I don’t think you ever notice just how many people literally fly solo until you’re subjected to open seating on an airplane. Folks are apparently always traveling alone, and when given the choice of where they’re going to sit, they invariably gravitate towards the two end seats –aisle and window–because who honestly wants to sit right next to anyone anymore. This would always leave the oh-so-coveted middle seat for some poor, unfortunate sap.
Enter: Me. Thanks, Southwest.
We flew out of San Antonio at 12 yesterday afternoon and changed planes in Tampa after an initial 2 hour journey. I ended up in the middle seat for both plane rides. The first time, I was seated between two older men, each of us doing our level best to keep our extremities as tightly pulled into ourselves as we could for the duration of the flight. What was more, I don’t think any of us looked at each other for the whole 2 hours. The man to my left –slight and completely bald with liver spots bespeckling his hands– stared dedicatedly out of the window, while the man to my right –not slight in the slightest and completely not-bald– gazed out towards the aisle in an almost melancholic display. I –when I wasn’t focused on what I was reading, fixed my eyes to the ceiling of the cabin so as not to accidentally meet eyes with either of the men who were trying not to accidentally meet eyes with me.
We were quite the sight, I’d imagine. The trinity of avoidance.
I think I prefer assigned seating, quite honestly. At least my odds are better.
The second flight was unremarkable aside from one thing: The guy next to me had some kind of black wi-fi contraption that he was using at 35,000 ft. to watch Netflix on his iPad. I was insanely curious, and immediately thought of all the things I could ask him –what was that? How does it work up here? Who makes it? Can I have one? Can I have yours? But, alas, I wasn’t curious enough to actually ask those questions.
There’s still a lot for me to process about the San Antonio experience before I write anything about it. From the familial atmosphere at the convent to the power and impact of the talks and the testimonies of those who attended –there’s so much to give an account of. If I’m honest, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to communicate it with any effectiveness. Sometimes, that’s just how it goes. Sometimes we have to be okay with our inability as humans to properly express the things we harbor in heart and mind. Sometimes, we have to know it’s perfectly acceptable to be inadequate and to have gaps in our abilities.
If I’ve learned anything this past weekend, it’s that I have a lot of gaps and many inadequacies. I walk around like I’ve got it pretty together –and in many regards, that’s true. But, like anyone, I’m in a constant state of growth. There are areas of my life –raw, exposed areas– that were touched at this retreat: parts of my life that I still hesitate to hand over to God fully. It’s sad to realize that about myself, but I also know it’s completely human to hesitate. To surrender is divine.
“Let go,” Fr. George says. Let go of your sense of intellect. Let go of your pride. Let go of your need to understand things. Let go of doing it your own way. Let go of what you think God wants for your life. Let go of expectations. That’s what I’m working on and what I need to figure out how to do. It’s a process, I think, but a necessary one. And a terrifying one.
But it’s only when we are empty that we can be filled. We can only grasp at the blessings when our hands are already free.
And so I leave you: Ever letting go of myself.