Mandy Boyle

NEPA-er with Moxie. Writer. Sometimes Actor. Nerdy Girl.

Category: It’s Personal (Page 1 of 43)

Creative Non-Fiction | Flying

My husband, Brent, loves aviation. He sees a plane and remarks on how pretty she is or how it looks like it would be fun to take a ride in. He’s maniacal about checking weather reports. He speaks in airport names and 24-hour time. Growing up with a pilot in the house does that to you.

My relationship with flying is less exciting. While Brent and I share a wanderlust from time to time, I don’t see the beauty of a graceful craft silhouette or appreciate the roar of an engine. Aviation and I are acquaintances that see each other from time to time, but never really keep in touch.

When I board a plane, I’m equal parts joy, anxiety, and nausea.

Airplane photo by Freddy Castro

Photo by Freddy Castro

We take for granted our ability to navigate vast swaths of land by flying. The long, across-state-lines drives you took as a child are reduced to movie running-times, measured in a few hours and minutes. It’s awe-inspiring when you take a moment to think about it.

Louis C.K. has a routine where describes how people behave on airplanes. The miracle of humans mimicking birds. Really entitled birds. Who get mad about not having working Wi-Fi on a flight, never remembering where they are in the midst of their meltdowns.

“You’re flying! It’s amazing! Everybody on every plane should be constantly going ‘oh my God, wow!’ You’re sitting in a chair in the sky.”

I wish I could appreciate it at that level. Or altitude, rather. Sometimes, I do.

The first time I ever flew on a plane by myself, I was so proud. I felt very adult – even though I was already 19. Professional.  I imagined myself reading a magazine, looking all kinds of put-together as I swiveled my green (and borrowed) suitcase through an airport. I would sip tea and make conversation with some exotic and exciting stranger I would meet in the adjacent aisle. I was TRAVELING.  I was away from home.

Reality was different. I sat next to a man in a Steelers coat and threw up as we began our descent into Detroit. I had just finished a chapter in a book I was reading. One of the characters tossed his cookies after a helicopter ride. Fitting. My seatmate moved back a row for the rest of the trip.

Today, when I fly, there’s a tiny voice on my head that congratulates myself every time I make it from one destination to another. Most importantly, when I do it without pulling a Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

“YOU DID IT, BUDDY! YOU DIDN’T PUKE! WELL DONE, YOU!”

I spend my flights breathing deeply and eyes closed. I’ve gotten smarter. I arm myself with the right tools to soothe my pitching stomach: Dramamine, ginger ale, pretzels, and a set of headphones.

In between playlists, I tune in to the conversations happening around me. It’s thrilling playing tourist in someone else’s dialogue. I overhear where she’s going, what he does for a living, or the boss’s opinion on the new HR rules. Occasionally, I’ll get a seatmate who talks to me.

Airplane Photo by Suhyeon Choi

Photo by Suhyeon Choi

In November, I flew for a business trip and sat next to a delightful grandmother named Darlene on my return. She grinned as I took my seat, offering me a Lifesaver candy from her purse. She chuckled as we watched a seatmate across the aisle struggle with an overhead bin. We exchanged light smiles and glances. She broke the comfortable silence first.

“Are you from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre?”

Her voice was soft and even. In my head I prayed for the trip to be of the same tenor. I sipped on the bubbles in my ginger ale and thought about anything but my nausea. Darlene’s interruption was a welcome distraction.

Like a symphony, I watched this kind-eyed woman in a gray fleece conduct her hands as she animatedly referenced her lasagna recipe, sparked into our talk from the magazine I had open. Only the staccato of a cleared sinus or two from the bald man in the row in front of me broke up her stream of consciousness.

She works from home in IT. 27 years she’s been at her job. On her way home from a business trip, too. Eager to get home but not excited about the hour she’d have to drive once she landed.

We talked about marriage and family, living in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and holiday recipes.

I was reminded of how good it feels to come home. The jetsetter my 19-year-old self I thought I would be shook her head. For someone who thirsted at that time for newness and the unfamiliar, I now felt comforted knowing that I was making my return.

This flight to AVP was filled with the best kinds of NEPA people. They smile and laugh. They ask about your family. They’re open. Between their naps they talk easily, their faces illuminated by the soft glow of a James Patterson novel they downloaded. A recommendation from a friend, perhaps – and one they’ll share with their newly friended seatmate.

When circumstances align perfectly with the right combination, these are the kind of people who will trade stories over seatbelts and airline snack mix, making any traveler feel more at ease – no matter how bad her motion sickness might be at that moment.

In their best of times, they’ll make you forget your discomfort – and remember why you love a place so much.  

“Be careful out there,” Darlene cooed as we said our goodbyes at the gate.

Beyond the TSA gate, a set of beaming parents held up a sign, “Welcome Home Eimy”. I watched them embrace their daughter as she returned home for the Thanksgiving holiday.

