Posts Tagged ‘planes’

So here I am, once again sitting on a piece of flying metal 40,000 feet above the Atlantic.  This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in such a place, but this time there is a marked difference than every other.  This time, there is no return flight.  This much is still sinking in, and I’m sure will be for a while. I am excited beyond words for what lies ahead.  To get into how I feel would take way more effort and words than anybody has time for, so in a word I’ll say I am overwhelmed.  I’ve decided to focus on the present, and simply try to be aware of this moment as much and for as long as possible in order to keep my head on my shoulders at the moment.  The exception being this post of course. However, in order to appreciate the present we must first, of course, begin with the past.  Warning: this might be a long one.

When I was younger, I – like most – was a huge space cadet.  My head was constantly in the clouds. I would frolic and prance and play all day, often leaving every last gadget and toy just about anywhere but where I had gotten it.  My life would have been in a state of constant chaos had it not been for my saint of a mother who ran that house like it was her kingdom, which it was.  My father worked for an international non-profit so he jumped around the world as often as most go to the movies.  Even when he was working at his office in DC, he would get up before us kids most days and come home after dinner most nights anyway, which meant mom ran the house.  It’s a classic storyline but everyday dad went to his office to work and mom got to work right there at home, and let me tell you – she was relentless.  Picking up toys, picking up laundry, picking up sticks, weeding, cooking, sweeping, washing clothes, washing dishes, washing windows, I’m pretty sure I saw her sweep the driveway once.  Of course she couldn’t keep the place spotless all the time – though I know that’s what she was aiming for – but damn if she didn’t try.  Now that’s not to say that she was the only one maintaining the house, but even when all our chores were done she would still be there, running around like a track star.  Once I found myself living in a single dorm in college I started to see why she was so seemingly obsessed with a spotless home.  My method was insane, not hers.  Although I hate to admit it, as I ran around the house ripping siding off of appliances to turn into air guitars and throwing them behind the couch, I spent the rest of my time looking for whatever it was I wanted to use next.  Now that I’m older I still lose things constantly, but thankfully my mother’s words still ring in my head whenever I am at a loss (probably because she still says them).  For every time she found something I was missing she would look at me with that cocked eyebrow, hand my toy back slowly and say, “next time, why don’t you try looking with your eyes open.”  She may have been teasing me all those years, but her advice couldn’t be applicable to everyday life.

Have you ever ended up at work and forgot the ride there?  Most people, and I am just as guilty as any, spend their days in a daze (pun intended).  We drag our feet to work as we daydream of sleep, then push off sleep for fear of work-induced nightmares.  The moments around us slip between our fingers while we check Facebook for event invites.  This didn’t start with Facebook or the internet though.  The danger only lies in how much easier it has become to lose touch with the only real thing we’ll ever know: the six inches in front of our face.

There are different levels of awareness.  Imagine driving a car.  Slowing down to a stoplight, you keep an eye out for anyone quickly switching lanes or stopping.  If you zone out and something catches you by surprise, it is easy to become a deer in the headlights.  However just by paying attention to your surroundings when everyone begins to slow down gives you that extra moment to hit the breaks or swerve to avoid an accident.  The same goes for walking on a dark road.  Simply being aware of any people around you could give you enough time to run or defend yourself instead of being caught in that surprised state.  Considering my current move to Mali where I will live in a big, wild, African city, this is what concerns me most.  I know I will have to keep my eyes and ears open to a degree I am unfamiliar with if I want to survive.  Threats are real.  Danger is out there.  There are still things that go bump in the night.  As a wise woman once told me, we all think things happen to somebody else but we are all somebody else to somebody else.

In the United States people are disillusioned by the distractions that come with living in a developed country.  We’ve got smooth roads, clean water, and standardized vaccinations that allow us as citizens to forget that outside our fences and ports, the brutality of nature still exists.  Death, disease, and destruction are all alive and well.  We hear about human rights violations like they are fairy tales because no country in their right mind would attack the U.S. on its own soil.  So when news reports surface about police brutality within our own borders, we blame the people, or claim the atrocities are isolated because no one wants to consider the ugly possibility that we might not always be the good guys.  The term “news” in the States has become synonymous with entertainment.  In fact, “news” stations hold not legal obligation to inform or educate their viewers at all.  Their only responsibilities are to entertain and generate profits.  To those for whom the life-threatening realities of everyday life have been taken care of, the true brutality of the world is nothing more than background noise at the dinner table.  This has always been a problem with those living in the castle, so-to-speak.  However it is one that is easily fixed by simply understanding your own place in the environment you find yourself.  Even if things seem fine where you are, remember those walls around you do not separate you from the world.  Only your mind can do that.

So take a second.  Stop inviting walls into wide open spaces, as the poet Buddy Wakefield would say, and be aware.  Be aware, not only of the world you live in, but the place you hold in that world.  Really open your eyes.  Where are you?  Who is around you?  Do they seem agitated?  What does the air smell like?  Where is the nearest toilet, or water source?  Might be the same place!  Come back to where you are.  Be here, now.  Be aware.  Try looking with your eyes open.  You never know what’s coming around the bend.

Until next time, onward and upward.
-Z

P.s. Food for thought:
http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/practical-guide-situational-awareness