Usually when I fly, I love to fill the flying hours with either writing, or with a good book. It’s a rare treat to get a few uninterrupted hours to indulge myself. The flight to Toronto was no different. The plane had a few empty seats so Jim and I had a seat empty between us and I didn’t find it hard to pass the time. I have a little splint that I wear on my right hand when I write and I wore it on this flight. When we landed in Toronto, a bit early, the captain announced that we would have to wait for a gate to open so that we could pull up and disembark the plane. He estimated that we might be waiting for about thirty minutes.
The man across the aisle leaned over and asked me about my hand brace. Apparently, his son works in the brace/splint industry and he hadn’t seen one quite like mine before. We easily struck up a conversation and I began to wish he had talked to me earlier. It turns out that he, too, is a retired teacher. He taught Junior High Math his whole career, just like me. He had been a runner, just like me. He loves to bike and kayak and hike, just like me. Soon his wife was in on the conversation and we were talking about Enneagrams (who knew?!), my coaching business and about our lives in general.
Since I had already learned that they had moved from Edmonton to Vancouver Island, I asked them what they were doing in Ontario. His answer captivated me. “We’re calling our trip The Five Cottages of Friendship” was his response. I’m sure that my face just lit up when I heard this wonderful answer. I asked what it meant. As fate would have it, it was at that moment that we discovered that we had pulled up to the gate and people were leaving the plane. More than thirty minutes had passed as we had been talking. He had just enough time to tell me that their trip would consist of visiting five cottages. His wife had some long-time friends from her university days who still gathered together. One of them owned a cottage and they would be there for some of the days. One of the other cottages they would visit was theirs from his childhood. Another was that of a different friend. I didn’t get to hear the last two because we were being ushered out. With the activity of retrieving bags, looking for signs and meeting our son and daughter in law, I lost them without hearing about the rest of their trip. I have not however, been able to stop thinking about their incredible Five Cottages of Friendship title.
Jim and I have named some of our trips too. Five Cottages of Friendship has, however, inspired me to rethink some of our titles and also to think about the power of such a title. I had laughingly told the lovely ‘man across the aisle’ that the name we gave to the second half of our week-long trip is The Whirlwind Tour of Southern Ontario! We have done this trip many, many times and we always give it the same name. We christened it this long ago because we have so much family spread across this area who we try to see each time we are there. We end up having lunch with one family, dinner with another and off we go. By the end of our trips, if anyone asks how our holiday went, we often answer, ‘Oh it wasn’t a holiday – just our regular Whirlwind Tour of Southern Ontario. Not only that, we often arrive home feeling exhausted; who wouldn’t be exhausted after something that is called a whirlwind? Since hearing about Five Cottages of Friendship I realize that the way we think about something, the way we name it or file it in our minds, has a massive impact on the way we approach, or even enjoy, it.
Last year, I went on a bike trip with my brother. We biked the Kettle Valley Trail in British Columbia. When I talk about it, I never refer to it as the Kettle Valley Trail trip. I always call it ‘My Week with My Brother’. For me, naming it this way brings up images of how much I loved our time together. It puts the focus on our relationship, rather than on the activity.
Last summer we named our summer, ‘The Summer of Weddings’. Both our children got married and we wanted to make sure that in the busyness of it all, we never forgot the incredible moments we were lucky enough to be amid.
My friend, Tessa, has given the name ‘Wellness Wednesday’ to every Wednesday of this summer. I always look forward to seeing her amazing photographs of the hikes she takes on those days.
I’ve heard people say, “This is going to be ‘The Week from Hell’ “. Usually, they are referring to the idea that they have many, many commitments and not enough time. I would guess, having had a few of these weeks myself, that at the end of the week they really do feel like it was the week from hell. When we attach a name, we zero in on finding evidence to support that name. This is especially true when we name the event in advance of it occurring. It is as if we are inviting the title of the event to come to life.
I wish I had learned the name of my flying companions. I would love to call them and find out more about their Five Cottages of Friendship adventure. In my imagination, they would have had a glorious time; they would have made many more memories with people who are clearly important to them. But I don’t know their names, so I will have to content myself with being grateful for my chance encounter with them. It reminded me to spend some time naming small pieces of my life with titles that focus on what I want to create. We’ll be going to Whistler later this fall and already I’m dreaming about what we should name that trip!
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