Layovers and Standbyes

I was halfway to the airport in Boston, on my last day of Winter Break, when I realized that I’d screwed up the flight time.  I was going to miss it by minutes.

It was entirely my own fault.  I just hadn’t paid close enough attention.  I’d been on vacation for two weeks, and forgot what it was like to be on a schedule.  To have to worry about things like, I don’t know, time and responsibilites.

So it was that I found myself stuck in Logan International Airport, on standby, unsure when I’d be back in Austin.  I found a quiet spot to set down my dog (yes, the poor pup was traveling with me), dug my cell phone out of my bag, and tried to slow my breathing.

I could have spent the day beating myself up, wallowing in teary-eyed boredom.  And in all honesty, I almost did.  I started out with some very watery minutes on the phone with my boyfriend.  After all, I look forward to things with such fervor and enthusiasm, and the letdown when they’re over can be pretty devastating for me.  I always have to fight against a sinking feeling of loss, as if I should have somehow bottled the moments of carol-singing and fireside-sitting.  Like now that they’re over, they never existed.  Like they were only a sepia-toned, nostalgic series of good dreams.

Missing a flight on my last day on the east coast certainly didn’t help take the sting out of my looming sadness.  But Bonesaw encouraged me not to be too hard on myself.

After all, I’d just spent two full weeks on blissful vacation.  I ate well.  Drank too much.  Watched movies and sipped tea by the fire.  Went sledding (SLEDDING!) during a perfect, gentle snowstorm.  I took a walk around a frosty horse farm.  Did yoga with my very first instructor.  Worked out with my mom.  Went out to my favorite hometown restaurant.  Took photos with Santa and rode on a train through twinkly lights.  Made new friends and connected with old.

This trip was as close to perfect as it could get.  If a few long hours in a chilly airport are the worst of my problems, I have it shamefully good.

Soothed by the sound of Bonesaw’s voice, I bought a coffee and a pastry.  Settling back into my chair, I tackled the next obstacle:  How would I get to my house in Austin?  There was no telling when I’d arrive back in Texas.  It’s Friday night, I lamented silently.  Surely people will have plans!  Who’ll be available to wait around and then pick me up at a moment’s notice?

So I put out a frantic call to half a dozen friends, who responded with universal support and reassurance.  It became utterly clear that I wouldn’t be stranded at the airport after a grueling day of travel.  They’d take care of me; make the drive so that my poor dog and I could get home.  I started to feel guilty, in fact, for asking all of them in such a panic.  But I also felt overwhelmingly loved and buoyed by their replies…which caused a mild round of weepy gratitude.  Abby even reminded me that “Alcoholic drinks at airport bars often help with travel stress,” prompting a much-needed laugh.

Over the next few hours I wrote a letter to Bonesaw and scribbled away in my journal.  I touched base with a few close friends in a series of random Friday-morning text messages.  I plugged in my headphones and watched Netflix Streaming on my iPhone, contentedly whittling away the time.

The minutes passed quickly, and then I was going through security, hoping to catch a flight on standby.  Once again, I took stock:  I have a great job and even better friends.  I have a boyfriend I adore.  I have the resources, the skills, and the means to get myself out of difficult situations.  I have love in my life beyond measure.

I didn’t know if I’d make that first flight.  But I knew that the flight was a minor detail; a variable; an inconsequential matter.  The significant was rarely more clear.

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