Above it all?

12 06 2011

I’ve figured that by the time I land in Seattle tomorrow afternoon I will have traveled 9,480 miles via six airports in a four-week span–and that’s just with measuring as the crow flies. It probably wouldn’t be stretching things too much to double that number to account for silly layovers and the like. I won’t be  shattering any world records, perhaps, but for a homebody like me it has been exhausting. I am dying to sleep in the same bed more than a couple nights in a row (I just wish it could be my heaven mattress).

I knew I would be saving the best trip for last; what could be more worthy of a cross-county trek than standing next to the man who has been one of my very closest friends since the age of five as he vows to cherish and serve a beautiful, kind woman ’til death do they part?

contrary to what this photo would have you believe, Nathan and Sarah are not the subjects of this essay. I am. My blog = all about me!

I knew this weekend was going to be of the utmost importance for him. What I didn’t realize was how revelatory it would be for me, too.

With as many airplanes as I’ve been on in the past few weeks, it’s really quite astounding that Wednesday was my first time with a window seat. Staring out the teensy porthole tracing the contours of the Cascades resurrected my boyhood fascination with all things flight. Did you know I spent years of my childhood dreaming of becoming a fighter pilot for the United States Air Force? I would still say the best birthday present I ever received came in my thirteenth year of life, when my parents gifted me with an hour in the copilot’s chair of a tiny Cessna. I was beside myself with joy just sitting in the bucket seat feeling the plane rattle and shake around me, but shortly after we reached cruising altitude my friend Pat the Pilot handed me the controls and free reign to take us wherever my young heart desired. I nearly asploded with delight. After a few tentative wiggles to get a feel for the plane, I decided it was time to see what my new baby could do. I flipped us up on one wing til we were nigh perpendicular to the ground and the horizon was not horizontal but, in disorienting fact, vertical. I screamed for joy.

And terror.

I expected at any moment to hear alarms blaring, engine coughing, Pat shouting in fright and anger. I could see him having to wrest control from me, make an emergency landing, and forever ban me from flight. Somehow the Air Force would receive a report on the incident, and I could kiss my dream of acceptance to the Academy goodbye. Even at that early age I knew in my very bones that if I wanted something as badly as I wanted to fly that plane high above the earth, untouchable, free, some power was bound to foul it up. The interference could come from anywhere–demon, angel, blind fate, it doesn’t matter; in my earliest cosmologies all were determined to crush my dreams according to their own unfathomable logic. Everything I hoped, dreamed, desired, and pursued would inevitably turn to poison. There would come a moment of deepest anguish when all I thought good was revealed as evil.

This sense of cosmic balance wherein the scales are always tipped against me has taken up residence deep within my psyche. It has feelers reaching into every aspect of my life and is at its greatest when my life is at its most superb. Perversely, the knowledge that things will go wrong often leads me into courses of action that make them go wrong. It is not surprising at all to look back on my life and realize the first time I doubted my destiny as a fighter pilot (“my eyes are too bad! I can never fly if I’m this blind!”) was immediately after my first flight-the closest I ever came to shooting those bad guys out of the sky, the moment desire pulsed most fiercely through my veins. Likewise, the first time I ever struggled in school was in my graduating semester of college, as I moved one step closer to my new dream of offering to others the healing presence I so very much desired for myself (not that I ever thought of it in those terms). I failed multiple classes and had to stay an extra year in hated Abilene simply because I couldn’t bring myself to turn in my work. The moment my ex and I felt ourselves deeply enough in love to lay out plans for marriage was the exact point I started to withdraw and sabotage the relationship. And again in Seattle, my Mecca, my dreamworld, I’m taking first semester over this fall because I panicked in the glare of glory.

All this self-sabotage has, of course, wreaked havoc with my self-confidence. If you asked me in a moment of vulnerability and honesty I would tell you I am a coward. In the privacy of my own head I’ve called myself much worse. Ironic then, isn’t it, that one of the earliest and most commonly used words my new community has written upon my soul is “brave.” I still don’t always believe them, but when I do Oh! what a breath of fresh air it is! And the most beautiful blessing of all? The louder my friends are in naming me as I am in their eyes, the easier it is to shrug off the lies of this monkey on my back.

Not that it’s ever easy.

Love & Snugglies




2 responses

16 08 2011
Subbing for Eden

[…] This night, amidst packing for my trillionth flight this summer, give or take a trillion minus eight, feels like a good time to share another airplane story. […]

12 09 2011
Mollie Spaulding

I never would have guessed we have so much in common. I am excited for your journey, but sorry you have to make it. I look forward to more of your revelations as the semester progresses.

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