The Aeroplane Seat
The thing is - we never know when we will come across a simple life situation, when we need to consider others. Something that may seem both out of the ordinary and then not. A form of hidden kindness waiting to be displayed.
I arrived at the airport for my early morning flight after only having a few hours sleep.
I had a plan and my plan involved sleeping the entire 2 hour journey.
And I didn’t plan on MY plan being changed.
I boarded the plane to find I had the middle of 3 seats. Even though I am quite tall, the middle seat itself is no issue. On my left hand side was a woman and on my right, the window seat was taken by a larger young man, I guess in his early 20’s.
As I took my seat, he pushed and pulled himself closer to the window but he was still ‘on my side’ and after only a few minutes it became obvious he felt subconscious about his weight and his not being able to squash himself further into the plane wall and away from me.
You know ‘the arm way over the shared arm rest issue’, and taking up more leg room.
As we said our customary hellos I looked to the seats diagonally behind and noticed a row of 3 seats vacant.
Excellent ! As soon as this flight takes off I will ask to move so I can stretch out and get some much needed sleep before my seminar. After all, this was about me, and my plan, and me having my much needed sleep.
During the buckle up and safety message of exits and oxygen dropping from the ceiling if necessary, I was contemplating my great seat move and I had the thought….if you move ‘he’ the young man next to me, will know I am moving because ‘he’ is over my side and ‘he’ will feel more ashamed about his weight and not fitting in the seat than ‘he’ already does. What ! I couldn’t believe I was even having this conversation with myself.
Surely my need of sleep is more important than his feelings?
Like it was my issue that he felt uncomfortable ?
It was early in the morning and the coffee hadn’t kicked in to help my thought processing.
Surely me moving will also be beneficial to both of my fellow passengers as they too will have more room?
Surely he wouldn’t really think that was why I was moving seats?
After all I doubt he was a mind reader.
And so the conversation in my head continued, the justifying of why I should move seats.
And the equally justified reasons of why I should stay put.
Did I mention the seminar I was travelling to attend was professional development for eating disorders?
Did I mention I was going to participate to help others as I am now fully recovered from an ED and I offer hope and support as ‘lived experience’ ?
Did I mention that I had spent 25 years in shame and was more than well acquainted with ED and its pain?
After a few minutes of internal head and heart discussion I decided to stay put. I put my earphones on, snuggled up under my coat, closed my eyes and drifted off. I awoke, nearly 2 hours later, to the loudspeaker announcement that we would be landing in 10 minutes. I had slept the entire flight, both comfortably and undisturbed. I could barely believe this had happened, especially in this cramped and seemingly uncomfortable position.
As we were preparing to land, I started a conversation with the young man on my right hand side.
Just general chat about his travels.
His face lit up as he answered my questions with intelligence and grace.
What a pleasant young man.
He seemed totally surprised that I would even take the time to chat with him.
It was THAT obvious.
And that is how shame and self-disgust works.
You only expect people to talk to you when it is downgrading to yourself.
Or they want something that you can give them.
And so the vicious cycle of withdrawal is reinforced.
We know so little about people’s lives.
We know the little insight our heart tells us and the part they choose to share and not much more.
I have no idea why he was so overweight, or his childhood issues, his triggers, his medical condition.
Weight is certainly not the only symptom of an ED.
No idea if he even had an ED.
Nor do I need to.
All I need to know is my part in this story.
And do it.
With grace. And love.
And this day, my part was to stay in my seat and engage in general chat.
To be kind and accepting.
Doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
Imagine if ‘kindness’ was the new cycle we entered into, replacing the vicious cycle of judgment and self-disgust.
I disembarked the aircraft that morning feeling that I had made a small difference.
Just a miniscule difference in someone’s world.
It didn’t have to be spoken aloud.
My actions made him feel accepted.
My words helped him feel that he does indeed belong, regardless of his physical weight.
Regardless of what society and advertisements on repeat scream at him.
The reason I know this is because I have been him.
When you have been that person you have greater insight and empathy.
I am no hero.
I just decide that everything doesn’t have to be about me.
And as I decide to love others well, my needs are always more than met.
Imagine a new world, being caught in a continual cycle of kindness.
Kindness to self.
Kindness to others.
Kindness does not involve weight.
Kindness does not involve physical appearance.
the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
kindliness, kind-heartedness, warm heartedness, goodwill, affectionateness, affection, warmth, gentleness, tenderness, concern, care
synonyms: kind act, good deed, act of kindness, good turn, favour, act of assistance, service, help, aid
Kindness is not elusive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amanda Long
Amanda Long resides in Cairns, QLD, Australia. Amanda known as Mandy, is a Coach/ Advocate who works with people to help them overcome anxiety, disordered eating, depression & losses in life.
At Project HEAL, Mandy is dedicated to sharing her lived experience to get the word out that recovery is available and HOPE is not elusive.
Mandy can often be found taking early morning strolls with coffee in hand, enjoying a good film and spending time with family & friends.
Mandy’s favourite ice cream flavour is peanut butter chocolate.