Transforming Airport Anger

The act of travelling can make us so quick to anger.  It’s as if flights (especially multiple trips in one week) can have the ability to ignite this fire in me.  I want to lash out with the built up frustration.  We all know what this is like: flight is delayed or cancelled, we scramble for finding another way out of the city.   Or perhaps our bag is overweight, and we have to maneuver shifting our entire luggage scheme within minutes.   Maybe we realize we have to pay for our luggage which we were not expecting, another added cost to an expensive trip.  Or imagine a fellow passenger wants to act snarky with us because they are in a bad mood, although we did nothing to them.  All of this has happened to me the past four days.

Negativity is contagious, and it’s easy to get sucked in.  Despite all the meditation, mindfulness, and reflection I do, the trigger is there for me to get angry.  My bandwidth is shorter with each flight I take.  Hopefully we have the insight in these furious moments to realize there is a choice in how to respond.  You don’t have to succumb to feeding and distributing the negativity.  At the moment we may not able to take solace in engaging in our preferable coping skills.  Our regular “go to” chill pills are not available: running, yoga, knitting, screaming, punching things, shopping, painting, or seeking comfort with our pets.  Even though these are not affordable to us at the time, we can look at what’s available right now to chill out.

It has been said before that all of our emotions are only energy.  We have a choice in how to distribute this energy.  Some may opt to deny it through suppression or repression, but that will only deepen it’s impact on us down the road.  We can take it out on others, but in the end it only hurts ourselves.  Buddha once said, “Anger is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die.”  Exerting our anger towards others always seems to have negative consequences.  Despite the fact we know this, many of us may choose to continue to act out.

For me today, I am early for my flight (which is just a connecting flight).  In addition to dealing with drama with my family I had been visiting for the weekend, I had minute instances this morning at the airport that infuriated me.  Initially I wanted to lash out on staff members, people who were just doing their job.  They didn’t deserve to be the recipient of my anger.

Although I am not a smoker, I yearned for a cigarette or a drink, anything to escape the fury I was feeling.  At the time, I had to put aside our anger and continue with the check in process, security, getting to our gate, etc.  I wanted to run from the emotions I was feeling, afraid that if I let them arise it would be detrimental to numerous individuals in my atmosphere.

Instead I knew there was another way out. I opted that this would be the day to use one of my remaining passes for the United Club to chill out at the lounge.  When I entered the lounge, I was disappointed.  I began automatically comparing the space to other previously well established lounges in London, Seattle, or even Newark.  There was such a minimal selection of food and drinks, and this further infuriated me to waste a day pass worth $50 here.

I notice the heat that built up internally and externally.  I was like a dragon who wanted to breathe out fire and destroy all those in my path.  But I began to let it go, I knew this was a time that I actually needed to simmer down.

I began to transform this internal anger through writing, having a relaxing drink, and zoning into how I could chill out.   This was my time to practice the principles that I preach.  If we notice where we feel these emotions in our body, we realize they pass. Can we be a witness to these emotions without getting enmeshed with them?  I have so many expectations for myself to be better than this, to never get angry and always be full of equanimity.   But this is not reality, I must remind myself that I am a human being just like everyone else.  Emotions such as anger and frustration are normal, welcome them in with observation, and see how they can be transformed.

So much in our lives it out of our control, but we can control how we respond.  We can control if we let these emotions take over the rest of our day, in interactions with others.  I was grateful that I came early enough for my flight, that I had time to de-escalate before I boarded.

I recently listened to the On Being Podcast that featured an interview with poet Naomi Shihab Nye.  She discussed this concept in Japan called Yutori, which is described as this sense of spaciousness.  When I heard it, I realized it sounded like mindfulness, an example given would arriving early for an appointment to allow enough time to look around. Other definitions were given which included the following quote “After you read a poem, just knowing you can hold it — you can be in that space of the poem, and it can hold you in its space, and you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently.”

To counteract these moments of frustration when I travel, perhaps I need to perpetually welcome and prepare for this spaciousness to be available.  I can allow myself to arrive to the moment, notice what’s around, and release anything I don’t need for this next trip.  I need more space to welcome all that is unknown or unexpected in.

So I opt to write my first Haiku…

Volcano erupts

Pele’s fury does ignite

Lava opts for sea

Realistically, I may never be able to be anger free.  This is a normal emotion, but I can choose another way to discard it. There is a way out.  Notice anger, allow it to arise, and know that it can be transformed.  Don’t blame yourself for being human.  Choose to live differently.  Create a new habit.  We are not the culmination of our habits and emotions, there’s always potential to shift and change.  This is where freedom lies.

As I continued on my journey of the day, I tried to notice moments of kindness again.  I began offering these positive quotes to others that served me.  As I sat on another flight, I witnessed a woman not having space for her backpack under her seat as she was in an exit row.  The woman next to me, offered the space below her feet.  As they began a conversation, this woman began to discuss how she attended each one of her daughter’s college basketball games.  Her daughter lived in Maryland, she lived in Ohio.  The stranger whose bag was under my neighbor’s chair said, “not only are you my guardian angel, you are your daughter’s.  The woman responded with, “my daughter is my guardian angel.”   I wouldn’t have witnessed this if I didn’t allow my anger to subside, and allow myself to witness moments of kindness offered in my atmosphere.  We always have an option of what we seek to look for in the world.

“We sow the seed of intention in every moment of ill will: the intention to befriend and begin to see that our capacity to radically change our mind of the moment through metta is to change the shape of the world of the moment.”-Christina Feldman

Happy travels! Note as you fly, apps that are available to make mindfulness accessible . I was happy to see this in my airline magazine .

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