Sunday, December 27, 2009

An Essay Inspired by Seeing "Up In The Air"

This essay was inspired by seeing "Up In The Air."


I was very restless. I was not sure who I was or where I belonged. My heart longed for intimacy and closeness and I was blessed with many friends - many, many friends and much love. Still, something was not quite right and I was far from being "present" to the moments of much of my life. There were glimpses - but not the real thing.

Wherever I was, I longed to be somewhere else and in my mind I traversed the globe. And in reality, I did much of the same. Why live in my ordinary life, aware of my ennui and discomfort when I could be dreaming of the next stop? It was a balm, narcotic in nature, that I was in need of.

Make no mistake, I was not in constant misery, especially as the years passed. (Earlier I was!) However, I was not fully alive and I was always waiting for that "next" thing. And no - I did not fire people for a living, quite the contrary!

That next thing could be one of the following - when I get a big raise, when I lose weight, when this big work project passes, when my boss quits, when my secretary leaves, when I find a husband, when I get back from this trip, when I pay off my debt, when I when I when I when I...

Nothing feeds that hamster-wheel like the next plane ticket and itinerary, even if you can't stand the thought of going to TampaLasVegasAlbuquerqueChicago or to the next SalesMeetingConferenceConvention or whatever it was.

In a life that felt out of control and in the life of a naturally disorganized person there was something deeply calming to the routine. The list looked like this and I would write it and then check off each item or write "wear":

Mon
Blk pnts___
Gry Swtr set___
Blk flats____

Tues
Blk pnts___
Bl blzr___
Wht top____
Blk low Pumps___

Tues PM
Jeans___
Red shrt___
Blk hoodie___

Wed 
Same as Mon___

Each item was carefully selected and placed in my rolling bag. My suitcases were chosen carefully at the time of purchase - they needed to be compact and light when empty, with durable wheels. I never liked TravelPro; I loved Delsey and Dakota. 

I always had a ziplock filled with sample size shampoo, conditioner, facial products, toothpaste etc. It was necessary to always bring my own blow dryer; it took up a lot of space, but it was a must. I became the queen of the right shoes for both casual and dressy.

I would count out and write down just how many pair of undies I needed and socks. I would also write down things like "sleep" and "work out" and add them to the list; I would pack things into my sneakers and shoes to save room.

Control for a life out of control. 

The car would come at 4am, I would get to Newark at 5am for a 7am flight to wherever. These were those post 9/11 trips, the two hour thing was required and it soothed my anxiety. Sleep was overrated. It was not hard to do.

My Continental Elite status allowed me special check in and security lines; I would go to the President's Club and read or do some work. When it was time, I would get on the plane - first of course, Elite status. I would more often than not be in First Class.

In the later days, I grew to love JetBlue.

One bag in the overhead, the smaller one under the seat in front of me. I hated the bulkhead seat for that reason, it screwed me up.

On the plane, off the plane. Off the plane, head to Hertz, then Avis, then Enterprise, then Avis again. I always had a car ready, lines and waiting were for suckers. Hop in the car, head to wherever. If I went to Las Vegas or San Francisco or Chicago or to DC I would not rent a car, but would take a taxi or use a car service.

Get to the hotel, check in - usually from a preferred guest line, go to room, often upgraded. Unpack - even if I were there for one night only, I would completely unpack.  My hotels of choice were Hyatts and Starwood Properties, like the W chain.

Or maybe I was going to another Nielsen office or to a client first, then I would do that and the hotel came later.

Then I would use my miles and travel around the world -more pleasurable indeed, but still something was missing. I would be on the plane headed to my destination and in my mind I was planning my next vacation before this one began.

The amassing of miles and points became a passion and all sorts of lengths were gone to in order to use the same airline/hotel/car rental in order to maximize and to "double dip." I will always fondly remember 1987 as the year of Triple Mileage Bonuses, oh those were the days. 

*sigh*

It was like being pressed up against a thick piece of glass, soundproof glass. I was screaming.

That glass separated me from my own life and I couldn't always hear the screams.

Now it was not all bad - lots of friends with similar jobs and lifestyles. Great trips, met tons of truly nice people, stayed in lovely hotels and resorts, ate legendary meals in the swankiest restaurants. I got to visit friends and family that I might not have seen so often.

And I read books, lots and lots of books when I flew.

Now I am on the ground and not Up In The Air.

This is better. For me, anyway.

23 comments:

  1. So glad you are down on the ground now. thanks for sharing this.

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  2. How many of us are pressed against the glass, screaming our heads off and no one hears? So poised and in control on the outside, total wreck inside. Glad you are grounded now. Thank you.

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  3. What a gorgeous essay, Fran. Publishable. But then, you just published it here -- the joys of blogging! Thanks for writing so vividly. And blessings on your life down here. What a rich woman you are.

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  4. I've never been Up in The Air (I have flown 4 times in my life--the first time when I was 30!), but I relate to what you say about "that next thing."

    Peace, Fran.

