Saturday, March 30, 2024

Just Give It a Minute

I’m currently sitting at the bar at ITH, my local, very small, six-terminal Ithaca, New York airport. It’s a gorgeous, recently renovated airport, but still very intimate (as in tiny) and quite short-staffed. There’s no one working at the bar, though I guarantee you if there were they’d be making a killing right now. There is an adorable handwritten sign by a cooler of drinks that says, “If no one is working, help yourself and please leave cash by the register.” Oh, small town charm galore. I could sure use that canned espresso shot right about now. If only I carried cash. I suppose the Mountain Dew Zero from the vending machine that takes digital payment will have to do…

There’s only one flight leaving this airport this afternoon and we’ve just learned we have a two-plus hour delay; many of us will miss our connections at JFK. When the news came though, with the hard-to-understand stained-voice gate employee shouting the announcement and, for some reason, refusing to use the public address system, proclaiming to all of us within semi-earshot, “JFK has low visibility and too many planes on the ground, so they’ve asked us to stay grounded here in Ithaca until things clear up. They estimate about a two-hour delay, but it could be more or less, depending.”

Okay. No big deal for me, as even though I have a tight layover in JFK, I still don’t have to be at my conference in Vegas until tomorrow night. I quickly got on my Delta app and super easily switched my connecting flight to LAS and will get in just a few hours later tonight than planned. Easy, breezy, beautiful. With that and the very long line that immediately formed in front of my chair of people who don’t apparently use the app to take care of situations like this, instead springing to life to yell at the poor strained-voice gate agent, I moved from a seat by the gate to the bar, along with a number of like-minded passengers, and set up a temporary office to kill the time and get some work done. This unstaffed bar has now effectively been tuned into a U-shaped conference table, with a dozen or so of us tech-savvy app users (said with an eye roll, as I’m notoriously not tech savvy, though am savvy enough to click the “delayed / rebook” button on the Delta app after I got a text message from Delta telling me to do so) using it for workspace.

There’s one man here who, for the sake of this story, I’ll affectionately call “Utah,” because as soon as they made the delay announcement he shot up and stood right in front of my chair in the long-forming line to talk to the sole gate agent…fuming. I garnered from his enraged partial sentences that he’s going home to Salt Lake City (hence the nickname I’ve given him) and has been in Ithaca on business. According to him, this delay is “completely unacceptable” and his life is apparently ruined as a result. I kept trying to tell him before I moved seats that he can easily just open up his phone and switch his flight, as I’m sure JFK will have a dozen different options to reroute him to SLC by a decent time this evening, but I couldn’t get a word in. I guarantee you that Utah is the same type of person who waits in an exhaustively long line at Starbucks to place his order, complaining the whole time, rather than ordering on the app, getting the points, and picking up his latte five minutes later to avoid the whole line situation.

Anyway, after a long, sputtering, spitting missive to me and the others of us within his view and who were unfortunate enough to make eye contact, Utah immediately started calling many different people on his cell phone to complain about how awful his life is because of this “ridiculous” delay. The poor man was just miserable. A total victim-mindset with seemingly no capacity to take a beat, take a breath, and realize that it’s just a mere bump in the road and that there are abundant options to make it turn out just fine in the end; his life isn’t actually over because of fog in JFK.

That being said, I understand where Utah might be coming from. I too get overwhelmed easily. Before I got on anti-anxiety medication, it was an all-too-common occurrence for me to break down from panic attacks…always at the worst times. Before I had my staff, I’d have to sometimes excuse myself from helping a client or guest and go in the back to push through it, but there were times when I wasn’t able to do that and I had to help someone while shaking, crying, and exasperating. Panic/anxiety attacks are terrible. When I had my team, things got much better because I had coworkers to take over for me when I’d feel the spiral starting and my chest tightening, the lump coming to my throat, and my breath becoming labored. They knew the signs and I could say, “Just give me a minute,” excuse myself, and take some time in my office or the bathroom to draw some deep breaths, collect my thoughts, and recompose. Now, that being said, Utah is not having a panic attack. His issue is not medical, but rather I’m confident that it’s drama and attention-seeking related.

