Bad things happen all the time. People get sick, celebrities are paid too much attention, the founder of WikiLeaks gets arrested, miners get stuck underground and oil spills into the sea. Why is it then, that we are always shocked, dismayed and in despair when things such as these come about? Once again, it is the idea that things should go as planned, that life made a promise to us that it would stop with the shenanigans and deliver on the goods.
As it turns out, life made no such promise. Like it or not, we have no more control over life than we do over the next reality TV show, what will come out of Sarah Palin's mouth next or what city FIFA will pick for the 2026 World Cup (Fiji, maybe?). Life is a hard-headed, stubborn and unpredictable woman with whom the lucky dip, the spinning wheel is a gamble. More often than not, you may come up with the short end of the deal. Inevitably, bad things happen.
So how do we deal? With all these terrible, nasty, horrible things happening surely somebody should sort life out. Set her straight and let her know that we will just NOT stand for this! We've had enough. Shotgun not telling her. The secret, which isn't really a secret as all good secrets are, is accepting that things will go wrong. Murphy's law. What can go wrong, will. The upside is that it doesn't end there.
What can go wrong, will and in the mean time what you can do to prepare, to accept it and get over it you should. Knowing ahead of time automatically takes a bit of the sting out.
On Saturday I was scheduled to leave Sydney for Darwin to undertake almost a month of volunteer work. I was preoccupied with saying goodbye, with being almost done with the application of my student visa to go to Spain and with making sure I had everything packed that once again, filo time crept on in. My flight was scheduled to fly at 9:50am, long story short - I missed the check in and my flight was rebooked for that same night at 7:50pm. That meant I had 10 hours to kill at the airport, 4 of them outside the actual terminal because I wasn't allowed to check in until 6 hours before my flight.
After the initial shock and the self-deprecation at missing my own flight wore off, I begun to think about what I was to do at the airport for 10 hours. Waiting at airports is nothing new and I don't flatter myself to think I'm the first person to be in this predicament. I had a lot of time to go over the reality that I was leaving, that I was coming back and that I was leaving again. I had plenty of time and plenty to think about.
I've written before about having to let go of the idea that everything should go as planned. As with most things you can name and talk about, it's easier said than done and remains a work in progress. While I can say that I've improved, I don't break down (as easily or as often) as I used to, I still have the occasional Mariah Carey melt-down moments. Over and over I've had to get over the idea that life is neat, organised and will go to plan. I've had to get cosy with the reality that plans fall through, flights are missed, relationships get messy and the future can grow increasingly foggy.
In a way missing my plane taught me that everything IS ok. The worst that can happen is only the worst that can happen and at the end of the day as long as I'm still here, living, I've still got so much to be thankful for. There have been a lot of events the last couple of months that have been lessons in thanks, humility and grace for me. Too many people I know have passed away. I've learned to appreciate my own health when the health of those around me has been threatened by illness. I've realised the true privilege of being free to enjoy all the joys and qualms of youth, idealism and future-plans in comparison to many I have met who don't enjoy such opportunities, and many more I may never meet. Situations are what they are, they only grow to epic proportions when they climb into my head, distorted by my own emotion and need to dramatise everything.
Waiting at the airport I watched people stroll in and out with their luggage, planes speed down the run way and take off, somehow like magic and see the weary, eager and jaded faces of travelers in transit. People leaving and people coming back. Arrivals and Departures. People saying goodbye and those saying welcome home. I realised how I shouldn't fight off these situations, where things go wrong. Expecting them and being prepared is a better course of action than denial. It's always the stories of missed flights, thunderstorms striking, fuel running out and the still-can't-believe-it-happened stories that are shared eagerly years after. They give us a chance to veer off the known path and give thanks for the spontaneity and unpredictability of life. Being able to give thanks in situations that you may initially despair at or angst against is a true test.