I’m retiring from my career as a flight attendant. Well, not exactly retiring. I’m being bought out by my company, in a very fair offer, in order for them to be able to hire flight attendants who will cost less, in a sort of ”buy one, get two free” offer. I’m now waiting for the word from them that I’m good to go. I have had a great ride and I am ready. It’s ok. It’s business.
Yes, indeed, it’s time for me to be kicked out of the flight attendant nest. It’s truly time for me to take off—on my own. Of course, I wonder how much of my identity is defined by being a flight attendant and how much is defined by the things I’ve yet to do and the adventures I’m yet to have?
Although I had a month to decide, when I first learned about the buy-out offer, I instinctively knew I would take it. Still, I was afraid. Fear, the Great Immobilizer. Worried, I said to my son, “I don’t know what the next adventure will be”. Without missing a beat, he replied, “That’s what’s so cool about it”. A healthy shot of youthful wisdom.
In the most recent Night at the Museum movie, the main character (Ben Stiller) realizes his job at the museum is coming to an end. He will be leaving his friends and a job he has loved. He says, rather sadly, “I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow”, to which Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) replies, “How exciting!”
I’ve walked on the Great Wall of China. I’ve searched for the Tree of Life in the desert of Bahrain – and found it. I’ve had adventures – some joyful, some thrilling, some scary. I’ve met the famous, the infamous, and the simply interesting. I have flown with some of the most wonderful people I could have ever had the privilege to know, and occasionally some of the most difficult. Flight attendants are absolutely the funniest people you will ever meet. I have never laughed so hard as in the company of flight attendants (you know who you are). They are also innovative, kind and resilient. Additionally, I have been blessed to fly with the most competent, most experienced pilots in the sky. But, with all of that said, it’s time to go.
Before I ultimately decided to accept the offer, I talked to my colleagues, my family, my financial planner, my friends, my students, my banker, my doctor, my realtor, my dog, my medium, perfect strangers and most importantly, to myself, (which I do all the time anyway and please don’t interrupt). The answer was unequivocally, “Do it”. Take the money and run. Run where? I wasn’t sure. The same question kept popping up for me: “What will I do?” The answer eventually came to me very clearly: “You may not know what you will do, but if you stay, you’ll never find out.” It’s a leap of faith into the unknown, but I am confident that I’ll be there to catch me. The road will form under my feet. The next adventure will manifest. I will be fine. Side note: If you do happen to find me stuck in the mud, in my PJs, aimlessly spinning my wheels, I trust that you will pull me out, slap me, and set me back on my way.
People often ask me what I’m going to do after I leave the airline. I don’t exactly know. It’s not really a traditional, planned retirement. It’s more of a transition. I’ll continue to write, teach yoga, be an artist, finish my book (the one that y’all have been nagging me about for years), and beyond that, I’m not sure. I’m open to anything. Whatever it is I hope it will be crazy fun and really different. It may be in the company of others. It may be alone. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s memorable. That’s what’s so cool about it. I’m on the road not taken…yet. How exciting!
(Epilogue: Six months after this was written, they finally let me leave. It’s been about 4 months. So far, so good. I am going to India in September, and walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain next spring.)
What is it about a new year that makes us feel we want to change some things? After all, it’s just another day, the next day after December 31st. What makes January 1 so special, so auspicious, and so imbued with the power of change? I think the power of the New Year lies in the exactness of it. Once a year the universe says, like the words highlighted by a star on a map, “You are here”. We see that glowing point on the map, and naturally we ask ourselves, “Is this where I wanted to be?” Sometimes we are fortunate enough to reply, “yes”, and other times we realize that we are not anywhere close to where we wanted to go. Frustration and discouragement begin to seep in. Oh, where I want to go is so, so far away from where I am, or so I think…
January makes us reflect on this. Like so many of us, one friend of mine has been feeling bogged down by the responsibilities of work, home, health, and money. She is such a terrific person and has so much to offer. There is so much she is capable of achieving in her life in every way, yet she always seems to be waiting–sitting in life’s waiting room. She said to me rather wistfully, “2016 is going to be my year!” I was glad to hear that she was excited about the upcoming year, but at the same time I thought that it was such a huge expectation to put on herself. Why not just say that you’re going to make the next moment, your moment; maybe the just the next hour or just today, right now? All too often we allow days, like a slow moving river, to flow by unnoticed, while we wait for our time to come, our happiness, and our excitement with life. We bite off enormous chunks of expectation that are very difficult to fulfill, and often lead to disappointment and resentment.
