I was boarding a plane, heading for home a few weeks ago, when I spied my seat up ahead. I like the aisle seat where I can get up and move around easily to stretch and move my restless legs. So there in the middle seat sat a beautiful young woman with her arms wrapped around the bicep of the young man by the window. Her head was burrowed into his chest and her eyes were closed tight. Honeymooners, I thought. But as I was settling my bags and ready to sit down next to her, she looked up and we glanced at each other. Her eyes were red-rimmed and her face wore the expression of dread.
At that moment my mind flashed back to my trip to Iowa three years ago. I had received the call that my dad’s health had taken a sudden turn. With the knowledge that doctors did not expect a recovery, I knew I was headed to my hometown to say goodbye to my father. I walked through RSW toward the gate dragging my feet and swallowing tears. Maybe this woman was having a similar experience, I thought.
The flight crew made announcements, the passengers made adjustments, and the plane growled its way to the runway. And as we lifted off the pavement, my seatmate gripped the hand of her partner and effectively stopped the flow of blood to his fingers. Anxiety and fear kept
Once we were airborne, I decided to cut the tension with a simple greeting, “are you headed home?” I asked. She relaxed just a smidgen, and told me that her and her husband were heading out on a vacation together, and it would be the first time they left their two young children for any length of time. We chatted a bit and then we retreated into our generous 12 inches of individual air space for the duration of the flight. I started my movie and she reached for the white paper bag stuffed into her seat pocket. Uh oh.
It would be my guess that at least half of all airplane passengers aren’t aware that there IS a white paper bag in the seat pocket. I remember one time, many years ago, my little white bag sat on the floor at my feet…full. As we were getting off the plane, a kind gentleman ran up and handed it to me. “Here! You forgot this!” Obviously, he didn’t know it’s purpose (and therefore, its contents) or he would have left it on the floor.
For nearly all of the first 30 years of our marriage, my husband and I flew on an airplane once a year. We hightailed it out of Iowa for a week in the winter, seeking sunny skies and solar heat. And from the moment the trip was booked, I began to stew about getting on the airplane. I prepared instructions for our children and our parents more comprehensive than a Will and Testament. I did not sleep the night before our departure. I held my boarding pass in a sweating palm, and I walked through the gate with locked knees. I’d sit in my seat on the airplane and the first thing I looked for was the white paper sack in the seat pocket. Once found, I would tuck it in the front, easily accessible. Then I’d look for my husband’s “motion sickness relief” baggie for backup. As the plane took off, I would alternately glance out the window to make sure we weren’t making any sudden turns or nose dives, and stare straight ahead to hold off the sudden turns and nosedives in my belly. I was certain that by not moving, I was doing my part to keep the plane in the sky.
When anyone would leave their seat, I was sure the captain was in the cockpit wrestling the controls to keep us from tipping. Each time the “ding” of the flight attendants’ bell rang, I knew it was the pilot informing them of our impending crash. I would listen for any changes in the sounds of the engines, knowing for certain one was going to burn up and send us spiraling. I would silently curse the happy passengers. How could they concentrate on the words of a book or magazine? Why would they leave me alone to worry the plane into stability? Even my husband would close his eyes and fall asleep. I was confident that everyone with eyes closed was silently praying. I quietly hoped the captain was not on his first solo flight.
Back to the present, I no longer look for the white paper sack when I board a plane, but I have tremendous sympathy for anyone who does. The only thing worse than irrational fear, is irrational fear and sickness. You can’t keep the plane in the sky when you’re spilling your breakfast into a bag. So, when I saw this poor, young woman with baggie in hand, staring forward, teeth clenched, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of guilt. Here I sat, watching my movie, snacking on pistachios and M&M’s. How did I get to be one of those people who selfishly ignores the fact that they’re on an airplane? I know how. I stopped listening to that particular voice in my head.
One of the many lessons I have learned on my yogic journey is to recognize that there is always a voice speaking inside my head. From the moment I wake in the morning, until I fall asleep at night, I am inundated by an internal commentator. The importance of recognizing that the voice exists, is knowing you get to choose whether or not to listen to it. In his book, “The Untethered Soul,” Michael A. Singer says, “There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice in your mind – you are the one who hears it.”
Yoga has helped me to sort the things I can control from the things I cannot. If I sneeze on an airplane, it will not throw off the equilibrium of the aircraft. I can’t control its balance or its fate. And knowing I am not singlehandedly responsible for keeping 735,000 pounds and 150 lives from falling out of the sky is a huge relief. Just give me my M&M’s and a good movie. And I’ll leave the little white sack in the seat pocket for the next guy.
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.