I’ve started this piece several times…only to stop writing and think about how to capture the emotions that washed over me on my final day in India.
It was first a mix of dread, followed by the urge to bolt out of the Ahmedabad airport. Then, it was stomach-sickening, sobbing-in-my-seat- fear, followed by a calmness and peace I have never experienced before in my life.
But, to get to that place of serenity, it took me asking the question that has never presented itself to me before: What if I die today?
When I arrived at the airport for my departing flight, everything seemed normal. Lots of people. Lots of lines. Lots of energy. I had been advised to arrive at least three hours early, even though my flight was a domestic flight. If you don’t know this already, in India, things tend to run veeeerrrry slowly. There isn’t a rush to get much done, and oftentimes the governmental agencies are quite inefficient.
After finding the right queue for Air India flights, I took my place in line. There were about 125 people ahead of me, but I had ample time before my 10:30 p.m. flight to New Dehli, so I wasn’t at all concerned. I dug into my bag of salty potato chips and began to people watch–something I could spend hours doing on any given day.
Around 9:30 p.m., when I still wasn’t through security, I began to worry. The initial worry was that I wasn’t going to make my flight. I wasn’t the only one who was getting agitated–there were plenty of people screaming at the airport staff, shaking their fists, and using words I didn’t understand. I had been making small chat with some of the other passengers around me, who assured me that “This was India.” and that I just needed to be patient. But, there was a nagging feeling deep within me that told me something was definitely wrong.
I stepped out of line and went to speak with a young man dressed in airport attire. I explained to him that my flight was leaving in one hour, and I was concerned I wouldn’t make it at the rate the line was moving. I even asked to be taken to the front of the line. He waved me off, assured me I would make the flight, and sent me back to the line.
My intuition continued to speak to me, and I knew that something definitely was askew. I had flown in and out of enough airports to know that a line which hasn’t moved in over two hours signaled red flags and alarms.
In that moment, I remember standing so very still, feeling my body tremble, not sure I wanted to learn any more details. I was scared. I swallowed the lump in my throat and turned to the man behind me and asked, “Do you know what the problem seems to be?”
He explained to me that there were several national security threats by terrorist groups because India’s Independence Day was in two days. The airport had increased security to a minimum of three checkpoints before entering the gate, causing the massive slow down.
The rational part of my brain began to assure me that three check points and the slow lines meant that everything was going to be fine. Of course, the security division had everything under control, and of course they were thoroughly doing their jobs.
The other part of my brain tried to plan an exit strategy. I didn’t want to be another victim of yet another terrorist attack. I wanted to get home and hug my husband and cat. I remember thinking that if I left the airport and went back to the hotel, that surely I would be safer. But, maybe it was better to fly out two days before the holiday, so perhaps I should just stay where I was and wait and see what happened?
The more I thought about terrorist threats, the more anxious I became. Should I text my husband and family? Eventually, I decided this would add unnecessary stress to their lives, and I opted to not say a word about the conditions and stress I was silently enduring.
Finally, at 10:15 p.m., the line began moving. I disrobed three times, unpacked my laptop three times, and raced through each checkpoint three times hoping I had not missed my flight. All flights had been stalled–and I boarded quickly, alongside hundreds of others, and we settled into our seats.
This is when the tears came. I’m not sure if they fell from the pure exhaustion of having stood in one place for three and half hours, or if they fell because of the exhaustion and the nagging feeling that my safety was still in jeopardy. I tried to push the tears back so they stayed behind my eyelids, but it only made it worse. Before I knew it, I was silently sobbing in my seat.
Not only did I feel foolish as plenty of people were staring at me, but I also felt small and weak. And helpless. I took out my phone to text my husband, but then angrily shoved it back into my purse once again. I didn’t want him worrying about my safety for the next 30 hours.
As I tried to pull myself together, for some reason, this thought planted itself into my heart and soul: What if I die today? I must admit, I am not one to talk about death or think too much about it! I’m 38 and living a life I absolutely love and have worked very hard to create for myself. But the whisper became louder and announced itself once again: What if I die today?
That’s when the tears stopped. I stopped shaking, and I took a few moments to reflect on the question. If I die today, I will die with no regrets. I will die the happiest I have ever been. There is not one person I need to make amends with and not one situation resting on my soul which needs to be handled.
Can you imagine the immense relief that washed over me in that moment? I stopped crying and smiled, took a deep breath, and smiled even bigger. (I realize now how insane this must have looked to everyone around me who were just watching me sob a few moments prior.) This terrifying experience gave me an enlightened perspective on life.
When I landed in New York City, I hugged my husband with more intensity than ever before. (I am sure he was secretly wondering if I was ever going to let go!) I shared my transformative experience with him–and I’m positive that I didn’t capture it fully at the time, as it has taken me a month to even find these words.
But, I asked him, just as I continue to ask myself, my friends, my family, and now you: What if you died today? Are there any regrets resting on your soul, or people you need to make amends with?
If the answer to either of those questions is “yes”, I encourage you to make those situations right, today. Please don’t wait and don’t put this important soul-work to the side. For I know that when you can answer these two questions with a definitive “no”, you too will experience true peace, happiness, and contentment every remaining day of your life.
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
That I am going to die one day, just like all of us, and I’m not one bit scared of that!
2. What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I appreciate the small things–especially since returning from India. (I encourage others to read this piece, 21 Things I Will Never Take for Granted Again After Visiting India).
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
I have built a thriving business in just under a couple years. I love my clients, and I feel fulfilled in the work I am doing. But…I’m not done yet! I have more people to reach and more people to positively impact.
4. We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?
I need to learn to relax sometimes. I am so driven and excited by life, that I forget my body, mind, and soul need rest!
5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love my…life! I think I write this every time I publish here, but it’s true!