Oh, it must be ten years ago now, that I left one of my journals on Delta Flight 1287 traveling from Bozeman to Salt Lake City. Those were the early days of my daughter’s move to Montana and leaving her there while we flew thousands of miles back to Connecticut was always tough.
On the first leg of that trip home, I cried all the way from Bozeman to our first stop in Salt Lake. The airline attendant stopped at Dave’s seat and asked him if there was anything she could do. “No, no,we’re fine,” he said, handing me another box of tissues.
When we arrived in Salt Lake City, the tears damned up. Relief. I felt cleansed. It wasn’t until we were on the next plane bound for home, that I realized I’d left my private journal in the seat pocket of the previous flight.
For a writer, (and an introvert), leaving my journal out there for all the world to paw over was akin to being stripped naked. It was one of those moments when the universe stands before you with her hands on her hips and shouts, “I’ll give you something to really cry about!”
Well, in my defense, I had been distracted.
A day later as I unpacked, I called the airline. A sympathetic, but not very reassuring woman, took down my phone number. She said they’d call me IF they found it, but “the lost and found is so full of the junk people leave behind,” she said, “that it’s impossible to trace items to passengers.”
I cringed. My journal tucked into the back pocket of Row 32.
My mind conjured up a teenage boy thumbing his way through it, snickering and elbowing his younger brother who might have been about ten and too young to get the half of it.
I imagined a businessman, reading it out of masculine curiosity, yawning, bored, sipping a martini. I could hardly stand it. My raw, unedited thoughts and feelings passed from pillar to post like a dog-eared copy of a Danielle Steel novel!
As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months there was still no call from the airline.
I did my best to imagine a more mature, generous spirit discovering my journal. A middle-aged woman maybe, her only son off to college; she’d read and nod, get a little hard lump at the back of her throat at the tender parts. When she stood to get off the plane, she’d tuck it into the back of the seat once again. There it would stay wedged between the in-flight magazine and the snack menu. Forever.
I should be so lucky. Oh, I’m under no illusions. What really happened is something like this: my journal timidly poked its nose out of the seat pocket and an observant airline attendant promptly tossed it into the trash.
On day one.
And that hurts. While every writer strives to write to the level of War and Peace, most of us know that we’re not quite there yet. So, I get it. It was a mediocre journal, full of half-developed thoughts, unfinished sentences, and some stuff that wasn’t even true. My journal was only important to me.
Which somehow makes it harder to let go.
Still. Losing that journal taught me a valuable lesson.
The art of letting go.
I had to relinquish control of what happens when I’m not in charge, which turned out to be 100 percent of the time.
For a writer, this can bring a sense of release. I no longer have to protect, apologize for, defend, or even pay much attention to what I publish once I send it out into the world. There will always be a bored businessman who thinks it’s a load of rubbish, a woman who nods and dabs at her eye with a tissue, and some teenage boy that snickers at it. None of that is any of my business.
Letting go is an art. It’s hard. It takes courage, but doing so helps us make room for whatever wonderful story might come next.