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February 10, 2023

What We Can Learn When our Flight Path Changes

Plans changing mid-flight. 

Years ago, I read that line from a poem I found amongst my mother’s things, stacked in a beat-up cardboard box, cob-webbed over from years of shelf life in our dark and stuffy garage.

It could be that she wrote this poem, being a writer herself. In my memory, the words were etched by typewriter onto thin, worn-out paper, creased in accidental places.

Or perhaps these were someone else’s lines, and my mother had been so moved by them she’d retyped them herself, and shuffled the loose paper amongst her battered old journals, seasoned photographs, and fading, printed treasures from her past.

And plans have a way of changing mid-flight.

There. That line sounds more accurate. My memory fails to remind me why I was pilfering through that dusty box. These were my teenage years, and I may have been sent searching for some specific thing she’d asked for, or I may have been bored and nosy. I don’t remember.

But I remember this line. It comes to me often, all these years later, as the words ring true still.

Our plans are essential to nurturing our motivation to move forward.  Plans to tackle that project.  Plans to reshape our physical bodies through nourishment or exercise.

Plans to travel, to learn, to connect, to love, to create.

But our plans, so often, seem to scootch into the driver’s seat.  This doesn’t mean that our vision for our end goal is no longer possible. However, the route and plan we have carefully laid have dropped to the bottom. Which means we also have to drop all we have carried in our arms so far and begin again.

In other words, things change. Without our permission.

The further we zoom out, the more likely we’ll be able to relax a bit and gain some kind of understanding acceptance of the big picture.   We can more easily accept this if it’s a weekend getaway that didn’t materialize, or a meal we had been looking forward to that was taken off the menu.

Understanding is much harder to accept with an unexpected loss.  The things we worked so hard to keep.

Lost loves, lost lives, lost homes, lost endeavors.

Those are the losses that, when the mid-flight drops, we just keep dropping with them.  The heaviness of grief. The fear of what will happen now, now that our best-laid plans are no longer in flight. The sogginess of sadness over the unexpected and disappointing change. The future we once saw a clear blue-sky path toward.

This is depressing stuff, I know.  Sorry.

I’ve learned that – – – wait, let me auto-correct – – – I am learning to accept the changes we didn’t plan for.  The changes that forego our efforts and sacrifices. The changes that take our dreams from our hands and place them on that shelf for a minute while we register what’s happened and respond.

Response, for me, is usually a refusal to go along with it.  Plans change mid-flight and I keep soaring through the air in a straight line for as long as my momentum will carry me.  Blind to the falling, sometimes burning debris around me, ignoring the sirens flashing their screams past my ears. My eyes closed tightly and locked firmly on the destination I have planned for in my mind while I float powerless to the bottom, goddammit.

Which, if I’m honest with myself, makes any scenario where plans have changed (without my consent, permission, or control) so much harder to recover from.

I am learning to pivot with more ease than I used to.  Release what has released me.

I used to kick and scream.  Now, I kick, cry, hide . . .  and then draft a new plan.   They might not all fly, these fledgling plans of mine, but enough of them have soared to great heights in my life so far that I stay encouraged to keep trying.

Plans may change mid-flight, but they won’t always.  If life can teach us anything at all, it would be to let go of one mid-flight plan, and learn to catch the next flight.

~ Christy

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