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Planes, Trains and Polar Bears – Calling All Exhausted Healthcare Professionals

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (circa 1987) is one of my favorite movies ever. Comedic genius and a heartfelt subplot? I’m in. 100% of the time.

This past weekend I had a tiny taste of that adventure – along with everyone else scheduled to fly through Chicago. (You may or may not have heard that more than 2,000 flights were grounded across the country due to a fire at an air-traffic control center.)

You know how it is when you hear your flight is cancelled. And then another. And another. Shock, denial, anger, bargaining…you know. It’s never pretty.

It went a little like this:

  • Many rounds of delays
  • First leg of trip late but successful!
  • Cancellation of connecting flight (and all subsequent flights for the next 3 days)
  • ‘Kagillion’ yard walk in heels after going through customs (Why is it so far away? Why hadn’t I changed my shoes?)
  • Random bags of chips and other unhealthy airport food
  • Hopeful bookings into other cities followed by cancellations
  • Coffee
  • Unending calls to never-available airlines (websites were no better)
  • Cab driver who “hated his terrible job more than anything in the world” (this is when the slap-happy laughter began- it all became too story-like)
  • Elated to find one open hotel room 20 mins from the airport- YAY
  • Call to husband
  • Call to American Express Travel (they are amazing, just sayin)
  • Car rental reservation– decision made to transition to ground travel

(In hindsight it was a great decision.)
I boarded the airport shuttle around 5:30 the next morning along with a handful of hilariously jaded passengers. We engaged in that strange sort of air-travel-gone-bad bonding.  We shared information about which rental companies still had cars available, how many kids we had and what weekend plans we’d already missed.

We were also grateful that this was, in the end, a fixable situation. It was not the end of the world. It was incredibly inconvenient and frustrating. But we were all safe and would get home at some point via some mode of transport.

I drove to Dayton Ohio, picked my car from that airport, and drove home while my husband cancelled our fun plans for that day.  (They involved great seats at a huge college football game- you know how much I love football!)

You might ask, “So where do polar bears come into the story?”

 Stick with me.

I awoke Sunday morning with a jolt. I had so much to do before boarding another plane on Wednesday. This led to immediate coffee brewing and such.

Stage right: In walks my teenage daughter, up ‘early’ for a weekend day. “Can we go to the zoo today?” (A favorite destination for us both.)

My life is heavily sprinkled with moments like this. I bet yours is too. Moments in which some lighter, dreamier version of yourself walks in and offers you balance. (Not balance like they talk about in books. I mean deep-but-never-convenient balance that happens in real time.)

As I became present to the expectant look in her eyes, I took my first deep breath in days.

At the Cincinnati Zoo, I was surrounded by examples of ‘rest’. The fall leaves swayed playfully to the ground – nature preparing for a season of rest and rejuvenation. A sea lion floated on her back just barely underwater. I almost fell asleep watching her dramatic state of rest.

And then this guy.


Watching him, I took an even deeper breath.

Nature was showing me how to rest. (He went for a morning swim right after I took this photo. Not a bad idea either.)

We stopped and watched. We did not hurry. We did not mention or even think about our to-do lists for the day. We sat. We talked. We ate lunch. We giggled at the animals’ antics like we did when she was 4. Like we always do at the zoo.

We rested.

(Guilt-free. Because rest overshadowed by guilt does not fill you up.)

We can’t control anything except our choices and intentions. Not air travel, not the attitude of cab drivers or the brilliance of fall colors against the blue sky on my drive home from Chicago.
Only this. Only now.

Resting is a lost art. Especially when it is void of scrolling through email, social media or Netflix.

It is not giving up. It is not laziness. It is not only for the unambitious. It is not a prize you receive only after you complete your tasks. It gives you the energy to go and DO them with enthusiasm.

It is a necessary part of showing up fully for your life. Schedule it if you have to. Bring along a favorite companion.

Rest like you mean it.