Yesterday I boarded a flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Oahu, Hawaii. It was to be a 6.5 hour flight. I had taken special care to reserve a window seat. Upon boarding, I realized that I was seated in the middle seat, in the middle of the plane. I was so frustrated and annoyed! 6.5 hours in the middle seat!
So, I was getting myself settled in my seat with an undercurrent of grumpy judgementalism. The first thing that happened was a man in the row behind me offered to hold my tea while I got myself settled. Next the man sitting to the left of me offered to hold my tea while I buckled my seatbelt. Next, the man sitting to the right of me offered me the Phoenix newspaper that he had just finished. This all transpired while I was grumbling internally, empathizing with myself, feeling worried about how uncomfortable I’m going to be for the next 6.5 hours, blaming airport employees for my miserable situation, etc.
Within 10 minutes, well before the plane started moving, I remembered that if I continue on this course, I will ensure that my flight is utterly miserable. So, I took a deep breath, began empathizing with myself in earnest (not just enjoying the jackal show!), and began to shift my attitude. Then, I napped for about 30 minutes because I realized (through self empathy) that the biggest obstacle for me was only getting 4 hours of sleep the night before.
Upon awakening, I did some work that I’d brought and began to chat with the men on either side of me. It turns out that they were a Mexican family traveling from Taos, New Mexico to Oahu to attend their niece/granddaughter’s high school graduation. Twenty-three members of their family were traveling that day to celebrate her graduation. There were at least 7 of them on the flight with me. I was utterly touched by this family celebration and the way that they interacted with each other on the flight. I was in one of the enviable middle positions so I got included in many of their dialogues. I experienced a welcoming that was sweet to the core.
The grandfather and I chatted quite a lot on the flight and even changed our seats so he could sit closer to his wife (who had changed positions with his son earlier). I sat in this aisle seat for 2/3 of the flight. At one point I leaned in to get something and asked him if he minded that I was doing it and he said, “Not at all. Mary, we’re in this together you know!” I chuckled with him but honestly I almost teared up I was so touched by his acknowledgment of our shared experience. As it turns out he is free on Saturday and is planning on attending my Basics of NVC workshop on Oahu.
Deep breath. Changing our attitude changes everything. My flight could have been miserable and I believe it would have been had I stayed stuck in my judgmental, grumpy attitude. Spending a few minutes to collect and empathize with myself, then realizing how tired I was and so taking a nap, was the starting point to a truly enjoyable experience that was full of fun, community and caring.
What’s happening in your day today? Is there anything about your own attitude that will help you shift your experience?
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