Sitting in the Burlington airport waiting for my already, delayed departure to Detroit, making my next connection was in doubt. I was a bit stressed. I called Stanley who was sitting on the other side of the airport. His flight was scheduled for an on-time departure. No problems. I tried to stay calm as I told him I wanted to go home. The last time I had traveled through Detroit alone I came very close to having to spend the night. It was not an experience I wanted to repeat. Stanley was ready to meet me to figure out joint, alternative plans even if it meant paying for our travels. He’s a good guy, a really good guy - and I was just a tad, really hardly at all, hysterical.
Then the airline staff assured me that I would make my connection to Atlanta. Stanley took off for Washington D.C. and things were looking up for me. We boarded the plane. And there we sat – on the tarmac - for a very long time. I travel with a hand-held fan, water, a riveting novel and lifesaver candies. They are all part of my tool kit to avert overwhelming anxiety taking hold. I was doing a lot of breathing in and quietly exhaling ha, ha, ha, ha, ha……. I needed to move past my own fears. I turned to the woman sitting beside me and offered her a lifesaver. It was so easy. That simple gesture of modest giving helped me to move out of my head and connect. I was okay.
Finally we took off. The flight was rocky but we landed safely in Detroit. I spent two long hours chasing down an alternative flight to Atlanta. I felt tense and tired. Finally, we boarded the Atlanta bound plane. Gary sat down next to me. Again, the plane sat on the tarmac and we waited. I started feeling really warm and, consequently, anxious. The pilot informed us that we were being held on the ground and that it would be getting warmer in the plane because the air conditioning was not working properly. He hoped that it would cool down by the time we reached Atlanta. Haaa….haaa…..haaa…..haaa……I reached for my fan. As I turned, I noticed Gary was looking as stressed as I felt. I needed to connect and it looked like Gary could use a friend as well so I told him I had a fan and we could share it. Well, the fan wouldn’t work. Turns out the old batteries inside had corroded. It was getting hotter. I knew I had spare batteries with me, but where? Gary got busy extracting the batteries and cleaning the connections as I searched. Strangers just moments before, Gary and I had become a team and I was feeling better. He looked calmer as well. We got the fan working, we shared lifesavers and Gary showed me his pharmaceutical arsenal of anxiety reducing medications. He generously offered me whatever I wanted. I had a better idea.
I told Gary about Laughter Yoga. He was curious and willing and the sharing was grounding for me. Together we breathed in and quietly laughed out our exhalations until we both felt calmed. No drugs, just breathing and laughter. I suggested that Gary try laughing each day and shared my preference for laughing in the shower and in the car. Gary was traveling to Brazil to meet, for the first time, a woman he had connected with through an online dating service. She and her father would be meeting him at the airport. He thought employing Laughter Yoga en route might help make the introductions easier for him. We practiced breathing and laughing. Finally, we were in the air and the plane was cooling down. I gave Gary my card and told him about my blog. When we landed in Atlanta I had time to leisurely find the gate for my final flight. Gary and I wished each other well. I hope he was able to breathe in calm and laugh away his fears on his flight to Brazil and that love was waiting for him once he arrived.
I could have easily become lost in anxiety during this trip. Instead, I rediscovered the grace that comes from reaching out to others and the connection that Laughter Yoga helps me to make back to myself and to those sitting by my side.
*not his real name