I’m at the airport departures. I’ve said goodbye to my brand new fluorescent green suitcase (surely that won’t get lost AGAIN – don’t ask) and I’m off to speak the next day at a TV conference in Cannes. As I bid farewell to Magical Marta, for some reason, I say to her grimly, “I’m not meant to go to Cannes”. All signs indicate (a few other things had happened too) I’m not supposed to be there. She gives me a hug and says that I always get nervous before public speaking – and I wave goodbye feeling uneasy – and embark the jet feeling, well, just ‘wrong’.
Cut to 30 minutes later. Our plane is rapidly descending towards the sea, the engine is making the most terrible noise (understandably because it’s failed and is leaking oil) and we’ve been told by the pilot we are emergency landing at the nearest airport. There is an eerie silence; too calm for my liking. And I finally accept that this has to be it.
I rapidly start typing a letter to my mum on my phone – I need to say goodbye, but of course I can’t get any service. Nothing really matters bar the love I have for those closest to me. Why did I spend so long worrying about losing the luggage? The public speaking? Oh and there’s the incessant worry I’ve been eating too much and can’t fit into all my clothes. Every little (and big) concern seems so silly as I clutch the arms of the seat, close my eyes and try to recall Marta’s square breathing technique to keep calm. If I get through this, I PROMISE MYSELF I WILL STOP WORRYING – at least about the littler things.
Cut to 3 hours later.
The plane landed (phew, all fine). We’re miles from Cannes. Chaos is ensuing at the airport and I am due on stage in 10 hours. I’m so grateful to be alive (that was another promise I made to myself which I was currently keeping – stop taking life for granted) BUT I still need to get to Cannes. I’m shaken, in shock and surrounded by hundreds of people speaking in French.
And this is when my ‘angel’ arrives.
“Would you like to share a car with me to Cannes he asks?”
“But I have no driving license,” I reply.
“No worries, I’ll drive,” Stan says in his near-perfect English.
For the next 5 hours Stan and three of us girls, squished with our luggage in a small Cinquecento – well actually it could have been any model of car I was in shock – drove down to Cannes. The trip was wet, it was dark and we were shattered – and it could and maybe should have been so horrid. However, this mini road trip was one I shall always remember with immense warmth. Stan talked about his family, his work, his experiences; the beautifully eccentric and adorable Helene shared her life story – and I of course talked about the Happynesshub and TV. My life had been enriched in such an unexpected but delightful way.
Stan dropped me right at the door of my hotel in Cannes with only hours until I was to make my speech. As I hugged him, I knew we had shared something special on that journey, and I also knew I could never quite capture what is was, other than in my heart.
So why do I tell you this story? I think because I wanted to feel this had ‘happened for a reason’. I wanted to make sense of why I was still alive. And I wanted to feel I had learnt from the experience. So here’s my take-away menu to share with you:
- Stop worrying. FULL STOP. When push comes to shove, it’s a waste of time.
- Be grateful just to be alive. Numerous gratitude diary entries coming up.
- Let kindness fill your life – it benefits the giver and the receiver.
- Remember so much good can come from something bad.
- Always pack a spare pair of knickers in your hand luggage.
Thank you Stan. Thank you Helene. And thank you to all the other ‘angels’ that crossed my path during that crazy Cannes adventure. Your kindness, love and support will always be in my heart.