But anyway, thanks to wonderful medicine, both preventative and abortive, my anxiety is much more in-check now. I do still occasionally get overwhelmed, but it’s much more rare and much easier to get through. Stress is a big trigger for me, of course, but what usually gets me worked up the most is just too much happening all at once and the feeling that I can’t sort through, organize, and pigeonhole every input that’s being thrown at me at once. I am a compulsive organizer, and if I can’t take notes fast enough or make sense of things, it triggers me to completely freaking lose it.

The older I get and the more I work through life, the more I realize that most situations just need time. It seems so much that comes at us fast and maybe catches us off guard is not nearly as huge as it may seem initially…if we just give it some time. New things often seem like giants. That’s because they’re unfamiliar and usually are right up close. But with a little distance and a little bit of time to take it all in, what may seem like giants can easily become just regular old things that we can deal with easily. Mountains can be made into molehills with time and distance.

In addition to panic attacks, I also get migraine attacks…and have since I was a teenager. They too come on suddenly sometimes and can be completely overwhelming, derailing my day and causing everything to become muddled, fuzzy, and painful. They’re mountainous giants. The miracle of modern medicine has also saved me from the brunt of my migraines that traditionally would have floored me, but the pills I take to help with migraines still take a little bit of time to kick in. During that time, I can’t function very well (though, I must admit that I have become a wonderful actor over the years and can fool many people—except my mom, who always can tell—by going about my business while my head is pounding and my right eye feels like it’s about to pop out of its socket). If I can, when I feel a migraine starting to come on and take a pill to try to head it off, I’ll find a table and put my head down, or, if I’m able, I’ll lie down for a few minutes and close my eyes. This helps tremendously to reduce the stimulus and lets me focus on the pressure points that relieve some of the pain. It just takes a little time.

Just giving things some time and some distance from stimulus is a solution to so many of life’s problems, whether medical like a panic or migraine attack, or other issues with stress, situations, new information, overwhelm, and giants that seem to be all too common and come out of nowhere. Giving things a minute makes those giants smaller and more manageable. Though, it’s much easier said than done. It’s not in our nature to step back and assess and wait a beat. We, as humans, are bandwagon beings and don’t often naturally take the time and space we need to look again at the big picture before jumping the gun.

As I’ve mentioned in a few posts lately, I’m a person of faith. I call the power that I trust in “God,” and you may also use that term, or perhaps you call it “The Universe,” “The Almighty,” “Allah,” Yahweh,” “The Fates,” “Destiny,” “The Great Spirit,” or something else. Whatever you choose to name that thing that’s bigger than any one of us, many people of faith will agree and testify that that power often has a timeline that’s far different than that of our own making. There’s a plan that I believe fully in and want to be able to trust more. That plan will often present itself in chapters, and many chapters and their plot twists can—and will—really knock us for a loop. But, if we give it some time and turn a few more pages in faith, we’ll see why things happened the way they did and how it set us up for something far greater. The answer doesn’t always appear right away, but I believe wholeheartedly—and have proved over and over—that the right doors will open and close if we keep walking…and take our time, giving it a minute as we go. Don’t force it.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and it’s about faith. He said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” I’ve also seen this quote paraphrased as, “Faith is taking a step without seeing the entire staircase.” It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. And it’s so important.

I’ve proven this in my life. I’ve also jumped the gun and gotten on the worst-thing-ever panic-infused bandwagon at times, and each time have regretted it in hindsight. In selling my business recently, somehow the timing just worked out as it should have. It wasn’t timing I had planned, but it was right and the doors opened up and closed and led to it just as it was meant to be. When I had cancer 11 years ago, the same thing happened. It was a huge shock and blew me away and could easily have been the worst thing ever, but truly in hindsight it worked out like it should have and I’ve experienced so, so many silver linings since. And in my current project of fixing up and selling my home in Ithaca in order to relocate to Delaware, I’m seeing so many things open up and close and just work out—differently than I anticipated, but that likely means better too. There are still lots of answers still pending, but things are working out…and I know will continue to do so.

