Often Life experiences remind us that we don't know what we don't know. Chaos is created when we fight against what Life is trying to teach us, because we think we know better how it should go. A powerful time Life taught me what I didn't know happened back in 1999.
Mom and I in front of the Brandenburg gate in Berlin, Germany
In June of 1999 I was 5 months pregnant with my third baby girl and I had the opportunity to travel to Berlin, Meissen and Dresden, Germany to explore the birthplace of my Great Great Grandfather with 75 of his descendants, my immediate and distant relatives.
The first leg of my flight was from Detroit, MI, where we were living at the time, to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, where I met up with the rest of my family to travel together to Berlin. It was exciting to be with this large group, many of whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. Some I’d never met at all until my Dad introduced me to them.
We jumped right in to conversation, anticipating the wonderful trip ahead of us. After an hour or so someone in the group asked where we were sitting in the airplane, so that we could find out who we were sitting by.
I looked at my ticket, but I didn’t see a seat number. My Dad went with me to the ticket counter to find out why. The ticket agent scolded me, “You aren’t checked in, that is why you don’t have a seat. And there are no seats left.”
My Dad protested, I had a ticket, how could I not have a seat?
The ticket agent explained that since I had not checked in, and it was an over-booked flight, they had given my seat away. I’ll never forget his disgusted tone. “You cannot check-in last minute to an international flight.”
I had never flown internationally. I had no idea what was required of me.
My Dad argued with the man for awhile, but there was nothing that could be done. I stayed surprisingly calm and told my Dad I would be Ok. I planned on calling my husband, who traveled a lot, to get ideas on how I was going to not only get to Berlin, but then meet up with the group in Meissen, two hours south of Berlin.
I was put on stand-by and the only thing that made my Dad feel better was that a cousin and his wife were also on stand-by. “Stay with them”, Dad told me, “and you’ll be fine.”
He and my Mom looked sick with worry as they boarded the plane with everyone.
I just felt like an idiot.
Not long afterwards my cousin and his wife got called to the ticket desk. They were off the stand-by list and onto the flight.
There I stood. Alone. Pregnant. Clueless how to get to Berlin. But not yet panicking, which was so unlike me.
My mind started trying to come up with solutions to this predicament, when I heard arguing at the ticket desk. The same airline agent who had turned me away, was now arguing with a crowd in front of him saying, “I don’t have two tickets, I only have one ticket. I only have one ticket left.”
My mind caught hold of that; ONE ticket. That’s me. That’s what I needed. I hurried over to the desk waving my ticket. “I’m alone. I’m one ticket!” The crowd let me through. The agent had a weary look on his face, and still a tinge of disgust for my naïveté. But he immediately stamped my ticket and let me through.
That’s when I started crying. That’s when the weight of it all caught up with me.
As I walked down the ramp toward the plane door, my Dad came walking toward me. We were both surprised to see each other and then embraced. I explained what happened, how I had gotten on the flight.
Then he explained what he was doing.
When he saw his cousin board the plane with his wife, my Dad realized I was now alone. He was coming to be with me. Even though he was in charge of this entire trip, Dad was willing to give up his seat to travel with me. It had never occurred to me that he would do that. I felt ashamed to understand in that moment that he cared about me that much, and I hadn’t realized it.
Right now you may find yourself in a situation that is so unfamiliar that you don’t even know what you don’t know. And I’m here to tell you that the only way to find out what you need to know is to keep moving.
That’s when you totally mess up and then learn how to do it. That's when you discover the strength within you.
Mistakes aren’t negative my friend, they are necessary. They teach you exactly what didn’t work. And you repeat that process until you recognize the moment when you have an opportunity to try again.
I didn’t know if that ticket agent would give me that last ticket. But I knew I had to make the attempt.
I don’t even like to label these attempts as “right” or “wrong”, because each one teaches a necessary lesson.
So in your Life's journey, instead of complaining about what's unfair because you didn't know what you didn't know, step forward and make an attempt.
By repeating this process over and over again, you will prove to yourself how capable you are of doing hard things. Trust that the hard things will take you exactly where you need to go.
The CHAOS to Calm Retreat, on January 28th 2023, will empower you to take the chaos that Life is offering you and shift it to calm. Register at www.chaostocalmretreat.com