PART 2 OF “AND IT BEGINS”—NEXT STOP INDIA

Staciaairport.jpg

The way I see it, I could either choose to become the victim or the student. The victim being the attention seeker lost in drama, thinking, Poor me…I’ve lost my wallet...I can’t continue.  The student thinking, Shit—I’ve lost my wallet...what am I supposed to learn now? I’ll find a way.

I’ll always choose the student. 

Some may feel there’s not a lot of appeal in the word “student” as though they’re past that. Feeling they have learned all they need to know long ago, perhaps simply for a careerBut to me, the word goes much deeper than getting a degree. In my adult heart, and mind, student means: wisdom seeker.

The student, aka wisdom seeker, surrenders to “what is” and is eager to learn and grow from all of life’s hidden lessons with an open heart, as well as learn from other human beings. Sometimes it’s as simple as how not to be. Whereas a victim’s heart is mostly closed, only hearing the made up and embellished stories they’ve created in their own thoughts; not open to learning from anyone, lost in their own drama of me, me, me—when there’s millions out there who are, either enduring far worst circumstances, or suffering more than us. Even if we’re faced with an illness or disease, instead of becoming the victim of our circumstance, we can choose to be wisdom-seekers; accepting “what is”, while concurrently not letting our sicknesses define us by some label.

For instance, at sixty-nine, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only three to six months to live. It started in one of his kidneys, which had already metastasized to his bones by the time he was diagnosed. My father is now eighty-one. And even after over a decade of operations, chemo, radiation and medications, being around him, you would never know he actually has cancer running throughout his frail and broken frame.

My dad finds the joy in each new day, not letting the label of “cancer” define WHO HE IS, while still surrendering to what he cannot control; learning whatever lesson may arise. My dad is a wisdom seeker—and he doesn’t even know it. To those who know him, he’s become a hero and a teacher. He’s never been religious, nor so called spiritual, yet as a result of his fight with “cancer”, he’s somehow connected to something much greater than he has ever known. Surely, he has more to learn here, as even the doctors don’t know how he’s still alive. And then there are those we lose way too soon. But maybe, just maybe, they were done learning whatever they needed to learn here. I like to think of it as life school.

So, within a four-hour window, I did everything within my power to find my missing wallet—which I’m positive slipped into the narrow crack between my seat and the aircraft just after I paid for the internet. In this case, the seat would most likely need to be removed in order to even find the wallet. So, after retracing my steps thirty-two times, and practically begging American Airlines to please check the plane after they refused (it had already been cleaned and was being prepped for its next flight), the wallet was never found. To boot, the plane took off for an eleven-and-a-half-hour flight back to Los Angeles. 

It was no longer in my control. There was nothing left to do but surrender. 

Seated in the Virgin Atlantic lounge, the call went something like this:

“Hi honey.” 

“Hi! You in London?” answered Luc. 

“Yes, I’m in the Virgin lounge waiting for my next flight to New Delhi.”

“Oh nice—that’s the best lounge ever!”

“Yes it is.” I paused. “Honey?” 

“Yeah?”

“I have a small problem.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I lost my wallet.”

“Wait, what? You’re joking, right?” 

“No, it’s gone. I’m almost positive I left it on my last flight, but it’s heading back to LA now.”

“You’re serious?”

“Yes. But I have my passport and a fifty-dollar bill.”

“Oh my god, what are you going to do? You can’t get on the flight to India, Stacia. Just come home.”  

“Oh, I’m getting on the flight to India. Can you find the number to my American Express card—I’m sure it’s too late for them to overnight a card to Delhi, but maybe they’ll send it to my hotel in Bhutan.”

“Stacia, you need to rethink this—fifty-dollars isn’t going to get you anywhere!”

