Nothing gains perspective like 36,000 feet. As I wrote this blog entry, the fluffiest, whitest cumulus clouds were billowing like grand, puffy marshmallows outside my window. In the distance, I could see thunderclouds forming hundreds of miles away. Ah! The earth, the sky, the sun, the clouds! I was in writer’s heaven!
While I knew I’d inevitably have to come back to earth, I decided to take advantage of my circumstances, “snuggled” as I was into a miniature seat on what resembled a toy plane operated by a major airline. Lucky me, of the three seats available across each isle, mine was the one set by itself and a window, so at least I was crammed in with myself and not a stranger.
Rest assured, I’ve had my fair share of experiences on planes and enough flight “companions” in my short career to write a book. Here are a few of the highlights: there was once a toothless man, drunk on Jack Daniels who exclaimed, “Well, look at that!” as I threw up into an air sickness bag upon takeout from Houston Hobby; then there was the one time when a slick businessman on a Southwest flight piped, “I paid the stewardess to get a pretty girl to sit by me and here you are!” about five times before I’d even taken my seat. (I tried to convince him he should ask for his money back. I also let him believe the gaudy flower ring I bought at Forever 21 for $1.99 was a vintage family heirloom); then, last fall, there was the cute med student who sat next to me on a flight back from L.A. Wait a second. I sat next to a cute med-school student on a flight?! How did I let that one get away?
When you’re preparing to fly, there are a lot of details you must take into consideration. Not least among them (you knew it was coming—didn’t you?) is deciding what kind of shoes are you going to wear. As we well know, TSA requires you to remove your shoes when navigating security, so you want to wear ones than can be removed and put back on easily. I once made the mistake of wearing knee-high boots while traveling in the middle of winter. Attempting to get them off and back on felt a bit, um, awkward? So, during last week’s travel, I opted for a pair of strappy, slip-on silver sandals. (I’m convinced that a little pair of silver shoes might be the most complimentary pair of shoes you can own, short of a basic pair of black pumps.)
There’s something to be said about getting up and away from life on earth as we know it. This week, as I traveled away from home and back for work, I could almost physically feel the stress of my life melt away a few minutes after take-off. For hours at a time, I couldn’t use my phone to BBM friends, check or send email, or constantly update Twitter. It was just me, my pen, a notepad, and my own thoughts.
In November of last year, I was sitting at an airport in Chicago on a layover when my dad called with some of the most difficult news we’d received as a family in years: he’d been forced to resign from his job. Not only had my smart, caring father been victim of small-town politics, but the past 13 years of our family’s entire lives had been stripped away in one swift move—as though the community had removed us like a Band-Aid.
I remember sitting there at that Chicago terminal, cross-legged in a chair, hunched over with my head in my hands, sobbing. There was no one there to console me. No one to put an arm around me and tell me it would be O.K. All around me, the world carried on as it normally would.
About an hour later, I was aboard my flight, sitting in another window seat, and resting my head against the back of the chair as I watched the earth move away from me. I felt weak, emotionally exhausted, and alone. So, I did the only thing I know to do when I feel that way: I got my journal out and grabbed a pen. In the hours between Chicago and Sacramento, I’d recorded everything I was experiencing on paper: anger, bitterness, hate, dread, and fear. When the plane landed, I found that all of those sentiments had been left behind, forever lost somewhere over the great expanse of the Rockies. And as I exited the plane, all I had left to stand on was the most important human emotion of all: love. Love for my family, love for my father, and love for everything they have been and ever will be to me as long as I live.
Indeed, nothing gains perspective like 36,000 feet. But, when you do have to come back to earth in your little silver shoes, kind of Dorothy-esque, it’s nice to come back feeling grounded.