“I finally learned that it’s not worth getting upset over things I cannot control,” replied the gentlemen in the window seat of my crowded first class cabin as he sat patiently waiting for departure information. Our aircraft was still parked at the gate, when at this point it should have been comfortably cruising at 30,000 feet en route to Boston. I’m sure I began resisting panic mode as soon as I realized that this particular mechanical delay would more than likely turn into a flight cancellation leaving many passengers stranded, missing connections, not to mention mind numbingly angry.
My window passenger had been calmly holding his coffee and gazing outside at the tarmac as I began nervously soothing frayed nerves and offering more drinks. After a few strained exchanges with other passengers, I returned to him and both apologized for the delay and thanked him for handling the situation so calmly. He shared that he would be soon missing an important meeting at his destination, and then added the words that I will always remember, a philosophy that continues to resonate with me and one I’ve shared with my children. I’ve used it as a mantra, both left unspoken and said out loud many times, often shortening it with a shrug and saying mostly to myself, “I can’t control this.” It has cleared my head and given me a focus in situations that would send another person into nuclear mode.
Last month I was traveling with my daughter to the West Coast to help her settle into her freshman year of college. To pass the time I began sharing funny airline tales from my long ago career, knowing that our conversation’s path would take us to the most important destination, the story of a wise stranger I had met along the way, a story that I hope will follow her throughout a long and fulfilling life, along with the wisdom that will keep her grounded and present in difficult situations and grant her peace and acceptance, as it did me.