Crying on Planes

So I cry on planes, and I know I am not alone in this confession. I read an article once about a man who would put on cheesy rom-coms with this sole intent, as though it was a secret place where no one would judge him. This makes me quite sad, if you'll pardon the irony, that this man might only feel safe expressing vulnerability in a metal tube with wings 35,000 feet above land. But catharsis is catharsis, so good for him I guess.

I think soaring above the clouds gives me a chance to literally zoom out and reflect, and yet at the same time totally zoom in and focus. I have written entire essays on torn out magazine pages and come up with Martha-worthy to-do lists and many times I have Figured Out Life. I listened to Brené Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection on audiobook on a plane one time and was so enraptured that I took notes on my phone and nearly transcribed the whole damn book.

Sometimes though, I just sit and look out the window, thinking, missing people who are gone, smiling about people who aren't, wondering about things to come. Louis C.K. will sometimes pop into my head, what he said about how incredible it is that we sit in armchairs in the sky and we all need to stop complaining. Or sometimes it's gratitude that I am able to afford this luxury, followed quickly by anxiety over whether this is actually true.

The crying comes as an exhale, really, a release. Relief to be seated, that there was overhead space for my bag. Maybe there's sadness for what I'm leaving behind, or even, for what is-- or isn't-- waiting for me on the other end. Or maybe I'm just crying because the love Hermione Granger, I mean Belle, feels for the Beast is just so real and true. It's really a toss up.

On a recent plane trip, though, I dove into Krista Tippett's new book, Becoming Wise, and had steady waterworks for the duration. I underlined so many passages that I had to start using different colors. I am particularly struck by her comparison of our current society to adolescence, saying it "resembles the understanding we now have of the teenage brain: dramatically uneven; immensely powerful and creative at times and in places, reckless and destructive in others."

It's no wonder why I spent the flight wiping tears from my eyes, though I am, to use a word Tippett employs so poignantly, "emboldened" rather than saddened. This book is a treasure, full of reminders for us to be generous listeners, the importance of words, that there is such a thing as a bad question, and simply, to be human.

May you, too, cry on a plane while reading it.


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