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  5. What a great piece of writing! Yes - it's easy to "control" things when we're always focusing ahead. The "when I" syndrome is highly familiar. I've really only known you since you escaped the go go lifestyle you once had. It's hard for me to imagine you not on the ground.

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  6. There's no place like home: terra firma. Amen.

    Fran, there's so much feeling and truth in this wee essay ... You've inspired me to write. Bless you; it's been a while.

    Too much World, as Rilke would say. Too much, too much, too much: the heartbreak of "first world" nations and peoples.

    This offering is so apropos, coming in Christmas' wake ...

    What a huge heart you are. xoxo

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  7. I am laughing.

    It was 1991. I had started being busy in medical political things...the resident physicians section of the AMA, the resident's forum of the College of American Pathologists, the Resident Physician section of the Missouri State Medical Association, and, of course, my residency.

    I was told, "If you want a career in academia, you need to be politically active too, it makes connections."

    I did my residency AND racked up double mileage points on TWA.

    It was 1995 and I was a junior faculty member at MU. I was told to keep being on the road at meetings, present papers, or else you'll never make Associate Professor. Oh yes, AND keep up with a full load of surgical pathology cases. AND cover the busiest clinical lab in the hospital. AND cover part time in hematology and read out bone marrows.

    I thought it was what I wanted.

    Then I bought 40 acres of timber in Adair County, MO, at a price that was a steal, for "deer hunting land."

    Then I started spending my weekends there more.

    Then, suddenly, I realized I didn't want any of that stuff. I wanted to go back home to NE Missouri and live a rich full life in the same place. In 2000, the chance came. I took it. Everyone said I was making a terrible mistake.

    I wasn't.

    And now I sit here, with more contentment than one person deserves, and I still realize there may still be a "next big thing" for me...and what little I know about it, well, it is still a little scary.

    But I'm listening, and sitting still.

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  8. Just lovely, Fran. Like another life :-)

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  9. Thank you all. I reread it now and cringe, but it came out of me this morning and here it shall stay.

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  10. Thanks for reminding us about what really matters. I never traveled much for business beyond the occasional trip to an IRI Behaviorscan market (and I know you must know which cities in the US those are!) but DH and I did do a lot of traveling for fun and went in pursuit of miles. And I still love to travel, but not the way we once did.

    I once took a flight from Hartford, CT to Providence, RI, in order to get the necessary two flight segments that would earn me a free flight to Hawaii! (Back in the 80s it wasn't just double and triple miles but also number of segments that they'd have specials for!)

    Now I find it much more satisfying to sit on the deck at the cabin looking at the pond and not going anywhere.

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  11. Interesting that reading it again made you cringe. It was a very honest and timely essay. A wonderful description of a missed life. They say one of the secrets of weight loss is to slow down and chew your food, to relish the bite that is in your mouth. Far too many of us are already glancing back at the plate to spoon up the next bite, not even truly enjoying what we are currently masticating. So glad you have learned to savor each little morsel one at a time. Peace.

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  12. Nothing to cringe about! Looking at what we "wasted"...well, it wasn't a waste if we learn from it, you know.

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  13. No cringing necessary, Fran :-)

    I'm here reading this essay again ... still pondering a piece in relation to it. Haven't yet seen the film, but it seems to have struck a MAJOR chord (not in tone but in volume!) with people ...

    I worked for nearly 20 years in the therapeutic/social work arena ... not as cutthroat as the corporate, but chaos-making in its own way ...

    Bless xoxox

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  14. Great post Fran. I did a very similar thing only I preferred driving to flying. It wasn't fear of flying, it was a control issue.

    All that changed when I started taking my daughter. She had a dim view of the OCD driving plan. Now when she's along there is no set mileage or no designated place to stop and we have to, absolutely have to, stop at two tourist traps and buy kitchy souvenirs. If only they were kitchy.

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  15. And now I have to come to you...foine, I'll drive down perhaps in February...

    miss you love you

    T

    P.S. Hi Lisa!

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  16. I just put up another post about it - clearly I am obsessed.

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  17. Very resonant Fran. I've been working on living my life, and have been spending less time online and more time with my kids, but I'm well versed in "the next thing" - it's a tantalizing narcotic. Excellent. Thanks!

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  18. I now must see this movie, Fran. Your post really rings for me.

    Also, Kirkepiscatoid, your comment is very resonant too. I have been wrestling with the ambition drug, vs real life. It's very hard to let go of that, and in letting go, not to internalize a certain sense of failure if I do not accomplish the "career expectations".

    I know that without my wife, I would be lost behind that soundproof glass that Fran mentions.

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  20. The comment thread on this post is really touching to me - thank you one and all.

    Wishes for true living in all of our own lives in 2010! Peace to all.

    IT - please let me know what you think of the film!!

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  21. Fran, I am just reading this today, and I feel blessed to have known you in both lives! Your essay calls me to reflect on the control I attempt to exert in my own life! Like today, school was canceled due to yet another snowstorm, and initially I felt "ungrounded" - what do I do today? Then I decided to read all the emails from you that I have been saving...for what? A snowy day! Love, DM

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