I just heard that a friend’s endometrial cancer has returned. This is very bad news. She has already endured an operation, six months of chemotherapy, and 60 treatements of radiation. Now she and her doctor will sit down and decide the next steps on her pathway through life, through this illness.
Because these decisions are hers to make, I am sitting on the sidelines wondering what I would do. The wondering caused me to think of a recent travel experience.
I was flying into the Dulles airport and I could see a GIANT BLACK CLOUD hovering over the airport. No, really. It was a black cloud like an illustrator would draw. The kind an art director might write ‘cliche?’ next to. Huge. Menacing. With shocks of lightening bolts sticking out of it. The visuals might have been wildly interesting if I wasn’t in a tin can right next to it, descending under it. Just as the words “wind shear, wind shear” started flashing in my brain, the plane accelerated, ascended above the clouds and circled for fifteen minutes while the storm moved away from the airport.
We landed safely and I deboarded to make my connection and get to my final destination. Only all the flights started canceling. It looked like the departure screens in the terminal got a virus.
What did I do?
I did not leave the airport. I did not go find a hotel and book a flight for the next morning and go have fun in Washington, DC. I did not do that. I got in line, I got on the phone, I stayed on hold. I waited. I got booked on another flight. I got on the flight. I buckled my seat belt. I waited on the tarmac for two hours until the pilot called it a day and went back to the gate. I finally called it a day after I ascertained that my luggage was probably at my destination. By that time, it was 11pm and I still had to take a shuttle to a hotel.The whole ordeal began at 4pm.
As I drifted off to sleep, I wondered why I didn’t throw in the towel at 4pm. Why did I wait in all those lines? Why did I waste all that time fighting to get on a plane that never left when I could just as easily get on a plane the next morning and get there a few hours later.
The bags, my still alert brain said, you needed to follow those bags. Your bags were getting there. You needed to be with them.
Really? They sure weren’t in the room right then. The nice Indian man at the front desk gave me a toothbrush. What more did I need for one night?
You see the analogy, of course.
When we are given a challenge, we dig in. We doggedly pursue the bone, whatever it is. It takes being thwarted again and again for us to look beyond the path we are on, and say, hey, what if we pack it in, go rent a house on the beach and watch the sun rise and set for as long as we can?
I don’t know what I would do given a life or death question. I am thankful that it is not on the table for me. But while my friend is over there facing her question, I am over here wondering.