Recently Tom dropped me off at Toulouse Airport in plenty of time to catch a 5pm flight to Manchester. I was then due to travel to Huddersfield to spend a precious night with my youngest son who was going to meet me at the station. We had booked to go out for a meal together and I was very much looking forward to seeing him. However my flight was delayed by four and a half hours, meaning that I would I arrive in Huddersfield after midnight, miss the meal and have very little time to see him before he left for Belgium early next morning. I realised at 3pm that our plans were going to be cancelled and that I had more than 6 hours to spend in the airport. I had also forgotten to bring my mobile phone!
I relate the story of this situation because it is the sort of thing that happens to us all from time to time to varying degrees. We are having a ‘happy day’ and everything is ticking along nicely and then something ‘goes wrong’. It doesn’t matter how much planning we do, how careful we are, who we are or how much money we have; there will always be times when life throws stuff at us. However; we then have a choice. The choice we have is how we respond to the situation. It is really important that we acknowledge that whatever challenges and situations life throws at us we always have a choice in how we respond to these. It may not be easy, but the choice is there.
These moments can be very testing, but if we recognise them as they occur, then we can learn to take a deep breath and create a space in which to decide how to be, knowing that the opportunity exists to respond in a way that can be beneficial to us and often to those around us too.
So, to finish my story ………….. Once I realised the situation I decided to accept it calmly and to do the best I could with the time. (Of course I did!) I went to the very helpful lady on the information desk who let me use a telephone to ring my son. He cancelled the table and said he would be able to collect me from the station at quarter past midnight. I collected my free drink and sandwich which I was given due to the delay. I then found a desk that had facilities for plugging my computer in so that I could use the time to do some writing. This was something I had been wanting to do for a while. During the next six hours I enjoyed my snack, did my writing, read my book and tried not to focus on the disappointment of the change to my plans. As it happened I managed to spend a night with my son at the end of my visit after he had returned from his trip. So we eventually went out for our meal!
My alternative scenario would have been to not accept the situation, get very upset, and then annoyed, probably with various members of the airport staff. Spend time moaning to other passengers about how bad everything is and generally work myself up, (or down), into a state of misery and ‘poor me’. This would not have changed the situation and certainly I would have felt worse and those around me probably would too!
I realise that all this is easier to say than do – but the more aware we are that we have choices in how we respond to life the more happiness we will experience.
An amazing example of this attitude can be found in the work of Victor Frankl who spent 3 years of his life in a concentration camp. He is a real inspiration.