The gift of the United Lounge

From the buffet in the United Lounge in Chicago

From the buffet in the United Lounge in Chicago

May I share a little story this morning?  It’s about my airplane flight from Hancock to Chicago last month.  A fellow sat next to me.  A big guy.  Not overweight, simply big.  That’s fine.  Except he took over our armrest.  I had no place to rest my arm.   Shame on him!

The mind started imagining all sorts of stories.  The arrogance of that fellow!  The conceit!  Did he realize he was invading my personal space?  Plus, he didn’t even have the politeness to say hello.  Fie on him!

The thoughts fumed for a while.  I watched them fume.  I craftily asserted my arm space when he reached for a magazine.  We sat in silence.

Eventually, I rested in the silence between thoughts. You know, the heart space where we might suddenly remember this isn’t a sham of a human being.  He is a fellow traveler, just like you or me.  He probably hurts about something.  Who knows, maybe he’s not even aware that he’s taking up so much space.  Maybe he can’t help himself.  Maybe there’s something to learn here.

Ego makes room for spirit. Space opens up, large enough for all thoughts and feelings.

I settled in that heart space, breathing.  I included his large presence in my meditation.  My heart softened a bit more.  OK, maybe he was welcome in this space.  Maybe there is a part of me that’s not comfortable being big.  Maybe there is a part that wants to be bigger.  Maybe there’s a part that hasn’t learned to embrace its own perception of arrogance.

Two-thirds into the trip I ventured to ask him a question about his destination.  We chatted, back and forth, sharing rudimentary information.

He asked how long I had between flights.

“Almost two hours,” I said.

“Would you like to hang out in the United lounge?” he inquired.  “I will be with someone else, but would love to give you the opportunity.  There are free drinks and a nice buffet.  There is also wi-fi, comfy chairs and it’s quiet.  I would love for you to be my guest.”

I agreed. Smiled at what the Universe does when boundaries are stretched.  When dissonance is invited into meditation.  When something or someone disliked is included in the heart.  You never know what might happen then, do you?

Have you experienced a gift like this after spiritually opening your perception?

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21 thoughts on “The gift of the United Lounge

    • Dear Traveling Panties, it’s a learning curve! So much easier to stay passive aggressive. I have been there, too. P.S. The soup was really good!

  1. my goodness, Kathy, have I ever! :-)……………the wrangling for the armrest is *so* familiar to me, the waiting to capture it when the other person makes a move, along with all the judgments about them: “They don’t care; they are not aware; they are space hogs”……..so much about them, and then about me: “I am nothing, I am just like this little cornered bird, scared to say anything”………and on it goes.

    Then, after 10 years of human potential training and other therapies, pumping myself up enough to confront them, almost gasping for air: “Sir, would you mind sharing the armrest”…………then those strange looks, as if they were saying “What in the world are you talking about, what seems to be the problem” ;-)……………..yes, how would they know about my history of struggling to get space, and all the pains, anguish and anger associated with it. Have lots of stories here that come to mind, I am sure we all do. Just think of sharing a bed with someone who just spreads out, falls into a coma and starts snoring? Or sharing a blanket, that is barely enough for both of you, and them pulling it over to make sure that they are covered, while your feet are getting cold? And again, when confronted, they yell at you: “Just go sleep for crying out loud, and stop whining and waking me up!”…………

    So to get back to your story: YES, a true inspiration………really, and I am just finally to see what you were doing there as an option! Thank you for sharing it, Kathy.

    • You know what your post provoked for me, Peter? I was thinking about men and how challenging it must be in our society to be vulnerable. And how it’s really more about us as people, as individuals. How some of us struggle to get space, and how easy it seems for others. And then I started thinking about snoring. I could write a blog about snoring. About my snoring, and about the snoring of others. Alas. I shall probably not write it. It’s challenging to share a blanket with another person at times…

      • Glad you can relate and resonate, and yes, it is challenging to be vulnerable. My mind suggests: The “vulnerability” is conditional to our attachment to our “personhood”, and in the context of this sharing, what I gather is to transcend this notion that it is “done to us”. If we are “creating it” as a presupposition, it is just a situation we might want to discuss with another. As a practical approach, Marshal Rosenberg’s “Nonviolent Communication” offers tools that have proven to be very effective and useful for me.

