"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!

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Courage


One trick I have when walking into a challenging social situation is to pretend I am someone else. The someone depends on the situation. Usually, it's a fictional character. I don't do this all of the time. More often than not, I am me, but if there's a room full of challenging personalities, or some sort of overwhelming interaction in the works, I might reach back into a Cormac McCarthy novel and wind myself around one of his characters:

"Officer, I do agree I was moving with a certain marked intensity. Just tryin' to get clear of my history...keeps snappin' at my boots.  I reckon if I were to keep on, I would only run into the back end of it eventually. Here's my license and insurance."

Or Kathryn Hepburn:

 "You are an absolute gift! Cherish the energy you must have to speak so clearly and for such duration without hardly a breathe! Such a strong voice...clarifying the clarified so we are not left to the random, unbridled peace of our own thoughts.  What a waste that would be. Care for a toffee?"

There are, however, situations in our lives that demand the authentic us and nothing but. To venture in with anything other than our truth and vulnerability is to cheat ourselves and squander the opportunity to make ground in our struggle forward. I found myself, recently, laid bare, open and honest, having shrugged off the usual pleasantries and tired conversation that I now find suffocating. From deep, deep inside came words that should have been said well back in my history. I felt them coming. I stood down and let them come, all the while terrified. It was like an exorcism, something more powerful than me. Once the words were out, I stood amazed that I had said them. Stunned that I had had the courage, finally, to get this out, to demand another to be accountable. This would never have happened years ago, deep in that history, but I am not the person I used to be. Not even close.  

This event shook me. I felt like I had been in a fist fight. I was almost sick. I figured myself unravelling and tumbling into chaos, rolling towards my ultimate demise until an objective third party, wise, thoughtful, made the observation to the contrary. I had stepped up. I had done something new. This was a big deal for me. Very big. McCarthy could not have done this. Hepburn neither. This was pure me.

In the words of David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest), "The truth will set you free, but not until it is finished with you."

I do believe he was on to something...and I ain't done yet.






Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Angel


I spin out of the revolving door into an uppercut by a cold April wind. I take it, still dazed from an earlier battle; a day with a judgemental, condescending harpy in full-blown ego who sends my very soul to the wall. 

                    "Use your words," 

she says when I choke on part of a conversation. Subtle. Mean. Sums me up with,
 
         "Hmm. A Quaker raised on a farm!" 

in a throw-away, arrogant tune. It took all of my strength not to explode out of my chair and pin her by the throat against a shattered window...explain through clenched teeth that there is no scale from 1-to-10 for this rage that I have, and it didn't come from the Quakers. It came from Beefeater, darkness, unbearable heartbreak, and two cartridges from a shotgun. 

But I don't. I endure and behave. Now, hours later, I'm out on the street weighed down with my bags strapped over my shoulders, committed to continuing this fraud of contentment, of competence, taking random hits from wind and spatters of rain doled out like difficult blessings from a crazed priest. I walk up University. I can not bear the subway right now. I am constantly pushing my hair up out of my face and imagine that if I sat on a corner with a cup, nobody would think it strange. 

Outside of the hospital on my route, I notice a middle-aged man bent over near the curb fussing with a bundle of bags or maybe a bike. He is wearing old hospital scrub pants and a navy-blue bomber ski jacket with hood. He has a bandana around his greying, wild hair and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. His face is seasoned like a creased leather bus seat. I am ten feet away from him, trying to figure his story, when he turns to take a cursory look at me. He stops what he is doing and looks again, rests his hands on his thighs and in a voice betraying the scrape and grit of a hard life, says, 

            "You are so fucking beautiful." 

He stands and takes the cigarette out of his mouth, pivoting as I pass.
 
"You are...you are so fucking beautiful. You've got it. You've got everything...fucking beautiful..."

I keep moving but turn and smile at him. I make it clear that I am grateful, acknowledging him, pulling my hair out of my face again and walking backwards away from him. He is still talking but the wind scuttles his words. I wave and turn back towards my route. Something about him; his sincerity cloaked in whatever unknowable lunacy or struggle, timing as if sent. It wasn't like I was wearing a cocktail dress and heals. I had cowboy boots, jeans and a trench coat. 

So I take it. Keep walking. Slowly unclench my fists.






Friday, 14 April 2017

Cycling Clothes are Ridiculous


After my ride, a seat by the pond: cat tails blown on paper stalks, soon to lean out of the way for new green. Bird chatter. Pairs running sorties for nests:

"Honey I got that twig you wanted."

Wind sidling through the trees, dropping down to test the water and send new ripples across the surface.  Behind me, naked maples catching the sun's heat make a point of ignoring me.

"Eyes closed everyone. She'll go away. They all do...and what the hell is she wearing?"

I can hear the frenetic scurrying of squirrels:

"Hey. Someone took my fucking twig!"

"Relax. Would you relax? Have a nut."

Subtle shifting along the forest floor. Everyone knows what to do.