When Jon told me I was acting like a guy I knew it was time to ask for help.
It was Friday evening and I was on hold with someone from the travel insurance I’d taken out for my trip to India. I was trying to find out if the insurance covered me cancelling my flight.
I wasn’t trying to cancel my trip to India, there were some complications with the itinerary that I had just become aware of.
I’m traveling with a group called The Village Experience and their original itinerary included a trip to the Taj Mahal on February 25th. I was under the impression that the travel plans I paid for included transport back to the airport in Kolkata at the end of the trip. As early as October I got round trip tickets landing and leaving from Kolkata Airport. It seemed an easy flight with only one layover in Dubai and the tickets cost about $1000. I thought I was all set.
On Friday I learned, that because of a lack of interest in visiting the Taj Mahal ,the trip there had been cancelled. That left me in India a day longer than everyone else. That wasn’t a problem, the group could easily arrange for me to stay one more day and reimburse me for the money I laid out for the trip to the Taj Mahal.
The problem was I now found out I needed to either change my flight home or arrange for a flight from Udiapur to Kolkata.
Writing this now, that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but Friday evening, after looking into my options, I began to freak out.
I couldn’t change just my flight home. I’d have to cancel my whole flight, which would cost $450 then get a new flight. When I looked into new flights, they either cost thousands of dollars or had at least three long layovers. And they still cost more than my original flight.
So I went online looking for flights from Udiapur to Kolkata. But this was more complicated than I thought. I had no idea which airlines were reputable and the flights, once again had long layovers. Some of them taking two days of travel.
For the third time Jon told me to call Dahn. She had made this trip so many times, she could help.
The real question is why did I resist? Why did I have such a hard time asking for help.
I sat on the couch, my computer in my lap, my phone at my side, looking at all my options, getting more and more upset. I knew I could figure it all out, I wanted to fix it myself. I didn’t want to admit how upset I really was. I kept thinking how I had it all figured out, how good I felt about getting the plane tickets early and inexpensively. I thought that part was all behind me and now it was all wrong.
Looking back I can see what happened.
It’s what Thich Nhat Hanh in his book No Mud, No Lotus calls “the second arrow”. This is the Buddhist teaching that says when something goes wrong in our lives, that’s the first arrow. “…you will feel pain in the part of your body that the arrow hit…” ” The second arrow, fired by ourselves, is our reaction, our storyline, our anxiety.”
My second arrow took the form of judgement and anxiety. I couldn’t get off the idea that I hadn’t understood the itinerary and that the trip didn’t include a flight back to Kolkata. And it was my feeling of failure that kept me from wanting to ask for help. I had failed to understand the itinerary, it was my fault, I was wrong. And I was frightened. If I had messed it up, could I fix it?
I didn’t want to admit that I was upset about it either. Not even to myself.
All of this added to my inability to think clearly and deal with the real problem which wasn’t that I was stupid and incompetent, but that I needed to know which airlines were best to get from Udaipur to Kolkata.
So when Jon told me I was acting like a guy, (one of the greatest insults a person can hurl at me) by not wanting to ask for help, it finally sunk in. Still caught up in my anxiety, I waited a few minutes then called Dahn.
Dahn yelled “Oh my God!” when I told her about the cancelled trip to the Taj Mahal. Then she commiserated with me when I told her about my mistake. She said she had done the same thing once.
It wasn’t just that Dahn was understanding, and told me the airline to fly on.
Dahn’s reaction was so genuine, and went from acknowledging feeling, right to wanting to help make it right. I saw it was the opposite of what I was doing, which was hiding the feeling rather than just making things right.
I was trying to hide what was I was feeling, which was shame and fear. I was false.
Dahn, who is a minister and yoga instructor, is boisterous and loud and excitable. She laughs a lot. She didn’t seem to think I was stupid or incompetent. Talking to her pulled me out of myself.
I think the simple act of reaching out helped me dislodge that second arrow.
When I got off the phone with Dahn, I made reservations on Jet Airways to take me from Udiapur to Kolkata. It was easy, it took a couple of minutes.
I looked down at Fate lying in the floor next to me. She was holding my passport between her paws chewing on it. Luckily she had just begun. Life almost happened again. I took the passport out of her mouth and thought about that joke about making God laugh by making plans.
Dahn has a lot of faith.
I don’t have that kind of faith, I have to figure things out differently. I feel I have to go to myself and trust my decisions, and if I’m wrong, deal with them the best I can. God doesn’t come into it for me.
Dahn believes whatever happens we’ll figure it out and if not, it wasn’t meant to be.
All of this is making me think about my own ideas about faith. How to deal with what’s handed to me and not firing the second arrow?
Rather than beat up on myself for getting it wrong or feeling frightened, next time I hope to just deal with the problem, try to fix it and accept it if I can’t.
Being human is nothing to be ashamed of.