Until you’ve experienced it, you can’t fathom how much patience is required for traveling—like, a lot of traveling. For example, when you’ve been traveling for 14 days, halfway around the world and back. (Big, deep intake of breath, eyes closed, slowly release breath…ahhhh…that’s my yoga stuff right there.).

At this point, I’ve been gone for 14 days. I’m on a flight back from San Jose, California. I’m in line for the revolting airplane restroom, and, no I’m not in first class—I’m in coach! We’re about an hour-and-a-half into the flight, the flight attendants had already dashed though twice, so by now I’ve read a few chapters in my latest leadership book and decide to take a nap. I’m zonked out; until my sweet daughter Jaylee wakes me up with her soft tap, tap with her little girl finger on my arm. I stretched a big stretch, then, of course, I realize I need to use the restroom. Of course, the line is five people deep and taking forever! I mean, really, we’re on a plane here people, what are you doing in there? (That was a rhetorical question because I really didn’t, don’t and would never really want to know the answer to that question.)

I start to look around and notice all the trash on the floor and how messy people are being, and how they’re just, you know, doing a lot of not caring. Then I notice the combined stench of too many people crammed into a confined space and a tiny airplane bathroom with too many people using it (I hope nobody is eating right now, I’m truly sorry if you are.). I feel my temperament begin to dive into the red zone, then a man tries to cut in front of me and I say, “Hey, I am in line!” I did this with my sharp, sassy voice, y’all, because, what the…?

Finally, two people come out and four more people get in line behind “the cutter.” Oh, how I’m missing being in first class at this point! My attitude is purely negative now, like a physical thing, I can feel it all over me! Then, I feel a small tap, tap and turn around, and the man who was trying to take cuts, “the cutter,” asks me if I’d like a piece of gum out of his brand new pack. I said, “No thank you, but thank you for thinking to offer me one!”

As I faced back toward the bathroom and away from the man, I had to giggle at myself—I actually had a huge smile after that. Come on, Lo! Really? Let’s get mad over the line for the bathroom—really, what else do you have to do for the next three hours on this plane? I really told myself get a life!

It’s so easy to let our emotions get the best of us. In those emotional moments, it’s so important to ask, “Really, do I have it that bad?” I just spent 10 days in a country where some people don’t even have a bathroom with running water, or one that even works as well as a repulsive airplane bathroom. At the end of the day, we all need to offer more grace and try for more patience. Find the smile and the kindness in our hearts for others, especially on a plane (or a bus or a subway, you know, any closed-in space where you might want to just snap!).

There will come a time that those little tap, taps that were waking me from my amazing nap will no longer happen, because my sweet baby girls will be all grown up and gone. There will come a time in my life when I won’t be able to travel, I’ll be too old and feeble. All of these things, they’re transient—they’re here, then they’re gone—whether good or bad, nothing lasts forever. Really think about that: nothing lasts forever.

So, embrace life to the fullest, even if it’s messy, chaotic, grubby, not pretty—there will be always someone there to offer you a fresh piece of gum, from a brand new pack.

–Lorinda Van Newkirk

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