The truth is that 2016 is already all ours and every minute after that. The quality of the moment depends on how we approach it. If I understand that I am part of the whole continuous flow of things, and that I’m already flowing; that I am in life rather than on the sidelines. I can affect the quality of the day, just by knowing that I am already in the game. I don’t have to be invited in. I’m already in. No waiting required. Every moment is another opportunity to hit the ball again, and there is no reason why I shouldn’t connect with it. I just have to take off the blinders of self-defeating thinking, such as self-doubt, guilt and shame–the “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” or “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve” thinking; to see that I am already standing on the playing field! All that other stuff is just delusion. Every moment is another chance to get it right, to try something new, to make amends, to be the person I want to be, to live the life I want; to be mindful and kind and joyful and to live, live, live. There’s no reason to wait. There’s not really a waiting room for life. There’s just life. And you’re already in it.
2015 was a pretty good year for me, but I am not sad that it’s gone. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about life in general. Each day is new and different. Each moment is an opportunity for me to begin again, making sure that I am living the life I want, that I am living, period! That’s all most people really want, is to have the sensation of being alive. By simply reminding myself to have this awareness, I am moving in the right direction on the map. 2016, whatever it brings, is already my year.
I was on the way to Frankfurt last week. After several restless hours inflight, I opened the window shade at my seat at just the right moment, and saw this joyful sight. I wonder, are there other window shades I could be opening?
Ruth Chang: How to make hard choices #TED : http://on.ted.com/e0UAm
My friend Marjory Wilson is a phenomenal painter of flowers, as well as a longtime student of yoga. She shares her painting entitled, Pond High Noon, and points out that we can be the facilitator or the conduit for the observer to enjoy their own unique interpretation of our message. We can all touch people in ways that are totally different from our own intention at the time. Who can say what Marjory was feeling or thinking when she painted this pond scene? The feelings you experience as you study it are probably different than hers. Art takes on a life of its own. For me, these lily pads seem to subtly say, “We are all connected, but express our own uniqueness.”
You can see more of Marjory’s work at http://www.marjorywilson.com or visit CoArtGallery at 856 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO
My loft is wasted space. It has become the dumping ground for everything that no one in our family wants in their own room. It is the staging area for the thrift shop donations that sometimes sit for months. It also contains all the misfit items that have no place else to go in the house: boxes of photos, a pile of games, a huge wicker trunk full of bedding we don’t need. And yet, it is a wonderful space; cozy and full of warmth, overlooking the living room fireplace and easily accessible. Like many of us who get into a rut, it’s begging for a makeover.
This morning, as I was contemplating this sadly under utilized, psuedo-room, I noticed a red card table from my childhood, propped up against the wall (another item that had no real home) and I remembered spending endless Sundays using it as a place to put together jigsaw puzzles. Suddenly I yearned to turn this overlooked loft into something special and yes, even magical; envisioning rainy afternoons putting together a puzzle, reading or working on an art project. I could see this sweet little area born into its new life right before my eyes. But alas! Any puzzles in this house were either buried somewhere, or long ago done their time in this disheveled thrift shop waiting room, and finally off they had gone to a far, far better place.
Let me step back for a minute. I am home for a few months having just had a very significant surgery. This particular surgery causes a great deal of pain, general disruption of everything in your life down to the very basics (I will leave you to speculate on that), and involves a long recovery time. I am absolutely convinced it was necessary to have this operation, and that I will in the long run be better than ever, but I also decided to use the time, not for feeling cheated or angry or to chant “woe is me”, but rather to explore how I want to spend my time, earn my living, nurture my relationships and generally enjoy the rest of my life. For me, reinventing the loft space could be part of that process. Moving and changing that dull, messy energy in the loft around into something clean and interesting could change the way my own spirit and energy would begin to move.
As I surveyed what needed to happen to make the loft happily habitable, I started to sort through a pile of things sitting on the floor and I noticed a colorful tiny suitcase, with little leather straps, that contained (wait for it) a brand new, never been used, 1000 piece, extremely cute jigsaw puzzle of Noah’s Ark! No Way!— Way! I couldn’t believe my eyes and my good fortune. It had been a hostess gift from a visiting relative which I set aside for that special “rainy afternoon” and then lost track of it the clutter. Synchronicity, anyone?
Finding the puzzle spurred me to think more about what it would take to make the loft come alive-a comfortable desk to journal…move the art supplies there..add some books..a little table for my coffee cup…my yoga mat for meditation and gentle practice… Wouldn’t that potentially change the way I spend my days while I am recuperating, which could be passive, long and lonely, into potentially interesting and fruitful? Couldn’t I be active, happy, energized and creatively productive instead of resentful, tired and grumpy? I don’t know why this space was suddenly singing to me, but it was– loud and clear.
