Travel Thoughts, Stoic Challenge Fail, and Grief

I get deeply introspective whenever I fly. Something about being in a hub seething with other humans in transition forces me to tap into how I move about the world. Normally, being around so many strangers would be a good way to trigger my latent anxiety. Airports, though, have never put me in a chaotic mindset; rather, I enter a calm one. Though I still maintain habits that keep any anxiety at bay.

For instance, I am writing this post with my back to the terminal window and a full view of both ends of the causeway. No one can suddenly appear next to me without notice. Additionally, I sit as far away from people as possible. More for my preference of personal space, which will disappear the second I step into the airplane than anything else.

This morning I prepared to travel to Spokane, Washington St. for the 37th Annual NASO Summit. Packed my attire for the next few days, set aside several dozen business cards, and made sure my Kindle was fully charged. The benefit of waiting to board is that one has time available to put to good use, and I have been considering my failure to complete the Stoic Challenge.

I made it through Day 14/21 - not a complete failure, which is where my brain immediately focuses. That predilection must be beaten back with the soft power of logic: instead of 0%, I reached 66%. Honestly, not bad. Looking at my mood tracker for July, I started this month at a very low point and had a second low point last week (see the images below).

I started this challenge on July 8th, and you’ll see that my mood was stable for most of the next two weeks.

On July 23rd I learned that my grandfather, William “Bill” Loughran, died following complications during his recovery from appendicitis surgery. The shock I experienced froze my mood until Thursday, when the full weight of his absence settled on me.

There are times when one needs to stick with commitments, and there are times when other emotions, grief in my case, takes precedence.

Friday was a day of being selfish. I was concerned about my mental health over the next few weeks that included two speaking engagements in addition to my grandfather’s funeral service. I would travel to four states in three weeks surrounded by plenty of people whom I did not know on top of managing my regular job. Then I beat myself up for being selfish. Then I remembered the sage advice from the flight attendant’s pre-flight safety message:

“In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Always fit your own mask on first before helping children, the disabled, or any persons requiring assistance.”

The mental wellness version would be:

“In the event of a significant life event, things will feel overwhelming. Always take care of yourself first so that you may safely take care of others.”

To grieve well with my family and friends, I must settle my mind as much as I can. I will not beat myself further up for abandoning the stoic challenge, I can always pick it up again later. Instead, I will do the little things during this week that will keep me grounded so that I may be present when we celebrate my grandfather’s life this Saturday.

I will always remember Grandpa Bill with a bemused smile. Many of my mannerisms come from him, and maybe my inheritance of his ability to laugh through good and bad days is a part of how I succeed against my illnesses.

Rest in peace Grandpa. I’ll make sure to put a little coffee in the ice cream bowl that I hope to share with my future grandkids.


Feel no guilt in laughter, he’d know how much you care.
Feel no sorrow in a smile that he is not here to share.
You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to.
He’d hope that you could carry on the way you always do.
So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared,
The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared.
Let memories surround you, a word someone may say
Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour, a day,
That brings him back as clearly as though he were still here,
And fills you with the feeling that he is always near.
For if you keep those moments, you will never be apart
And he will live forever locked safely within your heart.