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Several years ago- back in the summer of 2010, our family went on vacation to my husbands hometown of Eugene Oregon. As we passed an open airfield they were celebrating something by offering bi-plane airplane rides. There were bright yellow, red, green and blue bi-planes as far as the eye could see. Many up in the air. It was mesmerizing to watch- our faces all pressed out the window as we ooooed and awed the sight before us
Bought tickets for all who wanted to fly, and took a ride in a magnificent bi-plane.
You know, the Charlie Brown and Snoopy kind. Double wings, open air cockpit and back seat. Loud engine noises, the works.
As I climbed into the seat I had the immediate realization “Whoa- this is NOT a commercial aircraft.” No jetway (I climbed a few wooden planks). No secured door (just a ritchety old half door that partially swung outward). No sealed windows (open air baby!). And no stewardess/flight attendant to greet me (just a grandfatherly looking old man who turned out to be the pilot!) This was air flying in its rawest form.
It was exhilarating!
I was laughing with glee as we climbed up, the engine roaring, the wind whipping my hair all over, my eyes watering from the sheer force of it all.
It was spectacular, looking over the side, down at the fair below, how small everything below us seemed. Then looking up into the bright blue sky, feeling every turn the plane made, riding it like a wave on an ocean. Our pilot was probably 85 years old. He maneuvered through the air like a seasoned war pilot (and I’m sure he was). His smile matched mine. We were equals in our love of flight.
After only 20 minutes, we landed. I was instantly filled with enthusiasm as I announced to my entire family “I’m going to get my private pilots license”.
“Yeah sure mom, whatever”. Mumbled most of them.
No- Seriously- you just watch me! I LOVE this- I’m going to fly a plane!
I spent 30 minutes talking to my new pilot friend, asking him all the questions I could think of in regards to my newfound love. He obliged until his next riders showed up.
He said there were aviation schools at the colleges typically (WHAT?!?!- I had NO idea!) and that typically the smaller airports had classes and pilots that taught as well.
I was hooked. My desire to become a pilot was REAL.
We continued our vacation. Arrived home. I called the college. They sent me to the local school about 20 miles away. They were in an open enrollment period and so my son (the only other one who shared my enthusiasm and being 19 was looking for his “next thing”) and I got to take a practice flight in a little Cessna with our own individual pilots and get 60 minutes of flight training- for $50.
It was the best $50 I had spent in a long time! My desire to fly hadn’t left between vacation and first flight- it only intensified.
I knew I was doing what I was meant to be doing. I knew I would be a pilot.
I also run a nonprofit. I travel internationally extensively. I had 5 children and lots of responsibilities outside of pursuing this desire. Every private lesson I attended left me feeling like I was going two steps forward....and 4-5 back.
My pilot trainer took me up one afternoon when I had returned from 3 weeks in India. We took off ok, got up to open air space and she listed about 15 instructions to me, most of which I knew. I began to go through the drill. Completing each step. Until she put the ‘foggers’ on me. (Goggles that are distorted and foggy and inhibit your visual ability.)
Trust me- Snoopy was NEVER wearing these on his flights!
All of a sudden I couldn’t remember ANY of the instructions she had given me. I turned to look at her, my hands on the control. I felt the plane start to tip. I realized she was a fuzzy blurb. Even the instruments were hard to read. I muttered “I don’t think I can do this- I can’t even remember step one of what you said”.
She replied, “stay calm and remember what you HAVE learned and focus on how things feel. Don’t rely on what you can’t see- rely on what you feel.”
I took some deep breaths, my mind racing. I couldn’t see out the windows at all- what if there was a bird? Or worse yet, another plane? Again she remained calm and reassuring that she would take the controls if anything bad were to come our way.
But without my sight- I felt paralyzed. My desire waned. Quickly.
She walked me through the steps. I completed the exercise. She had me land the plane (without the foggles thank heavens!) and as I climbed out, still a bit shaken by the whole experience, I conceded that I would NOT become a pilot.
I gave up.
My desire to fly was REAL, but the task became too difficult, threatening and complex. I couldn’t see the end result. I gave up.
There is a difference between giving up, and giving up ON. Have we given up ON anything lately?
How REAL is our desire for what we truly want?
Have we been blinded by ‘foggles’, unable to see ahead?
Did we forget to listen to our ‘pilot’ (inner core, conscious, mentors, higher power) when things became challenging? I know many times in my life- I have.
My desire to fly is sill real, I am 20 hours in on my private pilots. It may be that now is not the time for me to pursue it until I can put full focus on it for a good 6-8 week chunk. I’m still friends with many others who completed the program and they all encourage me to get back in it- and maybe someday I will- for I truly do love the idea of flying above the ground- up in the sky away from anything and everything. I LOVE seeing all that is around me- visually taking in the breathtaking beauty that God has created.
But my loathing for foggles is also real. They leave me disconcerted, disconnected and confused. And that’s their job. When we’re in the middle of our own foggles do we turn instead toward core principles we know will alleviate the symptoms they create? Do we continue with our best practices or do we throw in the towel?
We need to be mindful of the foggles, know they are there and have confidence in the processes we know will take us out of ‘fog land’ and back into high performance. We need to trust in our abilities during times of struggle IN SPITE of being ‘visually impaired’. The visual impairment will only last a short moment, but our choices we make WHILE impaired will last much longer. Albus Dumbledore says it best, “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are; it is our choices.
Our choices during struggle matter.
We need to make sure our desire is REAL. We need to make sure that the changes we want to make in our life are worth making, worth sticking to and worth fighting for…even on the toggle days!