        • Yes, Peter, I do agree that vulnerability has a relationship with personhood. I have also heard that Nonviolent Communication is a wonderful tool.

  2. I love this experience, and the process that led to a lovely gift at the end (beginning?). Stretching boundaries, including the disliked into the heart, meditation — such possibilities — and your recognition of it.

    I, too, have experienced the “arm rest” scenario. But, another flight experience comes to mind. I was on a flight in the early 70’s, and a rather flamboyant man, who was obviously wearing make up, sat down next to me. We didn’t see a lot of men in make up back then, except for guys in bands, etc. I was reading, but took time to answer the man’s pleasantries before diving back into my book. I absurdly thought people would think I was his girlfriend or wife, and felt embarrassed!

    I don’t remember what I was reading, but he’d read the same book. Suddenly we were yakking it up like old chums. I no longer saw his outsides I’d become so enchanted with his insides. It turned out that he was Barbra Streisand’s make up artist!! Ha! Of all things. He complimented me on my “soft look,” and at the end of our flight, he gave me a pair of false eyelashes, which I never wore, but have to this day.

    One never knows when we open our hearts. Delightful experiences we might have missed.

    Thanks for sharing this today, my friend!

    • Sonali, I am going to tell you a little secret. Sometimes my kids think I stretch boundaries a little too much. But am probably going to continue to do so. So many gifts have come from this…

  3. Yes! And then I have to watch considering that my HP rewards me for passing tests and actually do and be the thing I chose just because I did. 🙂

  4. Wow, what a great way to turn around an uncomfortable flight. I always try to assume the best about people until I know for sure they might be toxic to me. This week when all the elevators were out in my building, it was about 90 degrees and I had raw chicken from the store and a colicky baby prone to scream at any moment in the stroller. I couldn’t carry the stroller up the many, many flights of stairs to our apartment. I had to take her and the chicken in-arms up a few flights to where, thankfully, the service elevator was still running. On the way, I saw an employee of our building sweeping water away (a busted pipe was the culprit of the elevator outage). He doesn’t speak much English and I, barely any Hebrew, but somehow I felt I’d communicated to him that if he could please carry my stroller up to the service elevator and to my floor, I would greatly appreciate it. Well, the stroller never came to my floor and when my husband went to look for it where I left it, it wasn’t there. He was ready to assume it was stolen, but I had faith in this guy I had talked to. I took a moment to think as he might have about our conversation where I mostly mimed what I needed and decided that he probably thought I was a tourist since I didn’t speak Hebrew and put my stroller on the floor below in the hotel-part of the building. Sure enough, that is exactly where my husband found our stroller completely intact. This poor guy didn’t have to help me or to try to understand my broken Hebrew, but he was kind, he saw me and my baby were in a pickle (and she in distress) as a result of the elevator outage and decided to help as best he could. Your story reminded me of this one. It’s amazing how life works out sometimes when you give people the benefit of the doubt. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Hey Kathy, when I first started reading this, it reminded me of that story I shared on my blog about the man who spilled his coke on me in the plane. Then I got stuck in the bathroom! Ha. I went with the flow and found it a hilarious series of events. It’s on my memoir page in case you don’t remember.

    Having said that, thank you for sharing your story. It’s amazing how the Universe works when we change the way we perceive something. I had a similar situation recently. I had an issue with our landlord who refused to fix our a/c. He and I had words. Afterward, I didn’t like myself. I prayed and meditated on it. Spirit then moved me to express my gratitude. So, I wrote the landlord an email and thanked him for doing all he could. Soon after, he sent a maintenance guy out. He came up with a temporary fix, but at least it’s working for the moment.

  6. Pingback: My Flight with the Makeup Artist – Grandma Suey Says

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