Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tool for the Journey #35 - Born with Wings

Are we born with wings or just the potential for them?

This question has been occupying my thoughts lately - especially when I notice someone or something trying to clip my wings or ground me or warn me of the dangers inherent in flight. Who says we can’t fly? Who says those aren’t wings on my back? Perhaps that’s exactly what they are. But why have ‘wings’ if we’re too afraid to use them.

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." 
-Leonardo da Vinci

I’m using flight as a metaphor because it's an important one to me. So much in life ‘grounds’ us and holds us down with stunning force, but I’m more interested in what lifts us up, what gives us wings and helps us to set ourselves to soaring? I adore the metaphorical whooshing sound as I lift off and leave behind my earthly bounds. To fly up through the clouds and wind and weather - which constitutes the storms of my life - and burst through to sunnier blue skies on the other side of the oppressive gray of worries and troubles, this is pure, raw joy for me.

I’m no master of the air and flight corrections are a daily necessity. I’m working to chart my course into the next chapter of my life and my flight path at present is far from clear. The dense cloud-cover means I’m often flying without visual reference to the ground or the horizon and this makes the use of navigational instruments and the 'control-tower' of close friends, mandatory.

Is it difficult sometimes to stay optimistic in the face of all the downward forces? You bet. And navigational mistakes - boy have I made some doozies! I wish this wasn't the case, but it's the truth. However, I believe we can walk away from the plane wreck of our mistakes; all we need to do is muster the courage to forgive ourselves. We can walk away from these crash-landings (sometimes without so much as a scratch) if we're willing to let go of the guilt or shame or regret which too often comes with making mistakes. We need to lighten up, not be so darned hard on ourselves and realize that errors and corrections are all part of the process.

So what is it which lifts us? What determines when we have the wings  of an eagle instead of an ostrich? I read somewhere that bumble bees shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway. I love this idea - it resonates with me because it implies choice and the potential for success even when things appear impossible.

"If riding in a plane is flying then riding in a boat is swimming. If you want to experience the element then you must get out of the vehicle." - Anonymous

Some days I’m an eagle cutting through the air like a knife, other days an ostrich; some days a penguin, other days a kestrel or a robin or even a bumble bee. Some days my wings are powerful and efficient and carry me great distances with seemingly little effort, but other days they don't work at all and lift off isn’t possible no matter what I do or how I wish it to be so. On those dark nights I lie in my bed while my exhaled prayers fly heavenward without me and oh how I long to follow.

As author Toni Morrison so aptly put it: “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

There are times in my life when I’ve soared – really, truly, blessedly soared. I’ve been through hell and come out of it - like a phoenix from the flames - with flying colors time and again so I’m banking on there being a good chance this time will be no different. At present I can only see what lies ahead out of the corner of my heart. I know, without any doubt, in the days ahead there will be things to embrace and things I'll need to lovingly set aside if I'm to achieve lift-off again.

Recently a friend told me I’m too happy and he suggested this isn’t normal or balanced – not yin and yang. I disagree with him. I don’t think the poles are happy or depressed. I’m not happy all the time, but I choose to reside persistently and insistently in hope and gratitude. For better or worse I'm an optimist and I choose to walk or fly – even into the darkness – making light of it as best as I can. I remember the frantic line from Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach, "...birds don't fly at night!" But sometimes we find ourselves in darkness and there's no choice but to to keep right on flying even through the darkness. Something about "if you're going through hell....DON'T STOP!"

Buoyancy is a navigational tool of mine and it's a quality I'm grateful to possess. The gravitational forces and inertia of life are constant in their efforts to ground us After a lot of consideration I've come to the conclusion that we simply must learn to become the Wright Brothers of our own lives, and to heck with everyone who says we aren't meant to fly!

Have you ever seen a raven make love to the wind, or a hawk diving down in fearless pursuit of prey? Have you witnessed an eagle flying lazy circles in the sky on a summer afternoon, or 10,000 dragonflies filling the sky with wings and eyes and iridescent colors flashing? These are real things but they are metaphorical too. We can do this. We are not Icarus; we can rise up and soar towards the sun without fear of our wings melting. Does it take courage, yes, but this is a small price to pay for the view!

Crafting our lives with love in one hand and a carving knife in the other we can defy gravity, but we have to carve away what is no longer serving us and what is weighing us down. At any given moment we can change our minds and start to lighten up. Fear, doubt, internal and external noise and the mind-control of our electronic connectivity can all weigh us down. We tend, as humans, to cling to 'weighty' things but if we're to truly sore then lightening our load is essential.

A thousand minutes. A thousand hours. A thousand days. A thousand times we must pick ourselves up again, dust ourselves off and keep on going. We figure it out, we lift off and fly for awhile, but then something else weighs us down and we have to figure it out all over again. It's a constant practice and process. I try to remind myself in moments of fear and doubt that safe is a sedative and that a 'leap and the net will appear' strategy has mostly worked well for me - not 100% of the time but often enough to give it another go when lift-off seems possible even after a recent 'crash'.

My life right now needs not just mere change but metamorphosis, and I’m presently within the chrysalis trying to be patient while waiting to see what butterfly emerges from this cocoon.  Maybe I'm not flying today but one day soon I will be again.

How do we grow new feathers on old wings? What truly alters us deep down inside? Where does the necessary courage come from to change? Tapping our well of inner strength isn't always easy; there is a focus required, something intangible which must rise up from the core of us and when it does we get the joy of seeing and feeling what we're made of.

People seem so keen on the idea of attraction - what they are attracted to and what attracts them, but I'm more interested in what CHANGES me: transformation from caterpillar to butterfly; transitioning from ground to sky; movement vs stagnation, trust vs fear. It has been said sometimes our only visible means of transportation is a leap of faith. I know in order to make these sorts of brave leaps something within me usually needs to change, but if I can manage to find the courage to take the leap then my wings will usually cooperate and I'll be flying circles around all those things which minutes before had been weighing me down.

Here's to lift-off, to courage, to leaps of faith and hope and transcending our fears in order to achieve broadened perspective and the view of the ground from the sky! After all, when we reach the end of the runway we're supposed to FLY! And if all else fails....there's always the option to fly by the seat of our pants!


“The higher we soar the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.” – Nietzsche