07 November 2010

opportunities lost

I struggle very much with control.  I like to know exactly what's going to happen and how to respond to it.  I like things to stay the way I am used to them being.  I like things to be reliable.  I've grown a lot - even last year I'd be saying "need" instead of "like".  But I still find myself spending tons of time in preparation for any known upcoming event.

Take, for example, my first experience flying.  I felt so vulnerable stepping out into the unknown in this way that I became consumed with research.  I studied and compared and learned all the necessary steps and actions.  I discovered that countless people have been or felt mistreated by airport security, and worried that I would find myself in a similar scenario.  I prepared by memorizing words to say and tones to use them in.  As clearly as possible I defined to myself the line of safety vs. fear in compliance with unnecessary regulations.  I seriously considered how far I'd be willing to bend on privacy in situations that might come up.  I practiced respectfully declining things I concluded through research to be too invasive or harmful.  I meticulously went over my packing list, ascertaining that nothing I brought would be against regulations.  I planned in great detail how to pack my bag so that there could be no confusion on the X-ray.  I prepared for the possibility that my bags would be searched, ensuring that my bags were packed in such a fashion as would allow contents to be gone through speedily and with extremely small risks of mess, and would also assist in speedy re-packing.

I studied the specifications for carry-on and personal items.  I checked weather conditions to determine whether I needed a coat or jacket and the space to put it.  I selected a personal item capable of containing reading material as well as all the other personal things that I required, so that I wouldn't need to spend time taking those things out of pockets.  I carefully chose the outfit I'd wear while flying: pants with no pockets, zipper or button, that did not need a belt; a nursing tank, to prevent the possibility of a bra's underwire setting off the metal detector; shoes that were both comfortable and quickly and easily removed and put back on.

The results couldn't have been better.  Even though I'd never done any of it before, the research and preparation I had put myself through made me so confident in what I did that a few uncertain strangers viewed me as an experienced flyer, and thereby someone who could assist them.  Similarly, at the second time through security for my connecting flight, the man scanning my bag commented that it was the best packed bag he'd seen in a long time.  I zipped through security because I was so efficient.

But at what cost?  Looking back, I sacrificed almost two weeks to obsessive research of how to fly successfully.  It consumed my free time, and even some of the time I had for minor responsibilities (folding laundry, for one).  I  declined daily opportunities to play and hang out with my children so that I could read more research.  I was so focused on it that I got horrifically snippy when I had to stop prematurely to take care of sibling squabbles, unscheduled messes, another insistence of growth-spurt related hunger, child climbing somewhere and forgetting how to get back down, or whatever other issue they deemed screaming-worthy.

Sure, I had an phenomenal and highly positive experience flying because of all that research that I did, but was it really worth the cost to stop a few short-lived moments of looking like I don't have it all together?

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