I had been searching for something, “God, I wish I had a puzzle”, and lo and behold I had a puzzle. I think longing for that puzzle is a metaphor for this period in my life. I AM searching for something and it’s not just a jigsaw puzzle; but just like working on one, I am going to start with the edges and then I am going work my way toward the middle, maybe hop-scotching around until the picture is complete. It’s not something I can do all at once. When working on a jigsaw puzzle, I usually walk by and stop, search for a few minutes, place a piece and move on, come back some other time and place a few more.
From something as simple as wishing I had a puzzle and suddenly discovering one that was there for the taking, I intend to use this time to work on a much larger puzzle, by putting attention into the re-purposing and re-energizing of the loft, as well as the bigger picture of where I want to go with my life: the re-purposing and re-energizing of myself. What’s the next move? What’s the next piece? It’s about putting the intention out there and and seeing what happens. I want to see what manifests itself, simply by having a very genuine, positive desire to put a puzzle together.
Four of the world’s great scientists give their combined view of our place in the universe: Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. This video and the accompanying words profoundly affected me. Watch, listen and enjoy. “We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” I apologize for the opening ad. It doesn’t last very long. Thanks to my friend Rick H. for sending this to me a long time ago….
We are all connected;
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe atomically
I think nature’s imagination
Is so much greater than man’s
She’s never going to let us relax
We live in an in-between universe
Where things change all right
But according to patterns, rules,
Or as we call them, laws of nature
I’m this guy standing on a planet
Really I’m just a speck
Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck
To think about all of this
To think about the vast emptiness of space
There’s billions and billions of stars
Billions and billions of specks
The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it
But the way those atoms are put together
The cosmos is also within us
We’re made of star stuff
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself
Across the sea of space
The stars are other suns
We have traveled this way before
And there is much to be learned
I find it elevating and exhilarating
To discover that we live in a universe
Which permits the evolution of molecular machines
As intricate and subtle as we
I know that the molecules in my body are traceable
To phenomena in the cosmos
That makes me want to grab people in the street
And say, have you heard this??
(Richard Feynman on hand drums and chanting)
There’s this tremendous mess
Of waves all over in space
Which is the light bouncing around the room
And going from one thing to the other
And it’s all really there
But you gotta stop and think about it
About the complexity to really get the pleasure
And it’s all really there
The inconceivable nature of nature
I have a friend who would like to lead a life much different than the one she is leading. In addition to the fact that she is smart, funny, a great wife and mom, an amazing friend, a terrific person in every way, she has the skills to make her career dream happen. So what’s the problem, right? She and I talk a lot about her desire to be doing something different. Finally, after many conversations on the subject, I made the bold move and asked her exactly what was keeping her from starting. Silence. After a quiet, thoughtful moment, she said, “Fear”. Fear of what? No one is telling her that she can’t be successful at what she aspires to do. In fact, everybody thinks she’s very talented and could make it work. Who is sending her the negative message?
Fast forward to me for a minute. I’m starting a new project. I am passionate about it. I want it to work. I have the skills. I have the time. I have done all the preparatory work. I have the support from others. Everyone who knows about it and knows me, thinks I’ll be great at it. No negativity from outsiders–all positive. So again, what’s the problem? The problem is that, like my friend, there is a mean spirited voice in my head that says, “Who do you think you are? You can’t do that. You are not capable. It will not happen.” The voice in my head undermines my dream, my motivation and my confidence. The answer is, “I’m the problem”. (Ah ha! This is where the light bulb goes on! Jai!)
I don’t know how the voice came into being, and I don’t want to spend time on the couch right now trying to figure it out. I want to get this project going. But my point is this, and it’s huge, so please read it and take it to heart: We have to get out of our own heads.
Very often I am finding that it’s not others who are telling us that we are not good enough and that we might fail, it’s ourselves. Yes, granted the work must be put in, the planning done, the requirements met, but after we’ve done all that, the big, beautiful blue sky’s the limit!
I have always told our children, “Someone’s doing the thing that you want to do, why not you? You are every bit as smart and talented. Get going. You can do whatever you want.” I know from their successes that they have taken that advice to heart. But oddly, I am the one who has to keep telling myself over and over the same thing.
Yoga sends us this very message. We are perfect the way we are, but we get in our own way. We trip over our own feet. This is why we practice meditation, asanas (the poses), and breathing – mindful living – to get out of our own way; to still our minds and silence all the mind chatter that keeps us from seeing our own beauty and our own potential, our own connection to what is good, energetic and powerful–to the Divine. We have to quiet that mean spirited voice, the insidious, bullying voice of guilt, shame and insecurity. We have to get out of our own heads and let what we want to happen, and what we have to offer, take root, grow and blossom! We just have to realize who is doing the “negative speak”, who’s psyching us out. It’s not outsiders. It’s an insider. Our dreams and desires can work out. Let’s get out of our own heads and get going.