Monday, August 16, 2010

Emergeny Exits

I guess I'll jump on the Jet Blue/Steve Slater bandwagon here like everybody else.  Come on, folks!  How many times have we wanted to scream, "It's been a great ride!",  grab a beer and slide down that ramp to freedom?  Isn't that right up there with that country song, "You Can Take This Job and Shove It?"  I've been there.  You've been there. The hard part is after we slide and come to our senses and decide we need to make it back up that inflated slide.  Maybe things weren't so bad anyway.  Oops.  Or maybe they were.  Sometimes landing at the bottom of the ramp is exactly where we need to be.  It's a new starting over point.  Time to take off running in a new direction.
    Taylor and I have traveled a whole bunch this summer.  We've flown all over the country on lots of airlines.  He does quite well and I know most of the tricks of the trade now to make flying do-able for us.  When I get to any airport at check in, I immediately go to one of those kiosks and change my seats so we can move closer to the front of the plane.  Three times this summer, an actual, friendly, overly zealous airline helper agent-type, has walked me through the computer steps. 
Here's what's so weird:  Taylor is always standing right next to me.  He is 26, clearly Down Syndrome, has profound speech delay, cannot read, and mostly wants to hug.  So, when we see that the Exit rows on the kiosk computer screen are available, each agent has, with all seriousness, looked at me (and Taylor) and asked, " Is he over 15?" "Does he speak English?" " Could he open the  plane's emergency exit during a flight?"  I am standing there knowing the obvious answer is, "NO" to all of the above, but these agents are asking me these questions.....for real.  So, naturally----because of all of that extra leg room, we (the agent and I) answer "Yes" to all of those life and death questions and click "Continue."   Jumping to the chase:  The agents at the boarding gate are appalled (too strong a word?) and roll their eyes when I explain that one of their own agents helped us make this move. 
So our seats are moved.....again, but closer to the front.  Mission accomplished.
     What has stayed with me in my  love of life's metaphors is how I really love and seem to need to be close to the  emergency exits.  In so many ways, I think I have lived so much of my life planning an escape....from my own life....from situations in my life.  When things get too rough and hard and all gnarled up, my inclination is to emotionally bail out.  There is often that underlying, unvoiced fear that says,  "This is going to be the situation that I won't be able to handle."  And yet, I'm 56 and I've handled every single thing that's come my way.  I wonder then, why I cling to the notion that I need to sit next to the emergency exits in my life.
        What I've come to.....even though I color hair that should be gray and wise....what I've come to, is that I/You/All of us want options in our lives.  We want to know......need to know that in every single situation there is more than one way to think, to feel, to react, to live.  Trouble comes to me when  fear takes over for me and I forget that in all situations, there are options.  Sometimes we have to dig around for them.....or think outside of that proverbial box...or better yet, be brave (with ourselves.)  But there are options.
There are emergency exits for us even if they are not clearly labeled.
We don't need to speak English or really even have to know how to help others slide down that ramp, nor be able to follow the airline crew's directions.
The directions we need to follow are from that still, sure, sacred voice inside of ourselves. 
That voice is always our gateway to an emergency exit---if we need one.
It leads us to our wherever we need to go in this life.
Sometimes it  does help to take a beer along.