.
Yes, I am practiced at pausing, but no, I am still not good at it. Is this because we live in a society that values the go-go-go? Is this because I value it more than I'd care to admit?
I ask these questions for three reasons:
- I was sick last week, and I felt like a slacker, a weak person, a disappointment for needing to take two days off. Never in five years of working have I had to do that, and so when I didn't go to work on Friday—after not going to work on Thursday—I immediately began to doubt that decision. Was I really all that sick?
My cough disagreed, but I kept doing this self-check in. Can you stand for more than five minutes? Then you're not that sick! Can you get food down? Then you're not that sick! Could you pull it together enough to sit at a computer, something that isn't all that physically challenging? Then you're not that sick!
Why couldn't I just let myself be? Instead, as I laid in bed, I saw this stack of photo albums next to the chair in my bedroom, and I thought—well, I've been meaning to fill in the picture info for awhile; now could be the perfect time!
I couldn't even lay there quietly. I couldn't even rest. I had to be doing something and I wonder: Did I want to do something so that I felt like the day was worth something? But isn't a day always worth something, just for the fact that you're in it?
- I'm reading The Contented Soul, and it has a whole chapter on accepting limits. On making time for rest. On being okay with not doing it all simply because it's all available. This is an excellent lesson for me, and I underlined with force in that chapter.
Especially underlined is: "When we allow ourselves to nap when we are weary, to stay home when we are ill, to be less productive than is possible, we are respecting our human limitations."
To stay home when we are ill: are you listening, Kamiah?
- A new friend emailed last week because she'd heard I was sick. How kind of her, and then she ended her email with, "When your schedule slows down a bit, perhaps we can get together!"
Not: "When you're feeling better" but specifically about my schedule.
She may not have been my friend very long, but she's aware of THE SCHEDULE.
Her words made me want more space in my schedule—more spontaneity in there. I like everything that fills my days, but the combination of sickness (and guilty days at home) and a book on contentment have made me feel held hostage by my own planner, a feeling I'm not used to, and I'm reminded of a line from a poem I'll paraphrase here:
"What is this world if, full of care, we have no time to stop and stare?"
I don't know.