I eventually got the number and called American Express. They informed me they couldn’t overnight a card to New Delhi, and they would not be able to send a card to Bhutan during my entire three-week visit. Come to think about it, an American Express card probably wouldn’t even work in Bhutan. However, they could get me a two-thousand-dollar advance in cash—IF I could make it to an American Express office. Unfortunately, MasterCard and Visa could not help me at all in my situation.

Next problem: my flight was leaving in an hour-and-a-half and I would have to exit the airport and get a ride to the closest American Express office in London. 

I had already surrendered to the fact my wallet would not be found any time soon. However, I could not surrender to the fear of not having any money, alone, in a foreign country.

My insides were trembling in waves of fear, but my mind was as determined as ever.

I would find a way.

I walked to the Virgin counter, and there she was. Claire, singing outwardly with a kind of charisma that could win the heart of the coldest-hearted; swaying to her own beat, sharing her inner radiance amongst her fellow employees. She looked over and into my eyes, and as if she could read my thoughts, she gracefully stopped in her tracks and gave me her full and undivided attention. I felt heard—and I didn’t even say a word. I also felt awkwardly vulnerable, as though the walls that had supported me during the prior four-plus-hours of frantically looking for my wallet may come crashing down—and a full on “Lucille Ball” cry just might slip out. 

But I held it together; standing before the Virgin Airlines counter for a few stretched-out moments, reminding myself to breathe before I could even muster up a word. Finally, in a calm demeanor, I explained the situation; tears threatening to flood my eyes, American Express still on hold. 

Claire took my cell phone and spoke to the American Express agent to find out where I would need to go, and then, gave me the news: I would never make it in time.

I felt the traumatized cells in my body turn into one massive and crashing wave as my body began to shake; my mind staying calm and cool. Claire swiftly and cleverly asked American Express if I could gift her the money. And with my permission, they could. So, without a lot of words—there were no time for words, Claire was about to make the impossible, possible—and just like that, this delightful stranger became my savior. She grabbed her purse, told her other employees to get me some food—and a giant glass of champagne, as she uttered these three words, “I’ll be back.” Mind you, with as much intention behind it as the terminator.

I had no doubt things would work out in my favor. I sat, ate a little, and sipped on the glass of champagne; tapping away at my iPhone key pad, writing my innermost thoughts. And before I knew it—just as I had to leave to board my flight—there she was. Claire, bolting towards me, sweat dripping from her forehead, unable to properly catch her breath, handing me the cash. 

“Ryan, can you please take this lovely lady to board her flight?” Claire gasped.

“Of course I can,” Ryan answered with delight.

I hugged Claire like I was never going to let her go, telling her I would not forget her, ever, that she was my angel. That when I get situated back in LA, I would send her a thank you gift. And I meant every word.

Ryan proceeded to walk me, not only to the boarding gate, but past everyone, directly to my seat, helping me get situated, putting my overweight carryon into the overhead luggage storage. 

I secretly pinched myself.

What wallet?

The missing wallet was the last thing on my mind.

My heart was wide open and a few Virgin Atlantic employees climbed in. A memory I was gifted and will have until the day I die.

If I hadn’t lost my wallet, I would have never gotten to experience such deep kindness in these complete strangers. 

THERE’S SO MUCH BEAUTY THAT SHINES ALL AROUND US that we don’t get to see, let alone experience. 

And EXPERIENCE is EVERYTHING. It feeds your heart, your soul, your mind; handing you the most valuable life lessons of all.

What an incredible start to this next month-and-a-half—of what’s bound to be the greatest adventure of my life. If I live through it, says the part of me I won’t listen to..

Now, as I take off for New Delhi, reality has me contemplating two things: The good news and the not so good news. The good news being I pre-paid all of the hotels for most of my trip in Bhutan—and in Dharamshala, India. And the not so good news…I decided to really go crazy and “treat” myself the first seven days of this trip by staying in five-star hotels—that are NOT pre-paid. I’m talking over five-hundred dollars a night. And I have two-thousand-and-fifty dollars to my name.

Next stop, India….