I was not made for airplane travel. Even on the most uneventful of flights I get nauseous, nervous, my hands and feet swell. Don’t get me started on airport security. I already assume I am doing something wrong in my everyday life, and you add in uniformed people patting me down for weapons, looking in my bags, asking me probing questions, and suspiciously eyeing my responses, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Some people get angry at this. I see it frequently. I just deal with how I usually deal with conflict. I roll over like a puppy. “I submit! Don’t hurt us!” I assume this has a lot to do with how my gender is socialized to behave. Ladies aren’t supposed to get self-rightously indignant. We are supposed to slap on a smile and have some grace even in the most trying circumstances…or at least that was my own expectations of how I should have been.
After a long trip home for the holidays, both my husband and I were eager to get back to our routines. We started the day in relatively good spirits. We got through security smoothly, boarded our first flight, and landed without incident. Our first flight was late, so we sprinted through Chicago O’Hare to make our connecting flight, but were relieved that this flight also was delayed so we didn’t miss it. Then came another delay for aircraft maintenance. Another delay for severe weather. All in all, I was still calm. I want be safe, and I definitely didn’t want to travel in a snowstorm in a broken plane.
Another delay for missing flight crew. *It’s okay. Be patient.*
We finally board about 5 hours after we were supposed to leave.
“We need to refuel, and then we will be ready.”
An hour on the tarmac later, the fuel truck arrives. Thirty minutes later, we depart.
I was feeling agitated, but decided to just try to sleep. I doze for a few minutes until I am awakened by full body sweats. This plane was uncomfortably hot. I teach hot yoga, so I’m used to high temperatures, but this heat was oppressive, stuffy, and burning. I’m drenched. My feet are so hot, I keep compulsively checking my shoes to make sure they aren’t melting. My husband asked if the heat could be turned down, but the flight attendant said that others were cold. I start to panic.
“What person on earth could be cold in this inferno tin can?! Do they not have skin?”
People behind me are kicking my chair. The combination of heat and bodily odors of sweat and tofu farts makes it nearly impossible to breathe. The turbulence is causing my stomach to flip. The airplane would drop, and I could feel my afternoon snack starting to force it’s way up my esophagus.
*Please don’t puke. Oh God, please don’t let me puke.*
I start to feel like Elaine in that episode of Seinfeld where she’s stuck on the subway. Calm exterior. Screaming inside. I try to look out the window to see if we are close, but the fog and rain makes it impossible. I gently paw at the window in some hopeless gesture for air, or help, or escape. Just let me out of this fucker. I will parachute into the woods of New Hampshire just GET ME OUT. We drop suddenly, and I see the runway.
*Please, don’t let this be my last moment. I don’t want to die in this stinky flaming tin can complaining about sweat soaked underwear.*
We landed. My shoes had not melted. I didn’t puke. I didn’t have to jump out of the emergency exit. I was just sweaty, hungry, and severely agitated. No. Enraged. I try to keep my composure as we collect our luggage and head to the car. My husband has remained calm and quiet the entire time, and says, “Aw, TSA inspected my luggage.”
I unleashed myself. I don’t remember what I said as I was angrily throwing snow off my car windshield, but it was something along the lines of, “We won’t fly anymore if you can’t deal with the realities of air travel!” He kind of sat in silence in the way that I knew instantly, I was in the wrong.
I was the one who couldn’t handle it. My philosophy of, “Don’t let them see you sweat” just turned me into one pissed off and sweaty lady, and all my rage got directed at the one person who knew how to accurately express himself.
My husband is one of my greatest teachers. I often harp on him for complaining too much, but I have mostly the same complaints he does. He just has the guts to speak them. I find myself resenting his nerve to give voice to the things that are unfair or unpleasant. I have invested so much of my life in trying to slap on a happy face, when I see him authentically saying, “This sucks,” I get uncomfortable. My way of life is threatened, and I need to shut that shit down. After several minutes of profusely apologizing, everything had blown over, but this whole incident showed me how much I needed to change how I dealt with stress.
This trip inspired me to make a goal for myself to live more authentically, to give voice to my concerns, to get in touch with how I really feel, and to stop expecting everyone to read my mind. I also want to be open to hearing everyone else’s complaints and have more compassion. Is someone driving you nuts? Are your shoes uncomfortable? Are you tired? I want to know. I want to hear you and understand. I want to love you giving voice to all the things I want to say too. I want to see you sweat, and I want you to see me sweat too. We’ll look at each other’s moistened brows, and we’ll nod in acknowledgement and relief. It won’t make our problems go away, but it will just give a sliver of relief and peace to say and hear the words, “Yeah, I know.”