I sat on a bench in the lobby and called my husband. “Hey, you made it,” he said. I sighed relief and breathed in comfort, even though the bench was hardly a soft cushion.

“Yep, it feels good to back. Flight home was smooth. My seatmate was nice,” I replied. “So, what should we do for dinner?”

I wasn’t in my driveway watching my cat peer at me through the bay window as I unloaded my bags. I wasn’t in my living room with shoes off or tucked beneath my husband’s chin as he wrapped me in a hug. Not yet. But soon.

Soon, I’d be home and back on the ground again.

4 Podcasts I’m Listening To Right Now

Podcasting by William Iven

I’ll admit, I’m a little late to the podcast party.

Sure, I’ve listened to them before and on occasion, I’ve followed a show or two. But as I’m working, writing, or getting ready in the morning, I find myself wanting to listen to something other than news. Let’s face it – the news right now is anxiety-inducing enough.

I still read and listen to the news, but now I temper my listening with more music and podcasts. I find it keeps me a bit more balanced and focused. Plus, it gives me ideas.

Lately, I’ve felt a bit “stuck” creatively and I’ve been looking for things to loosen my brain up so that it can think through challenges effectively. So far, it’s working – the gears are – slowly – starting to turn again.

As for what I’m listening to right now, let’s take a peek :)

The Minimalists

I’ve read blog posts from The Minimalists and I admire their message. They’re absolutely right: we need to do more with less and focus our energies on what really serves us (hint: it’s not stuff). Earlier this week, I started listening to The Minimalists podcast after a recommendation from my friend Sam (who has a super cool dinosaur blog of his own).  I like how they keep things light in their discussion of some really big issues. And the Q&A they do is also pretty great. If you’re looking for insightful discussion on minimalism and simplifying your life, this is a great one to tune into.

Adulthood Made Easy

I first found this podcast while scrolling through Spotify of all things. As a Real Simple reader who appreciates their rounded approach to content, I was excited to see that their podcast mirrored that same style.

Dealing with difficult people, relationships, happiness, smarter consumption, learning new things, and practical living tips are just a few of the topics tackled. I loved the soup episode as much as I loved the one about wanderlust.

Suddenly, getting your house in order seems a lot more attainable.

Fresh Air

Public radio is awesome. I don’t care if it makes people think I’m 80 years old, but I freaking love it. I listen to NPR in the car all the time and I love the programming they put together.

One of those items I get to tune in to on my ride home on occasion is Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Her interviews with celebrities, politicians, changemakers, and innovators are always interesting. I’ve laughed, cried, gotten angry – you FEEL when you listen to these interviews.

Now, I don’t have to wait until my commute to tune in – I can catch it on Stitcher.

TecBridge Radio

Disclaimer: I’m an active supporter of TecBridge and a member of their marketing committee. When TecBridge Radio launched its first episode, I knew it was the start of something big. In only a few short weeks, this podcast and radio show has grown into an insightful discussion on matters that concern making our region a better place.

Economic growth, education, business, and entrepreneurship get tackled in a dynamic Q&A session. The big idea? Why not us, why not here, and why not now. Good stuff happens in NEPA <3

What are you listening to right now?

La La Land

Today was a day that felt like a good day for a movie, so I did just that.

I headed to the Cinemark with my leftover raincheck pass in hand for one ticket to the 1:15 p.m. showing of “La La Land”. Having seen the previews and heard how beautiful it was, I imagined that I’d spend the whole time enchanted – just like when I saw “The Artist”.

The line was long for the concessions but I waited anyway. One hot dog with mustard and a kids pack of popcorn, a small drink, and Welch’s fruit snacks. It’s a good value and the perfect amount for me.

Eager to be dazzled by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, I rushed to find a single seat at the back of the auditorium, squeezed between a woman with a persistent throat tickle and a man’s North Face jacket.  Even so, I love going to the movies.

The previews were the mix of sap and action you’d expect, but then, it happened.

La La Land. A seriously gorgeous production where every shot is rich in color and tone. Emma’s eyes glittered. Ryan’s smirk charmed. The tap dancing made me smile. The singing was soft and lovely. The ending made me cry.

It was the stuff of dreams, which is really what the movie is all about. We make promises to ourselves. We hold ourselves to the highest of standards and face summits all the time. Sometimes we make it, sometimes we don’t – but the point is that we tried and that we stayed true to what we really wanted. And those people along the journey? They make it all worthwhile.

Go see La La Land.

A New Year

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It took me a moment this morning to remember it was 2017.

I woke up, tired from the festivities the night before, and looked at the ceiling.

The cat’s paws clicked across the floor.

My husband, in full burrito blanket mode, was still sleeping.

It was quiet.

