Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pre-Flight Hail Mary

About 25 years ago, I was involved in a flight that sustained severe turbulence.  The ride was like a rodeo bull, the cabin turned into a vomitorium, and the flight attendant, seated with her face toward us, was as scared as any flight professional that I've ever seen.

Obviously, things ended just fine.  But for about an eight year period thereafter, I had some serious issues with a fear of flying.  Ultimately, some hypnosis tapes, breathing exercises, and a hell of a lot of flying have got me over my fear.  Severe turbulence still bothers me, but nothing at all like it used to.  And now, instead of dreading flying, I actually look forward to my trips.

During this heavy fear period I developed a habit of saying a Hail Mary as the plane is taxiing for departure, and I still do it to this day.

On one of my more recent flights, I got seated early, and immediately started working on some pressing work issues.  I was banging out emails, sending texts, reading documents, making calls, and basically whipping myself into a froth of work for as long as I could with the door still open.  

After about 20 minutes, the door closed, and I had to power down and put away all of my stuff.  As I cleaned my space, I finally sat back and relaxed.  Noticing the plane was moving, I buried my head and said a sincere Hail Mary.  Upon completion, I looked up and noticed the cabin.  I had been so buried in my work that I didn't even notice the person that sat down next to me, others in the plane, or even what the flight attendant looked like.  I was so absorbed.  So "productive."

And as I thought about that Hail Mary, I wondered what if our flight would not be a safe one?  What if those moments of work, where I completely tuned out the entire world around me, would be the last that I lived?   Is that really how I want to meet my Maker, as one that worked so hard that he ignored his neighbor?

The older I get, the clearer it is to me that our time here is not guaranteed.  It is a gift not to be squandered with the choices we make.  And while I'm guilty of squandering it, I try to do better.

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