Monday, April 23, 2012

practicing patience

I like to think of travel as an extraordinary lesson in patience. Every moment seems to present an opportunity to either keep your cool or absolutely lose your marbles on a lady in a turtleneck and a drink cart.

I have finally arrived home from what seems like a long day of travel, even though in truth it was only two short one-hour flights. It doesn't matter how short the trips are, spending time in airports has this uncanny ability to make me feel like I've shaved years off my life. Nowhere else do I feel constantly confronted with situations that test my every last nerve, and so today as I felt my anxiety reach those familiar high levels, I couldn't help but think about patience.

It's funny because patience is one rare quality where we have complete and total control over whether we possess it. While some people seem to throw it around like it's some genetic predisposition ("I'm just an impatient person..."), the undeniable truth is that patience is something you simply care enough to exhibit or you don't.

It is the act of practicing self-control. Can I control my urge to hop across these twelve plane seats and yank that person's carry-on from the overhead bin since it seems to be causing them so much darn trouble? Can I control my need to step behind the ticket scanner and replace what must be the world's slowest gate agent? It's all about control.

When we were at the Asheville airport waiting on our flight out, we had the opportunity to catch an earlier flight from the one we booked but it would cost $50 each (we were traveling with five of us.) Instead of paying the fee, we decided to take the originally planned later flight, despite the fact that some of us (including me) had a tight 45-minute connection in Atlanta. About five minutes after the earlier flight took off, Delta alerted us that our flight would now be 30 minutes late (obviously making our connection seem darn near impossible.) If we missed our Atlanta flight, at least there was one more later flight into Jacksonville, but it would cause us to get home at around midnight. Midnight?!

My first instinct was complete dread. My couple-hour travel time would then become an eight-hour trip, plus we were so close to getting on that earlier plane. After a solid five minutes of sulking, I realized that our fate wasn't even set in stone yet and I was already making things more miserable for myself. We would still have a small window of time to dart to our Atlanta connection, which is certainly better than no window at all. So instead of slipping into a full-on travel meltdown, I just kept trying to keep my eye on the possibility our plans would stay in tact.

Now, you want to talk about patience... there is NOTHING more nerve-wracking than trying to remain calm when you know you have to rush to catch a flight. Suddenly it's like the rest of the world is moving in slow motion, covered in molasses, with their feet sinking into concrete. Trying to get off the plane in Atlanta was of course completely disorganized and far more difficult than it needed to be (by the way, have we not discovered a more efficient way to exit aircrafts? I mean, really.) Still, I tried with each fiber of my being to breathe through each moment and control my inner impatience. Was it really going to get me there any faster if I stared down the person holding up the line off the plane? Or if I acted snappy and short to the people around me for not walking fast enough? No. The only thing it would do was raise my own blood pressure and make my travel experience less enjoyable. If we made it, we made it, and if we didn't, we didn't. I just didn't want to be a raging b-word in the process.

As it turned out, our pilot clearly wanted to make up some ground because we got in about 15 minutes earlier than we had originally anticipated. We had to do a good amount of speed-walking through the airport (I avoid running through the airport until absolutely necessary because if you've ever seen someone run through the airport they look absolutely silly and I refuse to expose myself to such ridicule) but we made it to our gate in time. We boarded the plane with time to spare and as I sat down in our spacious exit row seat (the benefit of traveling with a 6'5" guy - he'll do whatever it takes for that extra leg room) I smiled at myself for being mindful of my own patience. I felt pretty darn good about how I handled things, and it was a great reminder for future encounters (not just travel-related) that simply being mindful of a stressful situation can help you exercise more patience.

I kept my cool today and made it home with blog-writing time to spare. Score one for me on the karma scale.

Whether it's holding your tongue with someone that gets on your nerves, not giving up when a task gets too hard, or preventing yourself from running over an old lady with your suitcase in an airport, remember that patience is just the act of practicing self-control.

No comments:

Post a Comment