A Life Lesson During a Long Flight Home
The Long Flight Home
The wind-down from all the excitement had now begun. While to many observers, this trip was just another vacation. To us, it was the trip of a lifetime. My first time in Europe and a dream come true. But more than that, it was my 50th birthday gift from my husband, with nearly 9 months of intense planning and execution to pull it all off.
In my past marriage, I had done all the travel planning, the worrying, the reading, the researching, the budgeting, the cleaning, prepping, arranging house care; all of it. This was the first time I didn't have to worry, plan, or look for the best options. All I had to do was enjoy the journey. I didn’t even have to do any of the driving through in and around eight different countries; not a single mile!
This journey took us on (2) 8-hour flights round-trip and 1600 miles of driving for over two weeks. It was nothing short of amazing. The best part is where we went. My husband didn’t just pick some pre-planned itinerary on the internet or off of some travel site. He invested hours of planning and researching to give me (us) the ultimate European experience. He knows what I like and what I don’t like, what I expect, and what I look forward to. We had only been together a little over 3 years at this time, but he knows me better than anyone ever has. I watched him sleeping so peacefully in the seat next to me and knew how exhausted he was from driving and navigating us through eight countries; and yet how satisfied he had to be knowing he pulled this off without a hitch. It was utterly perfect in every single way.
I stayed awake the entire flight. I planned to watch the in-flight movie and then take a nap, but I ended up writing this story instead, because something happened after the movie that made this flight an unforgettable one.
I scrolled through the movie options, and while I usually opt for a mindless comedy or a sappy romance, the Disney cartoon/movie “Finding Dory” stood out at me. The inner child and now empty-nester said “why not? I haven’t watched a Disney cartoon since my kids were young". Little did I know I’d find myself bawling my eyes out and trying to hide my emotions from my neighbors!
Finding Dory trailer
Inflight Movie: Finding Dory
If you've never watched this movie, Dory, the blue and yellow toddler fish, becomes lost from her parents. She suffers from short-term memory loss and her parents are super-protective, yet understanding of her forgetfulness. She is also carefree and innocent, which ultimately leads her to getting caught in an undertow and lost from her parents for several years. She grows up all alone, until one day she meets a father looking for his lost son, Nemo. (The first movie in this series). They became friends and eventually venture off together in search of Dory’s lost family. They end up on a wild goose chase of chaos, danger and dead-ends. The moral of the story, at least for me, is that the bond between parents and children is [should be] unbreakable and everlasting.
That’s where I got emotional and my own dysfunctional relationship with my mother came into the equation...it always does, in some form or another. Dory didn’t mean to lose her parents. She didn’t run away or become suddenly rebellious, and they didn’t abandon. She got lost though natural causes and neither gave up hope of one day being reunited.
Despite Dory's deficits and the barriers that kept them apart, she eventually found her parents again. She fought like hell to make it happen and she took risks. I always say "the best things in life happen by chance and there’s always a way". Dory says “you just have to swim faster”. The storyline also suggests you have to try harder, think positive, and take chances. I think this is why I got so emotional. This is how I live my life...and I miss my own mother, who abandoned me during my divorce and my father's death, due to anger, grief, and nonacceptance of my choices. It seems everything is a trigger of that pain, and this movie was no exception.
An Unexpected Ending
As the movie came to a close and I’m discreetly trying to wipe away my steady steam of tears with my dinner napkin and complimentary blanket, an older gentleman behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I feel bad that you’re feeling emotional and I just want to come up there and comfort you”. I didn’t watch that movie, but I can see what an effect it’s having on you”. I was embarrassed, but comforted at the same time. The woman beside me chimed in and said “don’t feel bad, I cried too when I watched it”. The older gentleman said “I just went on vacation for two weeks and learned that my best friend passed away while I’ve been gone, so I’m feeling emotional too”.
So here I sit and two total strangers with woes of their own, felt empathy for me and expressed it, without hesitation. I experienced the compassion of total strangers and at the same time, realized there are so many battles we are all fighting within ourselves, that we often feel we must be the only one whose emotions can be triggered by something as innocent as a children's movie!
I am trying to have a different outlook on life and see the best in everyone I meet. We all have a story, we all have hidden pain. I want to have more patience, more understanding, and more empathy. I don’t want to judge, criticize, or critique others. Instead of feeling frustrated with the endless screams from the child in front of us the entire flight, I should have sympathy for the parents and what they were going through to keep her quiet and occupied. They are trying their best, like we all are; like Dory did.
Life is about enjoying and living in the moment and doing it with compassion and patience. We all endure issues that are out of our control. We make choices, take chances, and run away from things we shouldn’t. We feel sorry for ourselves, blame others, hold grudges, and think the world is against us. We know people we wish would think and behave differently, but we can only control what we think and do ourselves. Because of this, I choose to live like Dory…to not give up and to just keep swimming!
What Lesson Did You Learn From a Total Stranger?
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© 2018 Debra Roberts