Anyone familiar with 12-step programs or various philosophical guides to serene living will tell you that the key to happiness is to surrender to the moment, to change what you can, to accept what you cannot change, and to know the difference. And anyone familiar with air travel in recent years will tell you that even the Dalai Lama would struggle with staying serene when you’re confronted with cancelled flights, long lines, inedible overpriced food, and cramped uncomfortable seats.
But we do our best to cope – for me, that means loading my Kindle with a wide assortment of reading material and bringing socks along so I don’t have to think about what I might be getting on my feet in the security line. For others, it may mean scoping out the best chair massages amd cheapest bars. And for everyone, it means trying our hardest to surrender, to remind ourselves ‘this too shall pass’ and we will, despite all appearances, eventually get to our destination.
Occasionally I try to go one step further and look for the silver lining – can anything good come out of this experience? I know of one couple who met in line to get re-routed after their flight was cancelled, and I have one friend who travels frequently for work and wrote a book while she was waiting at airports. Up until recently, the only unexpected benefit of air travel hassles I’d ever experienced was on the third leg of a rescheduled flight that was originally nonstop – I was so sick of sitting, I had walked back to the galley, started chatting with the flight attendant, and found out we had a friend in common. When she heard I’d been on the canceled flight, she poured me a double scotch and didn’t charge me. I immediately felt better – sure, the scotch helped, but it was more the unexpected generosity.
And lest you think that my only silver linings involve alcohol, this past weekend provided another. I had yet another delayed flight and long wait at a small airport, and I was also panicking since I’d been away, hadn’t kept up with the news and thus hadn’t figured out what this week’s song would be about. As I was combing through the newspaper looking for an idea, I heard the announcement about my delayed flight and a lightbulb went off – I could write a song about air travel, instead of just complaining about it! Suddenly, what was once a huge annoyance became a source of inspiration, or as my ‘woo-woo’ friends say, I reframed the experience. (Of course, it’ll only work this way once, but I’ll take what I can get!)
So have faith – next time you have a cancelled or delayed flight, look for something fun and unexpected to happen (or at least look for the nearest good chair massage place), and if you aren’t lucky enough to travel much, you can hum this song to get the general idea.