The plane ride to England was probably one of the most uncomfortable flights I’ve ever been on, and no doubt that it was because of my fragile mental state. Normally, I’m one of those people that can sleep no matter where you put me. I was once lovingly referred to as an animal because I can fall asleep in the middle of the floor with my arm as my pillow. I slept through the 1989 San Francisco earthquake (6.9 on the Richter scale!) and have even fallen asleep standing up, leaning against a wall.
But on this eleven hour flight, my mind just wouldn’t let me body rest.
Erik Erikson was an influential psychologist that came up with a series of psychological stages that every one of us presumably passes through in our lifetime. In the final stage, Integrity vs Despair, a person nearing the end of their life will look back and take stock of their life’s experiences (we call this a life review). Now, I was always under the assumption that this happens either at the end of one’s life or during a near death experience, but my mind kindly chose to do this during my exit flight.
I suppose it’s fitting really. It is like a death. A death of my former life, my former self, even my former dreams. And so during those eleven grueling hours my psyche browsed through all of the times that I’ve had my heart broken, every time I achieved something I had worked tirelessly to get, conversations in which I said one thing but meant another, and wondered how things would have been different if I had gone left instead of right.
But a beautiful thing happened, that I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t feel regret over anything. I felt everything else instead. I was blissful in some moments, and absolutely paralyzed with mourning in others. I let myself chuckle out loud in my seat and cry as quietly as I could. I let all the other passengers around me fade away and unapologetically had my process right where I was in the moment that I was having it.
And, this is going to sound odd, but I was reminded of what I learned about the Lodgepole pine cone as a kid. The Lodgepole pine cone is extremely tightly bound, in order to protect its seeds within. And it takes incredibly high temperatures in order for it to open. So those pinecones stay sealed until a forest fire comes along to make them burst open with new life. This was my forest fire and my seeds came spilling out.