Dear Kayna: En Route!

Dear Kayna,

I’m writing to you from my laptop, 8 hours into a 14.5 hour flight. It was nighttime briefly, both inside the plane and out; the lights went low between “dinner” and “morning snack” (roughly 3 hours), and we weren’t far enough south yet that the sun had risen. I can’t say I really slept, but I definitely rested, and dozed off on several occasions.

This is the longest I’ve ever been on a plane. And I think of you partially because you’re one of the only people I know who have sojourned to a number of different locations that are far, far away. As I write, I realize that I don’t know how many years ago you started traveling more frequently; I imagine it was around the time you started your medical missions and marathoning, but I’m not even sure how those line up and fit together in the timeline of your life.

It’s amazing to me to think of the different iterations your life has gone through. And I know you smiled and laughed, when you met Dan a few days ago and I told him “Kayna’s one of the best people I know”–but I hope you took that seriously. You are. And I credit that partially to your inherent character, and partially to the fact that you’ve taken on learning and growth and adventuring (physically, mentally, spiritually, intellectually) with such emphaticism. I truly admire that. The depth of who you are, Kayna, is extraordinary.

I feel intimidated, standing on the precipice of 30 days away from Portland. Earlier this morning (err, yesterday?), when waiting an interminable length to board the plane from Atlanta to Johannesburg–and then, another even more excruciating length between when we boarded and when we actually took off–I thought to myself “This is the hardest part. Once we get there, we’re there.” And then I realized that the entire trip will be made up of moments like this. Moments of anticipation and delayed gratification, in many different iterations. The good news is, I know the way out of this mind trap: settle in to the present moment, embrace this, then this, then this as all that truly exists (if existence is the matter I’m confronting…), re-conceptualize “delayed gratification” as “exactly what is meant to be.” That’s the good news. The bad news is that I haven’t yet mastered my mind quite enough to convince it to relax in what is. In the here & now. I’ve gotten closer, over the past several years, and I credit good people like you who are such good models for me. I’m not sure if you think you exhibit prowess in matters of mind mastery, but you sure as heck do more than lots (most?) of the folks I know.

I wonder how you stay present on your travels. Ahem, okay, IF you do. I wonder how you get through the discomfort that’s inevitable: long waits and delays, short nights of sleep, body protesting the wild conditions you put it through. Is it surrender? Is that the thing I’m after? Surrendering to what is?

Side note: I watched The Matrix a couple hours ago, probably the first time since it came out. This also made me think of you, and all you’ve shared with me about quantum physics, the illusion of reality, many other provocative topics that have stretched my mind and left me wide-eyed and intrigued. I am so grateful for you sharing this part of your inquiry with me. Connecting into the web of knowledge in this way–the web of the universe, the web of illusory reality, whatever–in turn makes me feel more connected to you.

Fun fact: one of my least favorite feelings is the feeling of being trapped. Another is the feeling of being sleep deprived. Another, interestingly, is being at the beginning of something. I am an end-goal-oriented woman. I love to finish things. One of my MOST favorite feelings is the feeling of completing a task, completing a full day, completing a workout, completing the cooking of a beautiful meal. And yes, even, completing a big trip. There is sweet comfort for me in knowing that I am “coming home,” either literally or metaphorically; that there is some marker to indicate the finite-ness of an experience.

So, I can’t actually say that what I’m experiencing right now is joy. Neither is it outright fear, though I know the fear has some influence on my belief that I lack the ability to just settle into & surrender to the now. What am I aware of? Anxiety. Anticipation. Antsiness. A background buzz of stimulation, noise pollution, a mild headache and chapped lips. The feeling of my sister’s leg against mine, as the slight turbulence jostles us. The amazing miracle pillow behind my back (no wonder I’m thinking of you–I’m lounging around with a bit of your spirit!). A pit in my stomach when reality sinks in, and reminds me that there’s now still 6 hours to go before we touch down, god willing. Simultaneously, a reminder that this is a quintessential first-world problem; that this full flight of nearly 400 travelers and I are all experiencing these same first-world problems; that everyone on this flight can probably count themselves as some of the most affluent people in the world. Myself included.

Oh, dear Kayna. Yes, your 1st Class Sleeper travel accessory will be in my bag for the entirety of the next 30 days, but I wish you too could join us. I just looked over the itinerary and marveled at the ground we’ll be traveling; the scope of the journey; the diversity of the locales and scenery and food. And once again, god willing, how wild that I will not so long from now be on another epic flight: Hong Kong to Seattle (12.5 hours), making my way back to the Pacific Northwest, and hopefully soon afterward into your arms. The same, but different. Changed by the accumulation of my experiences, as you have been, but still recognizable in body and spirit. I can’t wait to share with you about what’s transpired, and to hear from you how things are in your life. Looking forward to it. And doing my damnedest to also stay right here, right now. In all the excitement (love) and all the discomfort (fear) and so much else.

I love you, Kayna!

PS The cover shot is one of the most epic photos I’ve ever captured from a plane window. Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, between the east edge of South America and the west edge of Africa. (Flight tracker tells me we’re over Georgetown, wherever that may be.)

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