Saturday, June 30, 2012

meeting Joe

On the flight from Chicago to Tucson I met Joe – a forester of 38 years whose tag-line on his current business card reads “working at retirement”.  Joe comes from a place called Traverse City, Michigan, which he spent the good part of an hour describing to me.  Everything from the house and car that Bruce Willis used to rent when he and Demi would bring the kids there…to the cherry picking festival that takes place each year where you can literally pick pounds and pounds of huge cherries for virtually nothing.  Even just thinking about that now makes my mouth water. 

Joe taught me all about the wild fires taking place in the West these days.  He explained about the laws to protect trees and the ways to prevent fires from spreading.  He told me about the most beautiful places in all of America that he had seen when having to travel for forestry. 

Then I asked about his family.  And he got quiet.  “Did your kids grow up in Traverse City too?”

“Yes, yes my son did.”

“Oh, nice!  Where is he now?”


His eyes began to swell with tears.  “He was living in LA.  My son died two years ago.”

There was a pang in my heart.  I was lifted thousands and thousands of miles above the ground, and I was connecting with this other human being who I didn’t even know existed 2 hours prior.  Crazy world.

He continued.

“I’d say LA did it to him…”

“What do you mean? Was he in an accident?”

“He was a very successful engineer.  He owned his own company and had many employees and many assets.  Then the economy tanked.  And it was too much.  He couldn’t stand letting that many people down.  Failing.  He took his own life.”  His eyes met mine when he said those final words. 

“I’m so sorry…”
I bet Joe didn’t know he’d be sharing that story with a stranger on a plane.  I bet neither of us realized when we positioned ourselves in row 16 that this would be our conversation today.  But that’s the thing about opening up.  You learn things and hear things and see things that you otherwise would not have.  I’m grateful to Joe for feeling vulnerable enough to tell me his story.  I’m grateful to myself for putting down my book and getting to know the person sitting next to me.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012


And for those of you who think I’m crazy – and there may be many of you who may think so – this validates it.  Straight from Life & Style magazine, my horoscope for this week. 
Yes, I just quoted Life and Style as a way to validate myself to my “more logical” friends.  If that isn’t ironic, I don’t know what is.

The “summer of one-way tickets” begins…

I thought my idea was a novel one.  Buy a ticket and see where it leads you.  Buy the next one as you go – and just let yourself live in the moment. 

The day before my journey began I sat in the park with my friend.  “Advice?” she said, “Look up.  Don’t always be on your phone.  Make eye contact and smile.  It’s good for you and it makes you more open.”

I settled into my teeny tiny seat on the teeny tiny airplane on the first leg of my flight to Tucson.  That is my first destination on this journey because I have a desperate need to see my family and to squish my niece with love.  I figure it’ll offer some stability before I head off into more unknown terrain.  I have a 2 hour gap in Chicago on my way home.  I was talking on the phone when I boarded and then quickly put my things away to settle in for a nap. 

“You live in Chicago?” I looked over to make sure she was really talking to me.  I had been so consumed in my own thoughts I hadn’t even noticed the 60 something woman sitting next to me.   Her eyes were wide behind her thick oval glasses and she clutched a book in her hands.

“Nope, in New York, but headed to Arizona.”  Remember to smile, and look up – my friends words resonated.

“What part?  What part of Arizona?” I fought the thoughts creeping up that said – if you continue to talk you’ll be stuck in conversation for the next hour and 45 minutes to O’Hare. 

“Tucson.”  I smiled, turned away.  

“What?  I live there!” Her crooked smile created wrinkles all around her eyes.  I gave in.

“Really?  What part?  And…do you live in New York?”

She gave me her cross-streets – right near the hospital we stayed at the day after my niece was born and sent back for jaundice.  “…But I haven’t been there for a month.  I have been in Virginia, and North Carolina, then Massachusetts and upstate New York…it’s been wonderful!”

“Really?  That sounds great!”

“Yes, it’s been just a month of one-way tickets, I guess you’d say.”  I guess you would.  Here I was, sitting right next to this woman who was ending a journey I was about to begin.  I stared at her for a moment and the genuine peace she exuded became more clear.

“Wow, that’s what I’m about to do…” 

And I decided right then and there that these small moments only come to me when I’m open to them coming.  That the universe puts in front of me what I tell it I want.  That if I stopped looking at my phone every minute, checking updates on Instagram, looking at emails, taking pictures, and talking on the phone – I’d bump into, meet, and encounter just exactly what I need to. 

So here we go – the summer of one-way tickets – dedicated to being open to all and everything the universe brings my way. 

I’m back…from the whirlwind that was my life…

To say that the month straddling the end of May and the beginning of June was intense, would be a total and complete understatement.  It was jam-packed with travel, apartment searching, apartment finding, packing boxes, anxiety over living alone, excitement about total independence, weddings, presenting on a panel, moving, relying on friends, trusting other people, being relied on, graduation of my first group of Kindergartners, dinners and parties and out-of-town guests…the list goes on and on and on…I stop here mainly not to bore you and mostly not to talk myself into a flurry of anxious feelings.

I sat in an interview for a middle school science candidate.  I tuned in and out of her answers while to-do lists danced around in my head.  I just want to go home, I thought.  I just need to get out of here, if even just for a little bit.  That was May 29.  It was sandwiched between a flight back from San Francisco the day before and a 6am train to DC the day after.  My eyes were blurry and I barely knew what I was wearing that day.  The interviewee continued talking about ecology and classroom management and right there, in the midst of her trying to convince us that 3 months of student teaching has qualified her as the perfect candidate for our school, I made a big decision:  I was getting out of here on a one-way ticket.  I knew that if I booked a ticket out of NYC very soon after school let out, it would force me to finish everything in high intensity while at the same time allowing me to re-claim a well-deserved summer. 

And so I did. 

Today is June 27th, 5 days after school was let out for the summer of 2012, and I have left on my journey…my “summer of one-way tickets”.  It’s a journey whose details are vague and limitedly sketched.  But one that already has inspired hope in my gut and spreads a smile across my face.