We’ve now landed in JFK and I’ve found my next gate. I have an hour here, so I’ve opened up my laptop to post this blog and then realized that Wi-Fi at JFK isn’t free like it is at ITH…and frugal Marty doesn’t need to spend money for Wi-Fi immediately when this is obviously something he can easily post later. So, I’m rereading this story and want to give a little update, then hopefully I’ll post it all tonight when I’m in Vegas and finally settled into my room. I used to have hotspot service on my phone to keep business running when the internet would go down at my office, but now that I’ve sold the business I also got rid of my hotspot. I kind of regret that, but again, frugal Marty detests wasting money on things that aren’t either necessary or special; airport Wi-Fi and phone hotspot service just-in-case don’t seem like they qualify for either designation. But, I digress…

When we landed at JFK, the attendant announced that anyone with a tight connection should deplane first. And that’s reasonable and normal and pretty much standard practice. Utah shot up and got right to the front of the line to deplane. Antsy and agitated in his sensible green plaid shirt and dad jeans, he was wiggling and talking to anyone near him about how he needed to get off the flight because this delay was, once again, outrageous and he was very victimized by it. To most of the passengers’ frustration (but secretly to my amusement, as I was impishly experiencing serious schadenfreude watching Utah squirm at this point), the JFK crew couldn’t get the jet bridge to attach to the plane. We waited for 30 minutes, Utah still standing and whining and sputtering while most others had taken their seats again, before the attendant announced that we would have to reposition because we weren’t parked straight, and the jet bridge just wouldn’t attach. And not only would people have to all sit down again, but they’d have to re-stow the luggage most had already taken out of the overhead bins. Utah was furious; I was trying to hide my smirk because, despite not being excited about my body-odored exit row seatmate returning, I was completely bemused watching Utah turn everyone around him off by his unreasonable grouchiness and attacks on everyone whose fault the delay clearly wasn’t.

To Utah’s credit, it was a frustrating experience. But, for me, the solution wasn’t complaining, but rather it was just waiting through it and trusting it would be okay. It really wasn’t a huge deal. It was a molehill, not a mountain. And now, after walking through JFK and experiencing the huge breath of fresh air that it is to me—people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, identities, creeds, family types, and so much more surrounding me in this beautiful, eclectic, feels-like-home melting pot, peppered by the looking-very-fly pilots and flight attendants in sharp, crisp uniforms walking together to their next legs—I’m recharged and excited and feel like the world makes sense again. A beat and a breath sometimes aren’t just exiting to the bathroom to cry through a panic attack, but sometimes it’s getting back to a place that feels like home or taking a trip to get a change of scenery. Both are so helpful to reset our minds, refocus on the big picture, and remind us that we’re a cog in a wheel in a beautiful system that’s just turning and turning and giving us a ride we can truly enjoy if we just let ourselves.

I can’t express strongly enough how much time and distance from a problem, situation, concern, or scene of stress can do to heal; I can’t tell you enough how just giving things a minute will make things much, much, much more manageable and sensible; I can’t advocate enough for the importance of trusting in a plan bigger than what you see now and going forward on the staircase even when you can’t see the top yet. What’s getting you overwhelmed and causing you to make a scene today likely may not really be that big of a deal. What if you put it aside for just a minute, step into another room, take some deep breaths, refocus, rethink about what’s most important, and then go back and see if you really need to freak out like you had started to do, or if you can just give it some more time to become much less of a giant and more of just another day’s challenge.

This, like most things I share, is advice to myself just as much as it is to anyone else. I need it.

I need so often to just give it a minute.

The above essay was written on March 6, 2024, however due to aforementioned hotspot issues and then the non-stopness of the back-to-back conferences I attended in Vegas, I didn’t get it posted until now. So, just ignore the date inconsistencies as a result, please. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are moderated.