As the year ends, and we look back at the joys, achievements and disappointments of the past twelve months, it’s worth taking some time to recognise what our efforts have demanded of us and where our resources have been depleted. Whether you have spent 2015 bringing some long-cherished project to fruition or simply trying to keep your head above water, it’s likely that this has come at some cost to you. How can you replenish your (physical, mental, spiritual and/or emotional) resources? What do you need most of all at this moment?
I have written before about how intense the last few years have been, and how I love the bit in the Sermon on the Mount about how one should understand the importance of taking the plank out of one’s own eye before trying to get the speck of sawdust out of one’s brother’s. How, if we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot survive this crazy life. I love that bit so much that, even as a seasoned traveller, I still listen when they tell you on the plane that you should put your oxygen mask on first because obviously, it’s the Word of Our Lord.
It was not until about mid-November that the plank-sawdust-oxygen mask thing really became a non-anecdotal, real-life thing for me, though. You see, I can summarise my life into neat little Life Lessons on the Internet. But I am not as good at understanding those lessons when I am actually hitting a wall and need to replenish my energy in Real Life.
The best analogy/simile I have for this is that of my 1999 Honda Civic. (Yes, I am going to frontload all of my literary devices, why do you ask?) I used to drive a Honda with a floating fuel gauge that would tell me I had a third or a fourth of a tank of gas left when I really had only fumes. So I would believe I had ample time to find a service station, and instead, my car would sputter to a halt on an interstate exit ramp. So while in my head, I am a state-of-the-art jetliner with sophisticated gauges and sensors and I carry enough fuel to circumnavigate the globe and beyond; in reality, I am much more like a 1999 Honda Civic with absolutely no clue when I am about to run out of gas.
With all of this in mind, in mid-November, I found myself on one of those exhausting multi-city business trips. By the time I finally arrived in Dublin at the end of it, I was completely, utterly worn out. Worse, I was so knackered, I had no clue how dangerously wrecked I really was.
I spent an ordinary-but-exhausting weekend in Ireland, and headed back to NY (via London) that Sunday. In Dublin Airport, however, things got weird. An airline employee mistook me for another passenger and grabbed my bag out of my hand, ripping it completely open. My stuff went everywhere. I stood for a moment – frozen – and then began to yell at her; she began to yell back. In the midst of this, my flight began to board.
So I scooped up my stuff, and moved with the throbbing masses towards the boarding zone with a large Eastern European woman trailing me, screaming. When I arrived at the gate and proffered my passport and boarding card, the woman’s colleague informed me that I would have to check my bag – not because her colleague had ripped it open – but because the bag was “too big.”
It was at that point that I lost my mind.
Have you ever lost your mind in public? I don’t recommend doing it in an airport, especially since, after a few minutes of back-and-forth, the gate agent appeared to radio for the police.
Ultimately, I gave up and got on the plane. I looked forlornly up at my bag on the platform as I trudged down the the jetway, hissing to myself about the injustice of it all as the gardai arrived to speak with the gate agent. As I sank into my airline seat I knew two things for certain: 1) I was very, very lucky that my tantrum hadn’t gotten me arrested, and 2) there was absolutely no way in hell my bag was going to arrive in New York that night.
Predictably, I arrived at JFK without bags. The next morning, no bag came to my house, either. I finally had to call someone at the airline’s customer service hotline, at which point, I lost my jetlagged mind again, and threatened to go to some guy’s house if he didn’t give me the number to reach a live person at the baggage counter at JFK.
Madam, you cannot talk to me that way. Madam, I am in India you cannot come to my house.
When I finally reached a live person at JFK, I rushed out an apology as I explained the circumstances (leaving out the part where I had threatened to go to Bangalore to beat up a guy) and begged for my luggage. Don’t worry, the woman said, It sounds like you’ve been through a lot. I have your bag in hand and I will send it out tonight.
Within an hour of that call, my bag had arrived.
The point is: Admitting to yourself that you are more like a 1999 Honda Civic and not Boeing 787 Dreamliner in terms of your energy resources and long-range capacity is only the first step in learning to care for yourself. The second step is taking the plank out of your own eye; putting your oxygen mask on first; not letting yourself become so depleted in the first place…lest you become a raving lunatic nearly taken into police custody in the middle of Dublin Airport.