Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Getting your feet wet isn't enough

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing.

Listening to Learning to Fly after a time of hardship or pain always challenges me to reflect on the song's message. The song invites one to ask what it means to fly in their life, and when flying is hardest. It's easy to lose that ability to fly after a period of loss or a traumatic event. Even after you have gotten through the hard time, what are you left with? An empty feeling, and nothing but the memory of how you used to be vivacious and happy. How do you get there again? You think you've gotten through the hard part, but then you realize that you're not the same. You just sit on the couch at night. You stay in, or you're with people but you're still inside of yourself. What's the difference? You're doing well, you're doing fine, you assure everyone. And they tell you how strong you're being to carry on and keep up with your life.

But if you really think about it, you know the difference. You're cautious. You keep things simple. You don't take risks. You tell yourself you're not ready. But you begin to wonder why you're not the same as you used to be. What used to make you happy? What were the things you used to do? What did you look forward to? What's different now? Are you on tiptoes, walking on eggshells, making sure to stay on solid ground? Are you nourishing and coddling yourself at the risk of putting on blinders to the rest of life?

Since the beginning of this fall, my passions have been in hibernation. They're on the back burner, and I ignore the fact that they haven't been brought out to play in too long. But tonight, I went to a seminar on how to go to an interview. And one of the panelists said, "If you have that time, do everything you can with it, because you don't know what will come in the future."

And then I remembered that I love my job. I love the crazy hours and hard work and the way it permeates my life. But I've been afraid to stay too late. Afraid to dedicate myself to it. Like so many others, I've been scared to give it my all, in case something goes wrong. The fear of failure lurks in the too-close shadows. The same rings true for hobbies. I know I'm not the only one who sits at home all night instead of putting on a pair of running shoes. We're guilty of making excuses not to do yoga, and only allowing oneself activities within easy walking distance of the television, just in case a sinking mood needs to be replaced by that of someone else who is undoubtedly feeling more perky. There is an acute fear of feeling things strongly. I was almost too afraid to write this entry. It's better to try not to get too excited, so you can't get too let down. Because the last down was a pretty big fall.

But every fall is not a deep one. I know that after disappointment and heartbreak, for every step forward there is also a step back. And in the beginning that step back is almost as big as the one going ahead! But then, somehow, exponentially slowly, the steps back get smaller and the ones going forward actually move you forward. And when you're finally ready to take those last few steps, to become normal again and release everything into the past, the hurt bursts brilliant again as you realize all that you've been through. You look back. And then you move on, realizing that you have a future. That's learning to fly.

Learning to Fly- Tom Petty- Into the Great Wide Open
Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down, as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well the good ol' days, may not return
And the rocks might melt & the sea may burn

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well some say life will beat you down,break your heart, steal your crown
So I've started out, for God knows where
I guess I'll know when I get there

I'm learning to fly, around the clouds,
But what goes up must come down

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

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