by Kanienke (Ganien)
This is the second post in a guest series titled Falling or Flying. See here for more info.
I’m a little bit scared of heights so falling and flying are equally uncomfortable activities for me.
Falling is awkward, and it is a lot worse than flying; it implies a certain lack of preparedness on your part. I don’t like being unprepared. So when I imagine falling, it begins with a misstep and ends with me plunging uncontrollably downwards, accelerating and suddenly realizing I forgot to put on pants that day. Then I sort of wonder what kind of corpse they will find at the bottom, like, “What a mess this is… but wait, was this guy not wearing pants?”
Flying on the other hand, is something you do with intentionality, it doesn’t just happen because you fortuitously happened to pack your wings that day. It happens partly because you took a great leap, but also partly because you knew ahead of time that you were capable of generating just the right amount of lift.
Most of the time I forget that I can fly. The realization only comes to me when the monsters are chasing me, and for some reason my legs aren’t moving fast enough, and it is a huge effort all of a sudden to move, like I’m running through water. And suddenly I remember that I can sort of leap upwards and by really getting a lot of air under my arms and pushing very hard, I can scoot up into the air a little bit. Even then, flying takes a whole lot of effort and I am only barely able to keep above the reach of the monsters. I really don’t ever SOAR like the other flying creatures do. They make it look so easy. It could be that they aren’t always forgetting that they can fly and so they’re better at it.
One day though, I was sitting by myself in a nice green forest where there were not any monsters at all, and I wasn’t even thinking about flying. I was just thinking how calm the world had become, and I was acutely aware of the chirping of the birds and the buzzing of the insects around me, and I realized that whenever I became very relaxed and centered in the core of my being, and especially when I recalled a happy memory, I floated effortlessly up into the air. The more I filled my heart with peace and loving kindness, the higher I soared above the trees.
And then I woke up and had to shower and get to work on time, which pretty much killed my whole hippie flying mood. But my dream made me realize that there are easier ways to fly.
When I was young, my family moved a lot. More than a dozen times I had to leave old friends behind and make new friends each time. Gradually I started to look forward to moving-time because my new friends always managed to figure out my bad qualities and would rub my nose in it. After only a few moves I realized I was faced with an amazing opportunity: all these new people had no idea who I really was. I could be anyone I wanted! It was a very liberating feeling.
So every time we moved I made a list of all the qualities that annoyed my friends, and I would pick the worst one and pretend that I wasn’t that. And a funny thing happened each time: I actually changed inside. I left those bad qualities behind. Every single move, I made an intentional leap into a slightly better personality. I was learning to fly.
It wasn’t as easy as I make it sound though; it took a lot of effort to keep myself from falling. Falling meant regressing back into my old habits, falling victim to those monsters that always seemed to be one little slip away. The only way to succeed at change, I learned, was to put myself into my old friends’ point of view and look at my behavior and really feel the pain or alienation I had caused them. Monsters became the embodiment of all the things I wish I hadn’t done.
One of my favorite songs is “Bull in a China Shop” by the Barenaked Ladies:
It is a cleverly written song about how much damage the writer insensitively causes. I often feel like that bull in a china shop, acting before I have time to think and saying and doing stupid stuff.
Here are two feelings from the song that resonate for me in this context:
I’m a tired old metaphor for everything you can’t afford to be
I’m a walking advertisement for everything I never meant to be
I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve done my share of falling over the years. Sometimes I have ditched the idea of being noble so that I could get what I want and need. But sometimes what people thought was me falling, was really me learning to fly. Sometimes I have refused to compromise when I felt like the underlying principle was integral to who I really am. I am okay with that.
I have lived in the same place now for 19 years. I haven’t been able to easily make dramatic changes in my life like I used to. Some of my friends have known me for decades and they know my monsters quite well. My wife knows me very well also. And it makes it hard for me to change especially when they all keep reminding me who I am. But I am still changing; and they are still clinging to the person I *was*.
Sometimes I resent that falling sensation I get, when someone I love gets too far behind me. They pull me down to the ground when I want to soar. My instinct is to just purge my life of those people. They don’t know me anymore.
It is so much easier to be who I want to be, when I am with new people who are just learning about me. They are much more likely to accept me and my quirks, and lift me up.
I am never sure how to reconcile my new friends with my old ones. They don’t even know the same person.
But I am resolved to remember my effortless-flying dream, and to apply peacefulness to my life so that I can begin to soar. I will keep my mind wide open for everyone I meet. I will be full of hope, possibility and trust. I will live my life with more gratefulness. I will be filled with burning curiosity about other people.
When I do these things well, I can feel myself being liberated from gravity, and floating effortlessly up into the air.