At the end of my meditation last week the narrator gave an example of sitting next to someone on a plane who shares one small detail of their life. Being human we build a narrative of who this person is based one the one fact offered. The narrator then concludes how easily we build a big picture from a small nugget of information, gaining biases and perception we've created in our mind — negative and positive.
However, I took the mindwander route where I was suddenly transported back to a flight I had taken from Dublin to Chicago. At the time, I was living in Ireland, on my way back to North Dakota to visit family. As per usual once the plane landed, me and fellow passengers awaken from our long-haul flight coma trying to achieve small tasks that suddenly become difficult: turning on phones, finding passports, changing shoes (all while staying in our seats because TSA guidelines). I didn’t have a phone and long layover on my horizon so I chilled out while the plane taxied and started people watching, as the majority of the passengers shifting into their non-holiday selves. The man in front of me began listening to voicemails. (I'd like to note, that yes I ended up eves dropping but in my defense even when you try to not overhear, you overhear things on a plane.) The message was left by a woman inquiring about marriage counseling, noting his number had been passed on from a friend. When I overheard this I immediately wondered when she had left the message, how long was she waiting to hear back from him? Poor thing. He immediately called her back. All this time, his wife his holding his hand, and I think this is who I’d want for my marriage counselor, if I were married, if I were married and needed one. Then the tables turn. He gets her voicemail. He explains quite honestly, and without desire for pity that he is sorry for not returning the call but he was on a vacation overseas with his wife, followed by the fact he recently retired with little notice because of a late stage cancer diagnoses, adding at the end he hopes she has found someone who can work with her.
By the time he hangs up his wife is on her phone, talking to I assume one of their children, giving updates on their whereabouts, and also noting that Dad is fine. She says she will call back when they arrive home. As she hangs up she lifts her hand from his, and pats it, looks at him with a sigh. The look in her eyes says it all, ‘back to reality.’ I suppose this reality for them is his quickly approaching death. I think to myself that the plan was only just hovering over the city of Chicago with their reality still eons away. And now I am snapped back into my reality, knowing I will soon be walking through endless terminals to get to my final gate, daydreaming about buying Garretts popcorn to share with my family.
Meditation can do funny things. I remember this moment clearly, but I had thought of it only once or twice since. Now my heart sinks, thinking this was over five years ago. If I were a kid I’d want and believed it possible that our plane could have forever hovered above Chicago. I could have lived in the delight of anticipation, and they would never have to live out the reality waiting for them.