This is a slightly modified version of something I penned three years ago as I tried to make sense of things. Although, I was referring to the breakup of my 21 year marriage, it was a vivid example of how over time we have the power to change our lives. By the way, I do have the blessing of my ex-husband to publish this piece. Thankfully, our friendship continued even though our marriage could not. I hope you can take something positive away from my experience.
Many creative people say their best work emerges when they are in personal crisis. Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out if that has been historically true for me or if at least I could make my current situation work to my creative advantage. However, it appears that for me, I work better knowing things are relatively calm for the most part. True, most days in this life arenʼt by definition—calm, but calm enough to not dwell on something truly serious.
Being able to focus during chaos is typically something I can do. I can turn off the hurt or sadness or loneliness for periods of time to focus completely on the task at hand. I donʼt hold grudges. I can forgive relatively easy. I like people to get along. I want people to treat each other respectfully and nicely. I think all things can be resolved in communication if both parties can really listen to each other then agree to work things out—or even agree to disagree.
Always trying to be mindful of other peoples feelings for the most part is a good thing. Keeps the focus off of ourselves—who we tend to want to please all the time, anyway. There are lots of good reasons that come from this practice. However, sometimes it can result in our own disappointment.
Being a non-conflict type of person and being able to quickly forgive and move on has put me into an interesting predicament. Past behavior is often an indication of future behavior. Which I have seen to be true, time and time again. But, sometimes, things change. Something shifts in a person and they make a different decision or execute an action that is unexpected to everyone around them—and even to themselves!
It’s funny how those unexpected decisions or actions taken in a single moment can actually change someone. I always believed in the concept that making a small, seemingly insignificant shift in oneʼs way of thinking or perspective or behavior, creates a huge change down the road. If an airplane takes off and makes just a one degree shift in direction, over a long journey the aircraft will not make it to its original destination. Same as with life.
Now, this type of incremental shift can be good or bad. Positive or negative. Reap wonderful or traumatic results. Simply said, it can change lives. What appears to be a dramatic and hasty decision to those around us may actually have been the slowest shift we have ever made.
Returning to the airplane example. As passengers on an airplane, typically we trust that the pilot knows where he or she is flying and that they can read all the instruments on the aircraft properly so we can arrive at our desired location safe and on time. The pilot may give some updates during the flight, “to the south side of us is one of the largest lakes in the country,” and we feel reassured that we are indeed on course.
But, at some point, the pilot may make a miscalculation or bad weather might make him decide that he wants to take a slightly different or perhaps a safer route. Alas, unless he gets back on the original route, he will not get his unsuspecting passengers to their expected destination.
I have felt like the pilot. Flying the same route for years—many years. Able to handle the turbulence and my passengers with professionalism and grace. People liked to fly on my aircraft. They felt safe and well taken care of. There was something about feeling comfortable on my airplane and people took off their shoes, put their seats back, and took a nap.
I planned the routes we would fly depending on when, where, and how I could ensure my passengers arrived at their desired locations with the least amount of turbulence. During the few emergencies that arose on my flights, I handled them with relative ease. People became used to that and trusted me as their pilot.
Then, something drastic changed on my nice, smooth flights. Major life stuff. Things that were unpredictable and out of my control. Not just one great loss, but several—very close together. I immediately fell into my typical reaction to trouble on the plane and went into fix it mode. But, this time it was different. Too many factors changed all at once and the stabilizers on the aircraft started to malfunction. I tried to pull everything together and kept focused on the task at hand, but the passengers didn’t know what to do and experienced their own reasons to panic or be scared or feel uncomfortable. They started to wonder about their pilot that they had grown so accustomed to and I seemed to be unable to live up to their expectations that I had always managed to do previously.
This pilot had begun to shift course. Not intentionally at first, but indeed a shift was occurring. Some may argue the shift was a good thing. However, some of the passengers were worried, but remained agreeable to trust that I still might know what I was doing—as I always had in the past.
Everyone desires, craves, needs specific food from time to time. Even though that food was requested from the galley, it became just too difficult to fulfill by the galley staff. And as the pilot, I became too hungry, feeling starved at times, which caused deep hurt and resentment to take hold. Even though the plane might have been temporarily stabilized, some of the navigational equipment had been damaged in the storm.
What does a good pilot do in an emergency situation like this? Just like I did, kept flying by doing whatever I could to keep that plane up. Spending all my time and energy to keep us in the air, moving forward. Even communicating to the passengers from time to time, but perhaps not enough to communicate the gravity of the situation which was we were flying on just one lowly engine.
So, there we had it. A damaged aircraft, a wounded pilot, and a slight directional shift underway. Not noticeable at first to the passengers nor the crew, but, the scenery was beginning to change outside the windows. As we flew on, things began to get fixed on that broken aircraft. Fixed by the pilot who was now regaining her abilities to fly.
Then, it happened. I landed in a different destination than originally planned. And, I had completely distanced myself from the food I had originally requested. I didn’t desire nor need it any longer. I knew that the future route I was going to fly was new.
And it is.
Apologies are difficult but offered to those past passengers who have flown with me for the long duration of the flight. Those who believe I am just the same person who underwent some difficult times. And, to some degree that is true. But, it is more than that. Years ago was when that shift began to occur. I am at a different place in my life and although some of the passengers will remain the same, some of them will not. They are on their own journeys and must make shifts of their own. Hopefully their shifts will be positive, good, and wonderful.
However, we all know even the best changes still embody a sting. This is because with every change, there is a loss. Mourning and recognizing this loss is important. Feeling sad is okay for a bit. But, not forever. Life is just too short to live from our past.
I am grateful for all that has happened to me. Good and bad. Although, I wouldn’t have asked for all these things to happen, life just never, ever is guaranteed to be easy. I must be thankful for my revised route. A different journey. I can only hope that I will have learned from my experiences as the pilot and not have wasted them. I hope the same for those I have loved and who have loved me.
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