An Open Mind Opens Doors

Woman standing facing the open water while standing on a beach at sunset

Don’t let fight, flight, or freeze get the better of you.

I’m a flighter.

When I sense a conflict situation, I want to run away and hide. What’s your move? When you sense an uncomfortable moment, what do you want to do – fight, flight, or freeze?

This explains why, when I saw my Congressman at the airport last week, I rushed through gate check, found my seat, and sank low in my chair…hoping to avoid any possible exchange with this man.

Then I heard, “Excuse me, let me get in here.” I looked up. It was him, maneuvering past me to claim the seat right next to mine. “Maybe he won’t recognize me? I look different than the last time he saw me, right?,” I said to myself. That was several years ago when my husband ran against him for Congress.

Let me explain.

My husband launched his campaign in 2017. Our family spent 18 months campaigning passionately against this guy. Unfortunately, we lost the race. Worse? Immediately after the election results, my marriage imploded and I found myself lost in a desperate, dark sadness that’s painful to think about. 

I eventually healed. But as far as all the memories of this crazy, intense period of my life? I just didn’t want to revisit any of them on this particular morning. I mean, I’m normally not this “flighty” – I normally choose a better response to awkward situations. This was just my moment of giving into my reactions.

But, then, his phone ping’d. He looked down, read a text, looked at me and said, “Oh, you’re Angie. I don’t think we’ve met, but a mutual friend who’s on the plane just texted me and shared that I’m sitting next to a Marine named Angie. I’m a Marine, too.”

I smiled, mentioned politely that I recognized him as my Congressman, and acknowledged our shared service. He then asked to take a selfie because that’s what he likes to do when meeting constituents. When he went to tag me, he asked for my last name and, then, suddenly he made the connection. “Oh, I do know you, you were married to Matt – this takes an interesting twist to our conversation, doesn’t it?”

An interesting twist, indeed, especially after I chose to put on my big girls pants and have a mature, adult, open-minded conversation.

For the next 60 minutes, we talked about interests in the District, our military service, and our mutual Veteran connections. I told him about the work I was doing for Blue Star Families, as well as other Veteran-centric initiatives I was engaged in. We agreed to coffee in the coming weeks to explore more work that needs to be done in the District regarding Veterans.  

After I deplaned and beelined to my next gate, I stopped and processed the experience. I went from sheer dread to optimism about prospective collaboration with a sworn mortal enemy while on a commuter jet from Traverse City, MI to Detroit.  

What. Just. Happened?

Life. Life happened. Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about the language of the living? I’m trying to take living seriously. I’ve since heard from so many of you – I know you are, too.  

Living isn’t holding onto grudges, being stuck in the past, and refusing to change your opinion. Living is having an open mind, being okay with discomfort, and recognizing how you feel today isn’t going to be how you feel forever. We can grow, we can evolve, and we can get better… 

Funny how I have to remind myself that from time to time, especially when my instincts get the best of me. I guess that’s why we’re on this journey together, right?

I’ve gotta ask: how is your reaction to difficult, uncomfortable situations holding you back? What “go-to” moves do you have that aren’t serving you anymore? What are situations where you want to sink into your chair, versus stand up straight and confront them? Or, maybe you’re a fighter – do you think it’s time to put down the battle hammer and start re-engaging. Or, if you’re a freezer, what’s one small move you can make today?

Just some food for thought.

All my best,

Angie's signature