Thursday, January 2, 2014

Learning to Fly...A Tom Petty Epiphany of Sorts

I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings. Coming down is the hardest thing. Tom Petty sings from my iPod that’s plugged into the stereo of my car as I make my way home. I’m exhausted. Not just because I’ve been sick lately, but just utterly exhausted…from life. It can really take its toll on you. Life that is, not Tom Petty. Tom Petty’s voice is calming and makes you feel like you’re laying on the beach under a warm spring sun. I’ve always been a classic rock fan, ever since I was a kid. I think that comes from all the road trips for soccer tournaments I went on with my Dad every year until I graduated high school. Lots and lots of driving…and he only listened to classic rock. It’s soothing to me now. Like a warm blanket or a square of dark chocolate and a Diet Coke.

I’m a pretty self-aware person and usually extremely motivated. At the current moment, I know what I want out of life. I have goals, I have a plan to get me there, and I have the determination to make them happen. But life hardly ever follows our plans; things shift and unexpected circumstances that arise could change the plan or you…or more likely, both. I’ve been there before. It’s an unfortunate familiar scene. A moments breath is sometimes as long as it takes for things to change entirely. The world gets flipped upside down and somehow you’re still right-side up, wondering how or when or what happened. A moment’s notice is all there is. Why does it always seem like the things that impact you the most are somehow comprised of the smallest moments?

It makes me think of a line John Steinbeck wrote in Of Mice and Men; “As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment. And then the moment was gone.” Sometimes, it’s in these little moments that have the most impact, even if the full extent of which isn't realized until much later; a small pebble dropped into a large body of water still ripples over the expanse of the surface…it just moves at a slower pace.

Well the good ol' days may not return. Petty is singing to me again. Brows furrowed, he’s got me thinking. Yes, those good ol’ days may not return, in fact, they can’t. And it’s taken me a long time to figure out that maybe that’s okay. Maybe we’re not meant to go back. The important thing now is moving forward. Progression. And you know what, moving on feels really good, moving on is freeing and empowering. But it's also probably the hardest thing in the world to do. And you know what? Your heart never listens to your mind. Why the heck is that!?

Well some say life will beat you down, break your heart, steal your crown. You see, he gets it. There’s where I am right now. Exhausted. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been beaten up, heartbroken, dreams shattered, things taken from us. Yes, I’m certain everyone felt that at one point. Sometimes the beating you take from life feels incessant, like you’re caught under violent crashing waves and the moment you get to the surface to take a breath, you see another one coming. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is continue to fight to the top, and follow the bubbles when you don’t know which way is up.

“I'm learning to fly, around the clouds. But what goes up must come down”  he sings, reassuring me. Okay, okay Tom, I get it. It’s poignant when you know he’s not just talking about gravity. Going after our goals, what we want out of life, is messy. We can have all the plans in the world, but the majority of life doesn’t follow a set of rules. Not that I’m suggesting we throw caution to the wind, but that we realize that things aren’t always going to go the way we think they will. Part of life is going through trials and falling (hard), because if we didn’t, would we ever know how to pick ourselves up? Would we appreciate the successes less if we didn’t have to fail so much before we got there?

I’m learning to fly. As cliché as that might sound, I am. I’m no pro yet. I ain’t got wings, but I’m working on it. Sometimes it’s hard just to even believe in yourself enough to jump off the ground, let alone leap off a cliff. But comfort lies not in knowing that there’s a possibility of failure, but that when we reach that success, when we flap our wings fast enough not to crash and burn but to soar, that moment of pure undulated triumph will be worth it. And it will be.

Reference: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Learning to Fly.

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