Sunday, August 28, 2016

Life at an Airport

I was trying to get from my home country to my host country, from one home to another. Sometimes getting from point A to point B gets complicated. It is easy for the way to become encumbered, disrupted, or just plain blocked. Such is life. It is mostly curves, with only the occasional simple straight line.

My way was impeded by a pack of typhoons threatening Tokyo. Gale force winds, torrential rain, powerful forces of nature blowing a hole right through my route home. My flight from Tokyo to Taipei was canceled and this left me committed, by force, to a meandering course, including an all day lay over at Minneapolis International Airport.

I happened to be traveling alone as my husband and kids had already returned to Taiwan for the start of school. I was missing them intensely, and I knew they needed me. My husband was right then readying for his own trip, going away on business, leaving our children solo on the other side of the world. I pictured my children, two teens and one tween, there, alone, waiting for my curvy path to arrive back in Taipei. I started to panic as the check in agent informed me of my new and very long itinerary. I became extremely frustrated by this delay. I was short with her, my irritation spilling onto the messenger of things that are beyond anyone's control. I can be reactive at times and I wanted her to fix it, make it to my liking, dial up the weather gods and get it right. It didn't work. No shit. I had to concede defeat and apologize to the poor woman just doing her job.

I am only human, and we do have claws and fangs. Mine occasionally get brought out a bit hastily, especially when mama is on a mission for her kiddos. I walked away from that interaction feeling bad for her, bad for myself, wincing at the sharp dagger of my inner critic. I should be better than this. Sometimes being human tastes bitter to me, a blend of tears and blood. I wonder if people notice my claws and fangs. Suddenly mine felt sharper and bloodier than others. Perhaps I am more beast than beauty. I often wonder if people are looking at me, pretending not to see my ugliness, my scars. I get an intense impulse to hide. I turn to run toward exile. My ideas of separation and unworthiness rise within me, relentless and brutal. I don't belong. I'm not worthy. I so intensely long to be seen, to be included and understood, but I equally want to hide. Pulled apart by paradox, as we tend to be.

I spent ten hours at the Minneapolis Airport. I had a lot of sitting ahead of me on the two flights to come, so I decided to walk. I followed signs for Terminals A,B,C and Terminals D,E,F.  I determined to connect all those dots, cover all the terrain. As I walked I began to relax, and my attention shifted from being self absorbed, frustrated, and guilt ridden, spinning in my inner story, to the buzz of activity all around me.

Airports are truly a microcosm of the larger world. For a moment, a few hours, or occasionally even days, people end up at this hub of exchange, randomly thrown together as they travel straight lines or curvy meandering paths in a shared quest to get from point A to point B. As I walked I observed all these people. There were young people and older people. Babies in strollers alongside elders in wheelchairs. Beginnings and endings. There were people of all different colors, speaking varied languages. There were people from all backgrounds and walks of life.There was a business man sitting next to a teen aged girl with pink streaks in her hair. He was wearing a suit and tie, she had on ripped jeans and combat boots. He had a briefcase, she had a violin. Only at an airport would it be likely that these two would end up side by side.

I saw a Catholic nun, and then later a Buddhist monk. I saw a guy decked out in cowboy wear and a woman dressed to the nines in couture. Buttoned up people and buttoned down people.

We may seem so far from each other, so different, so distinct. But spend a little time at an airport and you will observe all of us engaged in what we do in common. We journey. We endeavor to get from point A to point B. I watched in wonder as I walked. So many people, so many stories to be told. Sometimes I guessed where people might be headed, and other times I overheard.  Some of those people were going to weddings and others to funerals. I saw people crying and saying hello, and I saw people crying and saying goodbye. There were families heading out on vacation, and families going home. A young man off to college, another in uniform returning to his military station after a visit with his family. I saw parents hugging their children and parents scolding their children. Newlyweds going on their honeymoon with big dreams of a life ahead, and an elderly couple sitting quietly, at ease and still holding hands.

In an airport you will witness all of human expression and experience. In ten hours I saw people happy, sad, elated, frustrated, exhausted, angry, anxious, relaxed, distressed, engaged, connected, disconnected. I witnessed people being generous, people being selfish, people in love and people enraged. Airports are epicenters of emotion, shift, and change. They are a constant gathering flow of people in the fire of transition. Going from point A to point B guarantees at least a change of location and scenery. It includes people in the midst of a multitude of different situations, emotions and transformational events. Observing people on their journeys reveals so much about the human heart, and our common ground of feeling. Under one roof we can see love, grief, celebration, loss, industry, leisure, community, and isolation. In an airport we can openly observe the things that bring us together and the things that tear us apart.

I have traveled many places, and right now I live across the world from where I began. And yet, I realize one only needs to go as far as the airport to learn all there is to know about people. We are all here to evolve, moving from where we are, towards where we need to be. We are all just human and we do have claws and fangs, but we also have warm arms to embrace each other, tears for both our joys and our sorrows, hearts that can be both delicate and courageous. Most of all, we are all capable of noble and amazing things as well as brutal and destructive things. But we are all born of love, that is the most powerful force I saw. At an airport you will see many people holding each other tenderly, for many reasons. Love lives. It is the most powerful part of us. If we have fangs and claws, then love surely gives us wings to rise above. On our seemingly separate paths we walk, or fly, going from our point As to our point Bs, whether we realize it or not, we are all in this thing called life, together, following a curvy path home.

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