Trying to Leave, on a Jet Plane
Traveling takes us out of our comfort zone and our protective routines. Luckily the attention deficit mind loves a new challenge.
A trip to the airport can bring out the worst in me. Leaving the structural supports of home throws me into an internal chaos that I can’t separate from anxiety. The day before my trip, I should have been in high gear preparing for this, but I spun my wheels all day, obsessing on finding the right travel outfit that will keep me warm on the way to the airport and cool when I get off the plane in Hawaii. Why don’t I own a twinset? When did I lose a button on my old aloha shirt? The blue sweater or the green? They both look good, so how do I choose?
I manage to get dressed most days; why is this so hard? How do I pack for a place I’ve never been? I live by my lists, but today they do me no good. As I go randomly from packing a toothbrush to cleaning up my lunch mess to searching for an old flip-flop, I wonder if it’s ADD or emotional distress I’m feeling – something in my wiring that makes transitioning hard, or feeling conflicted about leaving my family for five days. Or maybe I’m just coming down with the cold everyone else has had, and my head feels foggy.
At ten minutes to five I rush to get out the door in the dark. Enzo wanted me to wake him so he could say goodbye and get an early start on the day, but it’s impossible; I get a sloppy hug and a kiss and he even mumbles, “Bye, Mom. Love you,” but the eyes just won’t open, no matter what. He’s talking in his sleep and won’t remember this.
At the airport everyone is dressed and coiffed and made up and I wonder how the heck they do it so early in the day. My hair is going sideways in the front and forwards in the back – and I still have sleep in my eyes. Still, I start humming “The Stripper” as the cute stranger in front of me and I take off our shoes and jackets for security. What a geek. That wouldn’t be right if I was a guy and he was a cute gal. I embarrass myself in public, like my dad always did.
In the bathroom, I choose the old-lady stall so I can spread out and sort through all my junk one more time and change my socks. On the way out I wonder: “Am I turning into an old lady? The ones who have tissue falling out of their pockets?” But standing in front of the mirror I remember a younger self who knew how to travel. You have to create structure on the fly. You have to muster all your will to find your boundaries. It’s acting. You create an unruffled persona for airports. Some water on my hair, some color on my eyes, and I start to recognize my orderly self again. Zip everything into the right places like I should have done yesterday, and make sure no tissue shows. The lady in the mirror looks together now. I can do this thing. I can fly now.