It began with an invitation from our son and ended up being a truly valuable life lesson.
As a history professor in Nashville, he needed to do 10 days of research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. And as the primary caretaker of his 3-year-old daughter Ava – his wife is an emergency room doctor and has an unpredictable schedule – he asked if we might accompany him on the trip. In addition to helping him care for Ava, it would be an opportunity for us to visit lifelong friends and family in the town where we were born and lived for most of our lives before moving to Florida.
We jumped at the chance. Since Ava lives in Nashville, visits with her family are special opportunities to get to know her better. Our son arranged for transportation, and since we all planned to stop in Asheville, N.C., on the way home to meet our daughter-in-law and visit a town festival together, our flight plans proved to be a little complicated. Arrivals and shuttle vans were scheduled at multiple airports, and we began the journey with confidence.
The 10 days of taking care of Ava and introducing her to family and friends were wonderful fun. But the fun ended when we began our trip from Maryland to Asheville. We set out at 6 a.m. to travel from Baltimore Washington International Airport, undaunted.
Arriving there almost two hours before flight time on a Sunday, we were amazed at the dense crowd of people and long, long lines to check in and pass through security. The airport was jammed with thousands of people tightly packed in lines that were everywhere and filled the entire terminal. It took an hour just to check in, and then more than another hour in line for the security check. Needless to say, we missed our flight and had to get in line once again to book another. After another hour in line we were booked, but the second flight took off while we were still in the security check line.
As the travel coordinator, our son scheduled a third series of flights and shuttle vans to enable us to get from Maryland to Greenville, N.C., and then to Asheville. And that’s where my predisposition to worry raised its ugly head. We had to wait more than 10 hours for the two separate flights and shuttle vans that could get us where we needed to be.
As the hours passed, I could feel my stomach tighten. My mind was focused on all of the possible “what if’s.” Based upon our earlier experiences of the day, I worried the two planes and two shuttles vans we needed to use would not coordinate. My head ached and my heart raced as we dragged our luggage to the different terminals. Would the planes and vans arrive and depart on time?
They did. We got to Asheville, and that’s when the lesson of wasted worry came to light. Finally when we set foot once again in Florida and were driving home, I thought of all the hours I had spent concerned about our travel plans and I realized that once events are scheduled, one has to be able to let go of the anxiety and go with the flow. That kind of worry is not healthy or productive. It’s totally wasted.
And so my challenge remains to recognize that when things are out of my control it’s time perhaps to accept uncertainty with a degree of composure and equanimity that has heretofore escaped me. At my age, time is my most precious possession. I have cheaper things to waste. If I had to wait, I should have read a book.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at JudyandOz@tampaabay.rr.com. She is author of the book “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”