Ask the question that will help you breathe grace

I was weary to the point of giddy when I passed the sign in airport security in Toronto. The week had been intense; three workshops, four plane rides, 7002 kilometres, three time zones, three cities, and my first Uber ride.  The sign read, "Available by request, full body pat down...."  It made it sound really special - available by request.  Imagine that.  A whole new perspective on your opportunities within the security line at the airport.  As I pass the sign, I laugh.  The absurdity of the message hits my funny bone.  My colleague turns to me with a look of concern.  Did Joy make it all the way to Friday only to lose it on the home stretch in security?

The security line is one part of air travel that tries my patience and tolerance.  When I travel, I psyche myself up for the undressing and re-dressing one needs to do to get through security.   Off comes the coat.  Shoes drop into the bin and you realize you are barefoot on a filthy floor.  Ick, poor planning on my part.  Necklaces and belts are removed.  Sometimes I have to remove my sweater too. By the time I am ready to walk through the metal detector I am almost down to my underwear.

Standing there waiting for my turn, I wonder if today will be my lucky day.  Remember it's all in your perspective.  I walk through the metal detector, it beeps, and security announces, "You've been randomly selected..."  They say it as if I have won something.  There should be a drum roll so I feel good about being selected.  Alas there is no drum roll and I am randomly selected yet again.  I am selected more than half the time I fly.  My Six Sigma training, and my frequency of selection make me question how random it is.
BC 2017

To distract myself from my frustration at the ridiculousness of it all, I envision a day when we all fly naked.  It amuses me for a moment and makes me see the rest of the milling throng differently.  As I look around, my amusement is replaced by horror and I have to try a different diversion technique.  Maybe one day we will have to remove all our clothes and wear security gowns, kind of like the dreaded hospital gown.  Can you imagine that?  It would be the great equalizer.  No matter your status, income, or power you'd have to wear the gown to get on the plane.  Not only would you have to wear it on the plane but you'd have to wear it in the airport as you run from one gate to the next to catch your connection.  The image of things flapping in the breeze as travellers run past makes me smile.

Smiling helps me to ignore the truth of air travel and security, at least momentarily.  The truth of air travel is I put up with it in order to get somewhere else quickly, and security is one of the hoops I have to go through in order to get on the plane.  Air travel is getting more and more uncomfortable as the seats get smaller and the leg room shrinks.  We pack ourselves into a large metal container with less than ideal conditions for our circulation, digestion, and breathing.  We have people in our personal space for hours at a time doing things that are trying.

There is the fellow who picks at his skin so hard he shakes the row of seats.  On the return trip, there is the man who is fully awake but sounds like he is snoring. He is easier to take than the man who picks at himself.  Fortunately, I am reading Humble Inquiry for the stretch of the trip that is most challenging.  I need the insights from the book to get through that leg of the trip.  Just as I feel my last bit of patience ebbing, I am reminded to ask myself the question, "What else is going on here?"

As I think about that question, I turn to look out the window and am reminded of the importance of perspective.  Things are not always as they seem, neither are they what I first understand.  Sometimes the truth is hidden and I am guilty of assigning meaning to things without asking the question, "What else is going on here?"

The signs and words in security made me smile because of the irony.  At first glance and without knowledge or context one might assume they mean something different.  If you parse the messages and concentrate on only a portion, you are led to an inaccurate conclusion.  The words didn't accurately reflect the truth of the situation in my opinion.  My perspective was different.  There is nothing like an airport experience or a view from a plane to give you a different perspective.

There 30,000 feet beneath me are rows of windmills decorating the Ontario landscape.  If I were on the ground, up close to the windmills they would seem enormous.  From up here they look smaller than matchsticks.  I maybe be weary and irritated by the gentleman's habit but maybe he is anxious or frightened.  My perspective shifts.  The irritation shrinks away like the windmills below as I wonder what it would be like to be anxious or afraid on an airplane.  Maybe he isn't anxious or afraid, but just considering his behaviour from a different perspective eases my frustration and opens my mind to other ways of perceiving him.  Is there a spot in your life where you can breathe grace by asking, "What else is going on here?"