I like to fly.
Somehow, through the distance of the years and the dissonance of picking up the pieces of a broken life, I forgot.
Fear brought me to flying. Curiously, it turned out that flying was one of the few pursuits perfectly suited to my limited skill set.
A discovery that was a long time coming.
Flying wasn’t something I considered then discarded as not possible for someone like me. No, I’m the possibilities girl—I never see limitations until they jerk me up short… which, in an airplane could be rather dramatic.
Quite simply, flying never hit my radar of possibilities. At least not, until, after a long stint as a single parent, I married a former Navy pilot. I spent the first summer of our marriage in the front seat of an open-cockpit bi-plane breathing exhaust and being scared and exhilarated at the same time. But, in a brief moment of clarity, as we floated up and down the east coast, it dawned on me somewhere over New Jersey that, if my husband had a major medical emergency, odds were I would, too—since I hadn’t a clue how anything in the airplane worked.
To show you just how much I didn’t know, I had no idea the numbers on the runway corresponded with its orientation in degrees. For instance, Runway 18 was oriented on a heading of 180 degrees, due south. Of course, I wasn’t even that sure that a compass had 360 degrees—I’d joined the Girl Scouts but had been found wanting. Actually, I was cool with that; I wanted to be a Boy Scout…. I’m sure you can guess how that turned out.
Anyway, back to the flying thing, landing or talking to someone would’ve been out of the question.
My ass would’ve been a grape.
And I had a twelve-year-old son who needed a few more years of boundary setting, even though, had you asked him, he would’ve disagreed.
So, as fall blew in, and my husband rejected the first flight instructor (a really cute young guy with black hair and baby blues…not that I was paying any attention or anything), I settled into a Piper Warrior with Pat, one of the two female instructors. We are still friends—there’s something about cheating death on a daily basis that bonds pilots.
That first day, learning to steer with my feet, listening to the gibberish coming over the radio, and being amazed at this whole world I never knew existed, and I was hooked.
So, I did what every anal-retentive Type A would do: I flew and I flew and I flew… until I became a flight instructor.
I took my son to see this incredible country in a Cessna 182, flying coast-to-coast and back again….yes, just us two. Memories of a lifetime. I chased a Trident submarine in the Hood Canal in a seaplane….then landed on Lake Union in Seattle narrowly dodging the Polynesian Rowing Club.
I learned to fly in the clouds on instruments alone. Talk about total terror.
But I did it. And I learned a lot about myself in the process.
You know what? I am braver than I ever thought. And if I can land a small plane taking on a load of ice in a snowstorm in Kansas…and not pee my pants, well the sky’s the limit.
Flying became sort of a metaphor for life:
If you’re not doing something on a daily basis that scares the bejesus out of you, if you’re not pushing the envelope, challenging yourself to grow and be brave, then you aren’t soaring… heck, you aren’t living.
And then, somehow, I lost it.
My marriage went the way of the Do-do… no pun intended… and that grounded me.
Somehow, the courage to pull-up the big-girl panties and get on with it, took all the gumption I had left.
So, I’ve been on the ground, hacking my way through the jungle, putting me back together again.
And then it happened.
By a wonderful, fabulous quirk of fate, I ended up back in a plane again…one very much like the very first plane I ever flew.
And I remembered.
Full-circle. Humpty can be put back together again.
Broken hearts mend to love again.
I’m flying. And I’m soaring.