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A new year is welcomed with noisemakers and spoons banging on pans, but the next day is more peaceful. This morning was that way.

I opened my phone and scrolled through Twitter.  I read resolutions and news articles. Then I switched to Instagram to graze through brunch photos and inspirational quote graphics. It was nice, in a way, to be reminded of the newness of the day. Heck, of the year.

Although you can start something new or make a change at any time, New Years feels good. That sense of possibility.

I thought about the file I have saved on my Google Drive. A list of things I want to accomplish in the next year (among other time frames).

It feels good to have a plan and a sense of direction for the months ahead – even if it’s just a Google doc.

 

 

Taking it Home With You

As an actor, I repeatedly put myself into situations where sometimes I bring work home. And by that, I mean I can get the emotional hangovers of whatever I’m doing and that gets shared with the Mister, the cat, and whoever else may come into my path.

crying emotional anchorman will ferrell ron burgandy

If you’ve ever done theater that was draining or intense, you may be able to relate. Perhaps you had an emotional connection to the work or to the other actors. Maybe your character shares something profound in your history. That day could have just done a number on your energy. Whatever it is, you came home after rehearsal or a performance and just couldn’t unplug. You might have slipped into a warm bath of numbness or let your stage emotions ripple outward into your life, breaking the fourth wall and wreaking havoc on your homeostasis.

angry new girl frustrated disappointed schmidt

It’s tough, but it happens to a lot of us. Especially the lot of us who are sensitive to begin with!

I was thinking the other day of what it was like to be in Angels in America. The experience was so, so special to me for many reasons, but the character of Harper Pitt was a beautiful opportunity.

Admittedly, I had days when I came home and just had to cry for Harper. She made me feel powerful and powerless at the same time. She was electric and manic and childish and playful and sad and bitter and so many other things. After playing her, I found myself taking all of that home.

Challenging as it was, I’m hungry for more roles like that one – where I can stretch and push and play. But in the meantime, it has me thinking about how sometimes it can be really easy to bring the baggage you’d rather leave behind into other parts of your life.

As for how I try to keep things separate and unplug, it’s not an exact science. I’m not an expert and am still a huge work in progress. But here are a few things that help me when I’m put into a situation where I’m bringing stuff home (and it’s not just theater stuff – this works for work stuff or other life stuff).

The Commute Talk Down. Commuting time can be stressful, but it can also be one of the kindest moments you have with yourself. I have long and sometimes passionate discussions with myself in the car. I’ve done this ever since I could drive.

talking

The car is my sounding board, my time to process out loud, my time to get out whatever dregs of crazy I have left in my body before I have to get my shit together. I’ve had fights out loud with imaginary people to get out my anger. Stoplight sniffling. Stream of consciousness while on cruise control. Random bouts of singing intermingled with dissertations on whatever I might be thinking at that moment. It’s nice.

The Self-Care Reminders. I set reminders on my phone and used post-it notes during Angels in America to do little things to take care of myself. Between my bouts of hunching over my Taco Bell like an animal during rehearsal, I pinged myself to stretch, drink water, or to look at a cat pic. I played Solitaire as a way to unplug my brain during breaks.

Mia Page animation cat sleep creature

When I was home, I paid a bit more attention to what I was doing to take care of myself. I watched videos of Fred Astaire dancing and gave my cat extra belly rubs (petting cats lowers your blood pressure, FYI).

The Support Group.  Just open the hell up and communicate with the people around you about how you’re feeling. Do it. Don’t talk yourself out of it. If you’re mad, be mad. If you’re sad, be sad. Let the people who love you take care of you and listen. They want to.

EditingAndLayout hug the office hugs michael scott

I’m lucky in that I have such a powerful support group around me. I could openly talk about my feelings and what I was experiencing in a totally open place. I asked for hugs when I needed them.

The Amenities. Like Tom on Parks & Rec, I’m a sucker for amenities. Little indulgences like aromatherapy face spray (came in my POPSUGAR box!), good chocolate, water with mint and lemon and cucumber, a shower beer, or one of those sheet face mask can sometimes cure all that ails you. Or at least can keep you sane for that moment.

Mashable parks and recreation parks and rec aziz ansari camping

Find little ways to reward yourself for making it through or for reminding yourself that you’re an amazing tropical starfish deserving of comfort and happiness.

The Calm App. Also check out Calm.com. I swear by this thing. Guided meditations prove to be super helpful when I can’t sleep or when I feel like my mind won’t quiet. I use them also to center myself when I feel like I can’t get my equilibrium back.

zutto loop lettering calm keep calm

If you’re not a fan of the app or want to try something else, you’ll also find plenty of guided meditations and visualizations on YouTube. Even just some deep breathing and a little quiet can go a long way.

Anyways, just be good to yourself when you’re working on something that stresses you out or challenges you emotionally. It’s good to stretch those feelings muscles.

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