I remember in art school, meticulously making thumbnail sketches of my imagined masterpiece, yearning to start creating with fervor and spirit, to get my feet wet and my hands working, feeling encumbered by the confines of “a plan.” After all, on almost all occasions, the metamorphosis of my creation often took on a new life from the thumbnail sketch; it was often a joint effort of the elusive and mysterious creative self and the conscious mind. At times, the project would lull, fade, frustrate me or trip me up; it would tease me and question my dedication to its eventual completion. It was always a delicate balance to remain true to the original blueprint, yet be flexible enough to give the creative spirit of “the flow” enough elbow room to satisfy the project’s full potential. I even had half a mind to scrap the entire project at times, feeling that I had wandered too far off-course, finding little faith in a cohesive aesthetic finale.
I also remember in flight school, taking hours upon hours with a pencil, highlighter and E-6B (a crude yet clever type of calculating/torture device), calculating projected fuel, arrival times, checkpoints, altitudes and wind corrections based on forecasts that were never correct. This was pre-Garmin. Think the times of Rolodex and drive-in movies and pay phones. At times, I became frustrated at the dichotomy of the meticulousness at which I attacked the flight plan and the actuality of the flight: never leaving quite on time, winds and temperatures never to forecast, and not quite holding projected true airspeed, heading or altitude. It was like Nature was making red pen marks all over my homework assignment. But, alas, in the face of knowing that my plan was not going to be the be-all and end-all of my real-life flight, I carried it out to the end with scrutiny and was thankful to have it as a guide. It was always important to remember to remain flexible in light of changing weather or unforeseen circumstances and always plan alternate routes and airports. Sticking to a plan while remaining unaware, or worse, in denial of, changing circumstances is a dangerous game to play - in aviation and in life.
In both instances, after the project or flight was finished, there was a yearning for further continuation of the process and a sense of fulfillment in the final project. The sense of pride that came with the completion of the flight, or the final piece of jewelry or painting was nothing compared to looking back at the process and how faith and eager persistence created a unique experience full of unforeseen twists and turns, begging me to stay in the moment and create or react and remain vigilant.
I threw my head back in solitary laughter one evening when I realized how similar these two experiences have been to my life and the self-proclaimed “mess” that I claimed it to have become. Anyone walking up on a half-finished work of art may consider it junk without the vision of the creator. Any pilot knows that you cannot just give up mid-flight; you must stay the course or return home. And in the end, the magnitude of one's ability to manage personal resources and faith and dedication to the project will result in completion. Period. Perhaps, what I have failed to realize is that the masterpiece of my life is far from finished and the project in process often represents chaos to the untrained and unfaithful spirit… perhaps I need to recognize that there is a symbiosis, a creative spirit that is working alongside my consciousness that has a deeper insight into the finished product while I only have access to a thumbnail sketch.
It is not always easy to have faith in the process... in the God that disrupts our plans or makes our lives take unexpected twists and turns, causes us pain or grief, or makes us want to throw in the towel and go three sheets to the wind. But without the process and the "magic" of the outcome, we would have no need to believe in God or the subconscious or creativity... or anything bigger than ourselves. It is the crude messes that we sometimes find ourselves in that becomes the clay shaping the sculpture of our future -- only we lack the foresight and the insight to see the Master Plan and the way we are connected into it. Indeed, there is a process beyond our reckoning which is the source of our revel, our faith, our creativity and our passion. An inability to be patient and allow the process to unfold is often our folly, often trying to force a ship in a direction regardless of the seas, bucking us into a direction incomprehensible from our limited point of view as we waste blood sweat and tears-- fighting the Majestic Seas! Fretting when we are low and between the waves and exalting when we are on top of a wave that is cycling down. We spend so much time pushing wet noodles with our emotional ebbs and tides. Why? Often, it is because we have lost the passion or even the proficiency for creativity. We strategize ourselves to boredom and slowly, as our smile slides down into a curve-less line, we transform into two-dimensional automatons, baked in the sun of our own expectation, frayed by the stress of the matrix we have chosen to connect with.
But, as one of my mentors would say, “where there is life, there is hope.” So… you there reading this: Breathe. Did you forget to breathe? Take a nice slow breath now. Deeper. Slower. And out… deeper… slower. You see, our breathing from our upper lungs tells our body that we are in fight-or-flight. Why are we in fight-or-flight? Probably because our take out order was wrong, the light turned yellow and the person in front of us slammed on the brakes instead of gassing it, our phone gave us anxiety because we thought we felt it vibrating. Whoa. Easy. Fight-or-flight was made to survive tigers and sharks. Not bad drivers and incompetent bosses. Take one day...one moment at a time... and work in conjunction with the Creator of the incomprehensible marvels that breathe life into our otherwise lifeless corpses. We are here for a good time, not a long time... and there is always good to be found. Take advice from Einstein - "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Or from Vonnegut - "and I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is." Or from Dr. Moxie - "Breathe!"