Clear for Takeoff

What I love about life is no matter what is going on, it’s possible to put a slightly absurd spin on things.  It may take getting over our disappointment or righteous indignation or outrageous expectations, but sooner or later, we might find the whole thing funny.

Take my bad day (please!).  By the time today rolled around I had enough sleep and distance from the accumulated offenses to snap myself out of my sorry state and start over.  Just like shaking an Etch-a-Sketch, I could shake it off yesterday’s sketchiness and attempt to design a new day.

I remember reading once about a tribe that would bring someone who had done something wrong into the community circle.  Instead of shaming this person by blaming or judging, everyone would tell a story about how generous, kind, funny, loving, smart, talented, or wise this person was.  The idea was to  remind the person of their true nature instead of their momentary lapse of judgment or character.

Like instant karma, if you’ve ever done anything ridiculous, you already know you blew it.  (This is different than doing something illegal or immoral and you don’t regret it.) You already feel bad without the public humiliation.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if instead of having “your bad” go viral, people would just remind you of your contributions to society?

On our bad days it’s easy to believe we’ve contributed nothing or it just doesn’t matter.  But we all have at least one person who will beg to differ.  If we’re lucky, we have a circle of them.  And they will tell us at the exact moment we need to be reminded.

In response to my bad day, my friend Reta wrote about a bad day she had three years ago.  I’m so grateful that I was paying enough attention to her that day instead of obsessed over what my schedule was supposed to look like.  She changed my life that day, too.  As frustrated as I get with some students, I am completely humbled by and in awe of most of them.

Students often want me to tell them what to do, what classes to take, and how to succeed in college without really trying.  But those who are really exploring invite my questions as much as my answers. 

The Quakers have a group of people called a clearness committee whose sole purpose is to help a person who is making a difficult decision get clear about that decision.  They don’t tell the person what to do.  Like the circle of supporters, they simply remind the person of who they are by asking questions that help the person discern his or her own answers.

In the end I’m not sure we can ever really know what we’re getting into with any decision or commitment until we actually take the plunge. But we can gather our tribe and our wits about us and ask the question every person taking flight needs to know, “Are we clear for takeoff?”

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