I recently found myself on an airplane for the first time in many years. I was sunk way down in my seat with headphones on so no one would try to make idle chatter with me. It was the beginning of my trip and I was already grumpy, the flight delayed hours, my phone and my mood both already perilously close to dead.
"This is why I don't do this," I thought to myself as the plane started to taxi towards the runway. We built up speed and then it happened: that moment when the plane leaves the runway and lifts into the air. For a second my stomach stayed behind on the ground – even as the rest of my body soared upward with the plane – before lurching into my throat in a not entirely unpleasant way. I watched out the window as the airport got smaller and smaller until it was eventually replaced entirely by fluffy cotton like stretches of cloud. "We’re flying," I thought, all my grump for the moment forgotten.
Does this get old, I wondered, for people who do it all of the time? Is it possible to leave the ground and take flight so many times in your life that you get used to it, ho-hum, and let this miracle fall into the background of the everyday minutiae that makes up a life?
Am I doing this, even, in my own life? Am I ho-humming other unbelievable miracles away as I alternately run and stumble and crawl through the increasingly busy demands of a life of mothering four babies?
The faces of my children floated into my mind. Each one a miracle in their own right – the ultimate miracle, you might say, when you stop to think even for a second about the incredibleness of creating life where before there was none. And I remembered the night before the trip, when I was frantic with the weight of packing and driving and planning and trying very hard to ignore the guilt I felt about leaving them. And my children – themselves frantic at the prospect of impending abandonment – had each been pulling at me, calling to me, and in essence driving me bat shit crazy. "How nice it will be," I had thought, "to have a break from this."
Three minutes in the air though and I was already wondering: A break from what? From the four greatest gifts I had ever been given? Four baby miracles? Is that my limit? Is four enough times in my life to take flight and be lifted airborne for me to get a little bit used to it, a little bit tired of it even, a little bit desperate to get away?
I watched the flight attendant make her way down the aisle with a cart of drinks, all business.
Or is that just human nature? Do we have to ho-hum the daily miracles because otherwise we would be walking around big eyed and awestruck with our heads in the cotton ball clouds and no one would be serving the drinks or making the money or buying the groceries or untangling the underwear from the inside-out pants in front of the washing machine for hours on end?
Maybe all it took was a few minutes in the clouds for me to be set straight again and see the miracles laid plain in front of me. Maybe, I thought, the reverse would work too – if I brought one of those tired flight attendants home with me to live grounded in our chaos for a while I bet she would miss the taking flight right quick.
I flew home a few days later, tired again but this time with the ache of missing my babies and my bed and my regular life on the ground. I started to sink down in the seat, headphones in hand, but I stopped myself. The flight attendant passed by just then, and I looked at her and smiled, nodded towards the window. "It's beautiful, isn’t it?" I said, and maybe she was just being polite but I swear I saw a flicker of remembering pass on her face.
“It's all pretty incredible,” she said back.
And it is, isn’t it?
Sometimes we just need a reminder.