REFLECTION: Well, folks, it’s been six weeks since I signed off for a Pause sabbatical in anticipation of the Great Spring Travel Adventure. You’ll recall I was headed for Europe to spend a week taking a painting class in the Cotswolds, followed by two weeks with my husband in London and Paris, and a final two weeks with a painting group touring Portugal, Spain and Morocco.
Those of you who follow my blog or Facebook page will already know things didn’t quite unfold according to plan. It seems the Icelandic Volcano had other ideas in mind for me. The thick layer of volcanic ash clogging the flightpaths over Europe shut down air travel on the very day we were to leave for London. We rebooked our flights for 5 days later only to be cancelled again with the prospect of yet another 5 day wait before we could snag another set of seats – IF the airports were open.
By then I had missed the painting class completely, all our time in the UK would have evaporated, and Dave and I would be left with one short week together in Paris. So, we opted to cancel our shared portion of the trip in hopes of something more substantial at a later time, and I rebooked to fly directly to join the painting group in Lisbon.
Frankly, I did not take the change well. We had set plans for this adventure months earlier. It had taken a major investment of energy to work out the details and coordinate the connections. I was highly invested in anticipation and excitement.
Sure, there were consolations. We were alive and well. We were physically comfortable at home, not jammed into the corner of some airport waiting room with thousands of others halfway around the world. We were able to recoup most of our deposits or arrange credits on trip arrangements. Still, I had a terrible time shaking the black cloud over MY head.
Friends and family extended comfort and suggested there would be great lessons to harvest from the experience. Frankly, the most I could muster at the time was a succinct and acerbic, “Life sucks! Move on!”
ACTION: Looking back on the experience from this end, I find that I do have a better perspective on the whole situation. In the scheme of possible life events a cancelled, postponed, or rearranged vacation rates pretty low on the list of things that could go wrong – certainly nowhere near disaster status. Of course, I knew that at the time – in my mind – but it still felt horribly disappointing in my gut.
The core problem with my reaction centered on my expectations. I had built up a huge head of steam in anticipation of things unfolding according to plan. The more tightly I held to those original expectations, the more pain I experienced as those plans evaporated into thin air – or in this case smoke and ash.
If there’s anything I’ve learned that might be a helpful mantra for all of us in those times when life heads sideways, it’s the idea of ‘Holding Lightly – Not Tightly.’
PS – I had a chance to test this approach on our scheduled return from Madrid to Frankfurt to Ottawa to Saskatoon. Bad weather in Frankfurt delayed our flight out of Madrid. By the time we lifted off the runway in Spain, our two and a half hour connection window in Frankfurt had narrowed to 30 minutes. A number of my travelling companions were distraught.
In my mind, I found myself reviewing the possibilities. It could be the flight from Frankfurt to Ottawa is also delayed and we have more time than we realize. Could be the airline holds the Ottawa flight for the 14 of us who are making connections. Could be we miss the connection completely and have to rebook. Any one of those things is just as likely to happen as another – and no matter which one it is, all will be well. Hold lightly – not tightly.
In fact we did miss our connection in Frankfurt. Lufthansa rebooked us for the next morning through Calgary to Saskatoon and provided hotel, meals and ground transfer for everyone. And yes, all was indeed well.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “When it hurts so bad, it’s because I am hanging on so tight.” – Pema Chodron
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: I really found the ideas in this book by Pema Chodron helpful: “When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times”. If you find yourself hitting a rough patch or two, you might find Pema’s ideas speak to you, too.
Also, for any of you who are interested in catching a taste of my travels as they did unfold, you can check out the postings I made from Portugal, Spain and Morocco right here on the Pause Blog. Just click on the Travel category, and you’ll find all the most recent postings at the top of the list. Enjoy.
READERS WRITE: In response to the most recent message on R & R (Remorse & Regret), Pause reader LE writes: ” I am currently battling the issue of having mired myself in doing too much on a project. My resentment, I have realized, is that no one has stepped forward to “rescue” me. I am taking a serious look at my own culpability in all of this, stepping back where it makes sense, drawing my line, sticking to it (the hardest part)…and moving on. Thanks for your wisdom.”