Thursday, March 22, 2012

Above the clouds

In my lifetime, I’ve been reprimanded about 143,000 times for having my head stuck in the clouds  (let’s not discuss how many times I’ve been yelled at for having my head stuck up my ass).  It’s not completely unfounded- I do have a tendency to live in my head.   The beautiful thing about air travel is that for the duration of the flight, I am beyond reproach—at 37,000 feet, my head is literally in the clouds. 

Three coach tickets to Grand Cayman:  $2200
The ability to say:  So what if my head’s in the clouds? Yours is, too.  PRICELESS.

Another wonderful thing about travel is that it quenches some of my restlessness.   I am innately restless.  I am innately complicated.  I am off-the-charts intense.  These factors are either going to be the biggest contributors to my having a life less ordinary, or they’re going to give me a frigging ulcer. 

It’s a toss up.  Place your bets.

It would be one thing if my being…well, me….was a choice or a switch that I could periodically toggle between on and off- but, alas, it’s not.  That insatiable sense within me---to dig deeper, to reach higher, to maximize every minute, to experience more, to experience different---for better or worse, that is me.  I can’t turn off that itch any more than I can turn off being a girl, or being right handed or having the ugliest feet the world has ever seen.

I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m smart enough to know that this restlessness is the single most polarizing thing about me.  Others who are also (at least in part) restless generally appreciate the madness and understand what it’s like to be dissident.   The other 75% of the human population---you know, the normal people—wonder what the f is wrong with you that you just can’t sit still, be happy, follow the script.

Before I delve any further—please note that the restlessness has nothing at all to do with money and even less to do with the acquisition of material things.    Sure, I appreciate nice things (who doesn’t?) and have more than my fair share (I’m lucky!), but the things are not, and have never been, the point.   She who dies with the most toys is still dead.   It’s about the acquisition of experiences, some grand and some simple, and moments and people to meaningfully share in them.  It’s about cramming as much accomplishment, extraordinary, and uncommon into the undetermined amount of life I get.    I could die tomorrow- and I’d hate to think that I wasted an inordinate amount of that time observing life instead of participating in it. 

Imagine that.  I digress again.   I just may be one of the most circuitous storytellers of all time.  I love travel.  I love the thrill of experiencing new places.   I love adventuring.  I love having my head in the clouds.  I am a horrendous flier.   I am a white-knuckled mess at every little bump.  My 3 year old is better flier than I am.

I may come across as a pretty timid person, but the fact of the matter is that I’m generally pretty brave.  One of the few things that can reduce me to a worthless pile of mush is a flight attendant’s voice announcing “The pilot is turning on the fasten seatbelt sign.”  

Damn you, turbulence.  I am so not a fan.  Not in the air.  Not in life. 

I’ve received plenty of (great) guidance over the years to overcome my fear of flying.  I’ve gotten stupid drunk. I’ve pretended that turbulence is just a speed bump.  I’ve switched to the window seat so that I can see sources of turbulence before they hit.  I’ve tried to retrain my brain to ignore the bumps and just continue reading my book/listening to my music/starting off into space.  I guess I’ve made some small progress.  If there’s anything positive to say about being a 36 year old chicken, it’s that I’ve never once even considered allowing my fear to stop me from flying.

Little M loves to fly- absolutely loves it.  The poor kid has been some flights that are best categorized as hellacious (and I’m not being overdramatic- the flight attendant said that one particular flight was the worst she had been on in a decade) and she still loves it. I’m kind of disgusted with myself for allowing her to see me freak out on bad flights- the last thing my daughter needs to see is a scaredy-cat parent.

But then, I remember. 

I remember that life is bumpy and life is turbulent and life can scare the crap out of you and that your safe landing isn't always under your own direct control.  It would be so great if life were smooth sailing, but it just isn’t.  I remember that the only way to get to a destination that’s beautiful and worthwhile is buckling your seatbelt, squeezing the hell out of the armrests,  cursing under your breath, plastering a fake smile on your face, and riding out the turbulence.  Staying home and cowering down is just not an option.  To get anywhere worthwhile, you need to ignore your fear, take the risk, and to get on the damned plane.

This might not be the worst lesson I’ve ever shown my daughter.

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