Scene From the Plane

In my last post I mentioned I would soon write about some of my experiences from this week’s business trip. Here’s the first installment.

My flight to Baltimore was one of those fantastic “non-crowded/no crying babies” experiences. I aim to always have an “A” boarding pass so that I may choose an aisle seat. True to form I was on the “A Train” for this flight (now you know I fly Southwest). One of the last passengers to board the plane took the window seat on my row, leaving an empty seat between us.

About 20 minutes into the flight, I realized I recognized the gentleman seated beside me. But I couldn’t place him, and he didn’t act as though he recognized me. Then it hit me. I remembered him from a recovery community of people who struggle with disordered eating. I hadn’t seen him in about four or five years. I’m not suggesting he no longer works a program; I just haven’t seen him out and about. The reason I didn’t recognize him was that he had gained anywhere from 50 to 80 pounds. I also look different than I did the last time I saw him. Gratefully I’ve lost weight since then and my appearance has changed a little bit.

I chose not to re-introduce myself. The people-pleaser in me didn’t want him to feel bad if he were to connect the dots and think about how much weight he had gained since we last saw each other. Instead I quietly observed his behavior. In short, he seemed very uncomfortable in his own skin. He fidgeted a lot (Of course, that could be due to anxiety around flying. I’ll never know).

At the beginning of the flight an attendant announced that someone on board had a severe peanut allergy and we were not to unwrap and eat any foods containing nuts. About a third of the way into the flight my neighbor reached into his briefcase and retrieved some sort of meal replacement bar. I swear, I could smell nuts. I’m not sure they were peanuts, but I found myself taking this man’s inventory and wondering why he would risk hurting someone else. I vacillated between thinking “what a jerk” to “maybe he has blood sugar issues and really needs to eat that bar.” Either way, it was really none of my business.

Later I noticed my neighbor reaching back into his briefcase. This time he grabbed several Hershey’s kisses. He unwrapped one and popped it in his mouth. He repeated himself rapidly two more times. He ate those kisses quickly as if he were afraid someone else might take them from him. (Hey, maybe he recognized me after all 🙂 )

Other than feeling a little judgmental about his eating the nut-filled meal bar, I felt only sympathy for my neighbor. And I felt gratitude for the recovery I have so generously been given. The tables could have been turned and it had been me who had gained weight, feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.

Once checked into my hotel, I called my friend JoAnn and told her about my flight. (JoAnn loves to be publicly called out so I have no qualms mentioning her by name here). We agreed that man was on that plane and on my row for a reason. He served as a reminder that I only have a daily reprieve from my “isms.” He reminded me that recovery is fragile and must be treated with great care. He reminded me that…

“There but for the grace of God, go I.”

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