Go ahead, live, it's worth it

Friday, January 4, 2008 | 4:00 p.m. CST; updated 8:41 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

I am a pilot. I fly small single-engine planes. I usually just cruise around the countryside looking in people’s backyards. My favorite part of flying is landing. When I take people up flying, they often don’t have the greatest time because I like to take off and land at every airport we come across. When I don’t land at every airport they enjoy the ride more but then I don’t have the greatest time.

Landing is actually one of the most dangerous times of flight. If done correctly, there is a brief but critical few seconds that rely on the preparation prior to them. The proper preparation hands me off to safety and control again. During those few seconds, if the unexpected happens — a gust of wind, a tire blowout, a coyote, a bird, for instance — really bad things can result. I love landing the most because it is the exciting balance of being prepared and controlled in the face of the unknown. If I were to die while landing, I would die with “me” wide open. I would prefer that to a vehicle accident or illness. But we don’t get to choose so I suppose, as with landing, I should be as prepared as possible.

During my first solo, I experienced what every first-timer does; “What the heck was I thinking?!” One never really fully appreciates that until the wheels leave the runway that first time. Pilots put themselves in that position because they are prepared, they trust their experience, their skills, and if a bad thing does happen it will probably be recoverable. But I think we do it too because it is really living to do something over-the-top emotionally stimulating that takes preparation, skill and effort. Doing and feeling. That is key, I believe.

Dogs do the same thing when they roll over on their back. That is a trust move, not a subordinate one. They know they could be slit wide open, and although that is dangerous, as top dog, they are willing to be in that position. Their pack respects them for it, too. The top dog is tops because it not only nips and bites and keeps all the others in line, but also because it will lie on its back, too. Other dogs in the pack allow the leader to lead because the leader has bitten them and let them scratch its tummy, too. What a thrill, a rush, I bet. Kind of like flying is not complete without landing.

In the days of wooden ships, the maiden voyages were actually the second voyages. After a ship was built, it was taken out to seat and swell the hull and rigging. Preferably in rougher seas. This was a dangerous trip because if things didn’t seat correctly or twisted wrong sometimes people died. Yet the trips were necessary to make it a ship people could count on when things got dicey in its life of service.

People were afraid last year. Maybe the year before, too. I remember all the good reasons. But this year as we make or reject making News Year’s resolutions, consider making resolutions that bring you to life. And by the way, if you are one of those people who rejects making them, reread this column. You don’t have to make resolutions to lose weight or spend less or say more of this or less of that. You can already do those things. In fact, I dare say that the only reasons you don’t follow through on your past resolutions is because you are not doing those other things, like landing airplanes and rolling over on your back or sailing in rough seas just to see if you can.

This year don’t be so afraid. Live. Living is feeling and doing. Push the envelope. Climb out on the branch because that is where you find the fruit. Some Asian language uses the same symbol for crisis and opportunity. Think outside the box. Try everything once and then twice to make sure. Fall seven times, stand up eight. These ideas, and volumes more, are important not because we will do any certain thing in any certain way. Their value is in the feelings and thoughts kindled by doing. That is living. But people seem to be afraid of “doing” these days.

A boy was very interested in hunting and survival tactics. He read books and played hunter video games. He was great at that computer deer hunter game. His family noticed his interest from early on. They encouraged him, bought him camo gear and equipment and finally gave him a small rifle. They started taking him to the local target range. He was a great shot, too. He could hit dead center two and three times in a row at a usable distance. His life was a city condo life, though, and when he finally did get the opportunity for a clean shot in the woods he started to cry and shake. Up to that point he hadn’t really been a hunter. He convinced everyone around that he could, would, should. But he just was feeling like a hunter. It is OK that he doesn’t hunt. It is OK he pretended to be a hunter. But not OK that he pretends to live. Now go live this year.

Dwayne Stone of Columbia has worked in the mental health field for more than 18 years in both public and private agencies and private practice as a counselor and life coach. His columns appear periodically in the Weekend Missourian.

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Frances Hodge January 5, 2008 | 1:06 p.m.

This is a great article. What a concept. If we all went out and "LIVED this year", I think the world would be a better place...

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