The Life-Altering Power of Changing Your Mind

On Friday, Dara and I flew up to Seattle to visit my mom for Mother’s Day. The whole flight was a huge comedy of errors and a GREAT opportunity for both of us to practice the life-altering power of changing your mind.

This was a hard trip for me to plan, since it’s just three months after we lost Grandmother and the first time we were leaving Macy and Biscuit Reynolds after our last pet sitters left them alone after an emergency. Even the thought of booking our flights was hard for me, so Dara sweetly took over logistics. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get us seats together for our flight.

There was once a time I believed I did not look good in red so I never wore it. What a great thing I changed my mind about! Photo by Dara.

Since we each had a window and an aisle, Dara figured we would easily convince the person in the middle switching for Dara’s aisle seat. However, when we arrived at my row the woman declined as she was traveling with her son. Dara and I said our goodbyes and proceeded to have individual opportunities to adjust our thinking on our flight.

Flying while fat is rough and one of the best benefits of being in a mixed-size relationship is being able to sit next to each other with an arm rest up. The first thing that woman did was make sure her arm rest went down–I can always tell when someone is trying to mark their territory on a plane.

This was my first opportunity to change my mind. I didn’t dwell on it, I just let that armrest go down and moved on to my next thought. Earlier in my life, I would have spent the whole flight stressed about squishing as far away as I could from that woman and assuming I was constantly in her way. My ability to obsess about other people’s perceptions of myself and my size was unparalleled and it made me miserable. Now I shift my focus to my own life, my art, my work in the world and focusing on my own comfort during a flight.

Next up was the wailing baby. It was clearly several rows behind me but its discomfort was loud. I put in headphones and turned up 9 to 5 so I could continue conceiving of aerobics choreography. I almost always stop myself from feeling annoyed at kid noises to change my thought pattern to compassion. As uncomfortable as it is to be a passenger on a flight with a wailing baby, it’s way more uncomfortable to be a parent dealing with a wailing baby. I prayed for the baby that it would find comfort and moved my thoughts away from it.

Our flight was delayed by a half hour, which gave me a head start on free movie watching. I absolutely love when flights have on demand movies available, I consider it a $5.99 bonus. I started that Will Smith movie about grief, “Collateral Beauty,” from a totally analytical place. I’m cooking up a grief book idea to help me through my grief about Grandmother and I want to consume as much as I can about grief theories. I did not think about the trigger truck that I was inviting into Row 21 of this Delta flight. The beverage service didn’t happen until I was at the emotional climax of the movie.

Suddenly, the woman next to me knocked over her fresh hot cup of tea and it landed all down my thigh, my leg and in my boot. It scalded at first and I blurted, “Ow, ow, ow!” The woman was very sorry and apologized a bunch of times. I was gracious, telling her it was okay, but still needed to advocate for my needs with the flight attendant. It’s hard to ride that line of being generous in spirit but also making sure that your needs get met, I certainly wasn’t going to sit there with a sopping wet leg and no napkins to soak it up, but punnishing her in any way for something that was a mistake isn’t appropriate. Punnishing people for mistakes creates a psychologically unsafe environment and I believe really strongly in creating a life/workplace/home environment where mistakes and accidents are just part of getting to a good experience/output/joy. Dara’s consulting business focuses on this a lot.

I did what I could but that scalding hot water turned cold really quickly. I could have sat in misery but I just kept turning my attention back to the movie and trying so hard not to ugly cry. I didn’t want that woman to think her spill was making me cry but the jarring hot water when I was being really touched by grief was difficult. I was so thankful that the flight attendant checked on me again and I asked for a blanket–it really saved the rest of the flight for me.

I had to do a lot of changing my mind in order to be ready for this wonderful relationship with Dara. I had to humble myself that I didn’t know everything and learn how to do relationships, dating and communication differently. Totally worth it in every way. Photo by Rick Sorkin.

During all of this was epic turbulence. At least twice the plane dipped very quickly. Both times my first thought was, “Well, I guess this is it.” I don’t really have a fear of dying, I think when you’re destined to go that’s your moment. But I shifted my thoughts to visualizing our smooth landing in Seattle so that I wasn’t sitting there in fear of my impending death.

Dara’s experience of the flight was similarly bumpy. She was one row in front of the crying baby and even worse was the father, caring for the child alone, was *yelling* at it. She was having total empath feels for this poor baby who wasn’t even being soothed. The first sudden drop on the flight happened when she was in the bathroom alone! She thought the plane was going down, too, and considered running down the aisle to me so that we wouldn’t die separately.

The person across from the aisle from her started barfing, the sounds and smell were awful for her (chemo was really, really hard for Dara). When the second intense plane drop happened the woman next to Dara started crying and freaking out, which didn’t help Dara.

I asked Dara how she dealt with all of it and she said she would take a deep breath (nose closed during the barfing) and put her focus back on her work. Taking her focus away from the things disturbing her/grossing her out/freaking her out helped to take the power away from those external influences.

When we got off the flight we arrived at the shuttle bus terminal to go to the deep woods where my mom lives on the Olympic Peninsula only to find out that it was sold out. By then I was hangry and overwhelmed and had to carry all our luggage because Dara’s still in post hysterectomy no carrying more than 5 pounds mode.

My problem solving skills were weakening, but after fifteen minutes of trying I figured out how to take a Lyft not at surge pricing to the Seattle Ferry Terminal. They Lyft ride plus the ferry was a little bit cheaper than the shuttle for both of us and it was a negligible difference in how far mom had to drive to pick us up. However, we arrived at the Ferry ticket booth thirty seconds after they announced that they had final boarding on the ferry we were trying to make and had to wait another hour.

When I first heard about EVERYBODY, the body positive gender affirming gym opening in LA, I didn’t know how I was going to participate. By changing my mind about my capacities, I realized I could take all the work I had been doing as a body positive warrior for self love all these years and channel them into dance aerobics. If Richard Simmons could do it, I could to! I’m building up my following and would love to have you join me on Thursday nights!

As luck would have it, the waiting area has a gorgeous view of the Seattle waterfront, the Commuter Cafe at the Ferry terminal had these incredible salads that are hella cheap (take that, $15 tasteless LAX breakfast burrito!) and we were able to just sit and enjoy ourselves and finally debrief our wild flight.

One of the skills I’m most grateful for every day is the ability to interrupt my thought patterns. I can sit pretty steadily in a hell of my own creation if I don’t do this because once I go down that spiral it picks up steam.

I was really taken by how both Dara and I survived what could have been a completely miserable experience by choosing to change the directions of our thoughts and focus on something else. I find gratitude lists are a helpful way to change thought direction, I use the Serenity Prayer sometimes, I take a macro look at the situation from lens of an outside perspective. I use the six month rule–will this matter in six months?

Mom got stuck behind a draw bridge on the way to pick us up (things are slow out on the Olympic Penninsula) and she arrived five minutes before we did on Bainbridge Island to pick us up. The timing worked out perfectly, even if not as planned.

I was always a cat person and it took changing my mind about dogs in order to be open to Macy in my life!! She’s changed everything for the better!

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