A few weeks ago my mother in law passed away. She’s Dutch and lived in Holland. My husband had already gone over to help his sister with the funeral service and clearing of her apartment. I booked my ticket a few days later to arrive to help and stand by my husband’s side for the service. I almost didn’t get there.
So now I tell you this is not a story about diabetes but the power of intention. And I believe that power is available to us all the time to turn around how we’re doing with our diabetes and our health.
Working at my computer the night before my flight to Amsterdam, I got the online notice from Delta to check in. My flight was scheduled for 5:23 PM the next day. Checking in, I got to the part where I had to enter my passport details so I retrieved my passport from my bedroom dresser. Walking back to the computer, I opened my passport and saw my passport had expired! Six weeks ago!
Panic filled me. I could not not be there for my husband Boudewijn. I could not let him go through this alone. Head pounding, my heart doing sumersaults, I maniacally searched online for a number to call to get a passport – now!
The first number took me to the automated line for passport agency appointments. Great, I could book in on April 8th, thirteen days after my flight. Next, I was on another number with a passport agent who after keeping me five hopeful minutes on hold said she could squeeze me in tomorrow at the lower Manhattan passport agency at 1 PM.
While I’m used to being squeezed in to most things in New York City, there’s no way I could be in Manhattan at 1 PM, wait for what I was sure would be hours to get a new passport, and make it to Kennedy airport by 3 PM for my flight. No law of physics or wormhole would allow that.
She gave me another number to call where I was to ask for the Duty officer. Apparently the Duty officer is The Wizard (as in of Oz) for passports. Telling my story for the fifth time, now nearly in tears, he was undutifully kind and said, “Tomorrow morning first thing just go into the passport office, they open at 7:30 AM. Here’s what you need to bring your expired passport, form DS 82 completed and signed, a passport photo, flight itinerary and death certificate.” He asked my name and when I told him, he said, “Don’t worry, Riva, they’ll help you.” For the first time in hours I stopped worrying and got into the necessary action to make this happen.
Immediately I emailed my husband who was sleeping peacefully in Holland so that when I awoke the next morning he would have already emailed me the death certificate with a translation. It needed to be in English!
Now at 7:30 PM I located the 6-page form DS 82 off the state.travel.gov web site and began printing and pulled the single passport photo out of my drawer where I had seen it just days before looking for euro to bring to Holland. My printer humming along spit out four pages of the form. I kid you not. Forty five minutes of turning it on and off, lifting it off the floor, cajoling and sweet talking it did not render the remaining two pages but a message window that said, “broken pipe.” Really? My printer was bust and documents still needed to be printed.
What was I going to do now? I left my apartment and knocked on my upstair neighbor’s door to see if he could print the legal form. He did and I skipped back to my apartment and began filling it out. Of course now I realized I also needed to print my flight itinerary and whatever documents Boudewijn would send overnight.
I called another neighbor, who I was pretty sure worked from home, and has two little boys, figuring she’d be up at 7 AM the next morning. And so I’d secured the printing of the remaining documents and my running into town among the commuters the next morning.
For all its obstacles, never did I allow myself to think I won’t make my flight tomorrow. Somehow I knew if I kept putting one foot in front of the other, I would find the way to get done what I needed to do and make it happen.
As I knew it would, the next morning there was a death certificate from Bou in Dutch and English and encouraging words. I picked up the printed documents from my neighbor and sprinted out of my building at 7:20 AM. Two subways later I was in passport office at 7:45. I got on the line for people with no appointments, got mine, and by 9 AM was at the counter in front of an agent.
He took my passport document DS 82, my credit card, and told me it usually takes 4 hours to process a new passport. “But my flight is this afternoon,” I squeaked. He said he would expedite the process and it should take 90 minutes, no more than two hours. “The pick up window doesn’t open for another hour so just be back at 10 AM.” I won’t complain about the fact that no one looked at the death certificate, I will tell you at 10:40 AM I had my new passport in hand and almost toyed with the idea of a congratulatory cappuccino at Starbucks before heading home. Not wanting to tempt fate with an unexpected subway breakdown, I headed home.
A few hours later sitting at JFK waiting to board my flight, I called my mother and told her the story. She laughed along with me and said, “You know this is a great lesson in remembering that whatever you really want to do, you can.” Exactly, mom, I thought.
There is an equally dramatic ending to this story. Two hours after I landed in Holland, they closed the airport and diverted flights to neighboring countries like Denmark and Belgium. Half the country had a power outage. I was ever so grateful to be spared that last hoop.
I learned many years ago while taking a series of personal development trainings that when your intention is clear there’s almost nothing you can’t do. Intention has a power all its own and a bit of tunnel vision in the most positive sense: you just see before you what it is you want to accomplish – and your energy, mindset and behaviors follow down that track.
It’s a great lesson to be reminded of no matter what’s up for you. Wanting to change how you eat, manage your blood sugar, interact with your kids, finally plant that garden or write the next post. With any luck you won’t need a valid passport to get where you’re going.