There are moments when I forget I have a body. When I am teaching, I forget about what I am wearing, how I am walking, that I am taking up space. I am so focused on reading faces, hearing voices, and connecting with the souls in front of me that my body awareness escapes me. It is only when I run to the bathroom and glance at the mirror that I remember the blue eyes, pale skin and familiar frame that carries me.
A curious thing happens when I forget I have a body. I am not in my head, not worrying, not thinking about anything except the present.
I am open, and people open up to me.
Not everyone, of course. You will not connect with every student or person that crosses your path. But you will connect with a few, and those are the ones that matter. Stay open for those. Nuggets of wisdom are everywhere.
With no one to impress and work to do, I walk through the airport gates reading the faces of travelers. I scan the swarms of eyes glued to screens and find the anomalies. It is not hard to find someone that is present. They look around with a slight glimmer in their eyes, like the experience means something. Their travel is not business as usual.
“What time does this flight board?” a woman asks me, wheeling her rolling suitcase with a quiet man trailing behind her.
“Sorry, I’m not a flight attendant! It’s usually an hour before the flight for internationals,” I say.
“Okay, thanks,” she says. Her short white hair is tucked under the simple gold frame of her glasses and the eyes behind those rimless lenses stay fixed on me. She hesitates to walk away, that’s when I know she has a story to tell.
“Are you going on vacation in Costa Rica?” I ask. She takes the bait and tells me everything.
“Yep, four weeks in Costa Rica! Finally taking my bucket list trip!”
Her outfit is something dreams are made of; shamrock green pants, an evergreen fanny pack promoting a brand for walking shoes and — my favorite part — a white T-shirt with a deep green outline of two 1950’s housewives sharing a secret, “Everything is Bigger in Texas.”
Her name is Lori, and she has two sisters. One of them is at home watching her 11 cats while she takes her dream vacation.
“All rescues,” she assures me. “Over by me, we have a shelter that does Feral Fridays where they fix cats and clip their ears for $20 bucks!”
I hate cats, but I love everything about this woman’s energy and life as a full-time cat mom.
“I had like four cats hanging on me before I left, they knew I was up to something!” she says.
All cats aside, Lori gets real with me.
“Don’t wait until you’re my age to take your bucket list trip. I wanted to take mine before I was Medicare age — even though I’m on Medicare now but I’m not Medicare age. I had a few heart attacks and now I have nowhere to be. So I’m like hey, I’m going on my bucket list trip!”
It’s remarkable how much people share when you are open. Inspired by her story, I tell her about my own bucket list vacation, a Euro trip my sister and I want to take this summer.
“Do it! Do it before your thirties!” she says, shaking her head in a confident and cautious sort-of-way. She almost missed the boat, had a few heart attacks, and doesn’t want me to risk missing it. I thank her for that.
As we say our goodbyes (good things can’t last forever), I wish her the best and leave the gate smiling. At the next moving walkway, I slip my phone out to text my sister. We have a bucket list trip to plan.
No matter where you are — on the clock, in a Lyft, or waiting at the airport — don’t be too busy to notice the people around you. There will always be strangers with stories to tell. Stay open for those. Who knows, they just might inspire you to take a bucket list trip, save all the cats, or wear more fanny packs.
Here’s to looking at the world with open eyes. May you find your own pair of shamrock green pants — those ordinary people with funny nuggets of wisdom.