I recently had a chance encounter with a lovely lady that I wished I had spent more time getting to know. We met on a 9 hour flight across the Atlantic. I was the window, she was the aisle seat. Unfortunately, we didn’t exchange more than, “I hate to bother you, but can I get out?” type conversation until the last 45 minutes of the flight.
Why? I am an introvert. I had just spent weeks in the “on” position. My battery wasn’t just dead, it was past recharging.
1 + 1- a person bouncing between life in Paris (France, not Texas) and Birmingham (Alabama, not England) + 20 days socializing in the holiday season and prepping for my imminent 3 month departure = burnout. (Of course, if the large, burly French version of a TSA agent had his way, I might be stateside permanently. Apparently, my math skills failed and as such I erred, equating to 4 days over the 90 I am allowed. This to me, seemingly small, unintentional oversite, to him was an insurmountable international incident, in which I “completely disrespected my privileges and was unworthy of a return visit” or something along those lines, he was speaking very rapidly in French. This is a story for another time. Let’s just say that when he leaned down to the gap in the window that separated us and crooked his finger for me to join him, I was happy it was bullet proof. He repeated admonitions, repetition of my infraction and a requirement of my solemn promise to stay away for a MINIMUM OF 90 DAYS, in both French and English, multiple times, despite me nodding in the affirmative so rapidly I looked like a bobble head on a dirt road. My assurance that it had been a mistake, not an intentional act of social disobedience worthy of imprisonment was ineffective.)
Afterwards, settling gratefully into my Air France seat, my only thoughts were of escape and the solitude I intended to create with the complimentary headphones and eye pillows. I was sure I did not want to talk to another soul for the next 12 hours. At least that is what I believed at the time.
Putting on my best, “I am really a nice person, but just leave me alone” expression, I smiled politely at my aisle seat companion, flipped the tray table down, cranked on the radio, pumped up the leg support and sat back.
Meanwhile, next to me sat this very interesting, very intelligent woman, who happened to be in a much more painful place. Still she smiled. She never complained about the inconvenience of having to get up three times to let me out, or looked in the least bit annoyed. If we had never spoken, I would have told you she had the world by the tail. She was beautiful and seemingly had it all together. Funny how deceptive appearances can be.
I didn’t discover anything about her until Air France monopolized the sound system with the requisite landing information requiring us to return to our seats and replace the headphones, thus leaving me with nothing to hide behind.
In the few minutes we talked, she shared her story, with dignity, a touching sense of gratitude and hope, and a complete acknowledgment of personal responsibility. (Although she had done nothing to warrant the events that created so much pain for her.)
She told me that she needed to find direction, make some decisions. I just nodded, smiled supportively and patted her shoulder.
I would have loved having her for a client, but I was locked in a mental battle between a very real desire to support her and the voice in my head that kept saying I should refer her. So, what did I do? Not enough.
I gave her some truths about who she was, strong, beautiful, smart, that, “I understand and know you can do it speech we seldom want to hear when we are sharing very deep emotions”.
Today as I sat writing this, the gray skies parted (literally) and I can see so much more clearly. In my own defense, I am not sure I had enough at that moment to give anyone, but still, the realization that I had been so busy in my own head or so concerned she might think I was trying to sell her my services that I missed a crucial element.
We are placed in positions at moments that reveal to us a reflection of who we could become.
I am a Life Coach. I coach women, particularly women who need to write themselves into a happier existence, gain clarity and find direction. My business is also about writing. I use writing to gain a deeper understanding of myself and others. Writing has gotten me through some of the hardest, darkest parts of my life. But is has also been a joyful excursion through some of my greatest blessings.
Writing is magic. Writing is transformative. Telling your story, even if no one else ever reads it, will change your life. It will also, again, even if no one else ever reads it, change the world. Because when you change, you cannot help but change others.