"Spin" in aviation training: a "stall" or loss of lift, a subsequent nose-down spin, the specific actions required for recovery, and the feeling, after recovery, that you could tackle absolutely anything!

Sunday, 17 August 2014


I wish my eyes were bigger. Or, better yet, I wish I had compound eyes like a bug. Right now, the two eyes I have are insufficient: I can't seem to see enough. I'm missing out on something. How is it that people relax? How are they managing their lives? How on earth are they tapped in to contentment? I want to know. I need to know. Someone let me in on the joke.

When I was a kid, I didn't understand anything.  My aunt was schizophrenic, but we never discussed it. My parents would, individually, shake their heads and mutter as they paced their own puzzled routes through the house while my aunt zipped into the pond for an attempted Virginia Woolf swim. She would travel on buses, or hitchhike, and show up gaunt with wild hair, posing child-like questions about what she should do. I had no idea. I was trying to be five, or eight or whatever. She was terrifying. 

When I was nine, my father made his first attempt at suicide. I remember because my mother told me that she had called an ambulance after failing to wake my father up from his pharmaceutically induced slumber. We didn't discuss. We didn't hug. I got on the bus to school like any other day, except that I noticed when the ambulance passed in the opposite direction. I was expected to get on with my day: math, english, gym, geography. I remember waving to him a day or two later, while he waved back out of his third floor hospital window. He was still recovering and I wasn't allowed to go up to see him. Hospital rules then. I've taken enough psychology to know that I may misremember parts of my past, but I'm pretty sure that we never discussed this event as a family. 

I spent the rest of my formative years navigating my mother's alcoholism, my father's continued frustration, and the tediousness of Quaker meeting and all that that entailed for me. (Don't get me wrong. I like Quakerism. I like the idea that there is a light in everyone so- Don't be a dick. Help out. Share your chips.) There were few other kids in our meeting so I ended up, more often than not, having to sit with the adults for the hour instead of having Sunday school. 'Hard when you're little. The meeting house was dark, sparse, and had dripping, sagging antique glass in the windows, distorting the view to the outside. It would be a beautiful sunny day outside, but the view from the inside pews was like some abstract art. Melting clocks come to mind. Or maybe The Scream. The problem was that there was no balance. My father wanted to save the world. And that's all he wanted to do. I wanted to run outside and play baseball. And my mother had no tools to bridge these differences, and no plan to get any.

My life between this and raising kids, was more of an intermission. I was still trying to figure out what my role was. I couldn't see where I fit and still, no one would tell me. I would do work on stage but could never get clear direction or comment on how I was doing. I did stand up. Same thing. My kids came along and something clicked. I realized just how ungrounded I was. I wanted to fix this for them, my boys. I wanted to see.  Nap time, and I would run out and mix up a bag of cement to parge part of a wall. Bed time, and I would go outside and pile up snow to make an enormous Narnia sled, or a fort. There were halloween installations, Christmas installations of giant size, then, when the kids were older, a large stone wall along the side garden complete with pond and fish. Plumbing. I had the boys help me make one of those swinging porch seats. We painted it red and rigged it under an apple tree. I took flying lessons, nailed all of the technical requirements, but the effort was a financial drain so it ended. I took kick-boxing. I learned welding. I became a ski patroller. I considered a massage therapy course. Then considered hotel management. Trying. I was sending up flares as fast as I could, desperate to see where I could fit. I would take the dogs for long walks. Searching. I would snowshoe for hours creating enormous spirals in nearby fields that I'm sure were visible from planes descending to Pearson. And I would cycle. Lots of cycling. As fast as I could go. Asking for clarity. 'Trying to see…

My husband, when the kids were young, was diagnosed with colin cancer. We hunkered down and focused. He made it. He pulled through, and just as he did, 2004, my father tried again to take his own life, this time succeeding. Like Hemingway. 

Life was now more intense. I started working harder. My beautiful boys. My husband and I went to marriage counseling once, then it seemed up to me. I went to therapy to try to deal with everything. Made hard choices. 'Still couldn't see. Still cycling. I took a whack of psychology courses. I studied the stars and followed the space station, the Kepler, and the Hubble telescope. This planet. This universe. I got updates from NASA. But I still couldn't see. I still felt I was missing something. I felt like the odd kid out in a game of musical chairs. I always felt like the odd kid.  

…then Robin Williams…

His death, for me, seemed close and painful, like he was in the same game of musical chairs. The news dropped me, and I still feel, as I'm writing this, as if I have no inside. I am nothing more than a misguided interpretation of the passing of time. My desires mean nothing. And I can't get over what is happening in the world: all of the horrors and wars that are all completely unnecessary. Each struggle based on constructs and arbitrary repressions that illustrate nothing more than bullying and lunacy. Stone age ideas? Judgements? Greed? And I'm supposed to fit somewhere into an economy based, it seems to me, on one person fooling another. An economy where we have something like Walmart and that's okay, even though we know where this is all going.  

I still can't see. At least, I can't see any clues to navigating an easy route through all of this. I keep learning and trying, terrified to let things slip. What if, while I'm relaxing, I miss the answer? What if this book I am reading has in it the sentence that draws everything together? What if that course offered becomes the background for my epiphany? Keep doing. Always make the effort. Always. This is exhausting. I really wish someone would give me a clue. I want to be able to see.  I want to get the joke.  Someone let me see.