Flying is a necessary evil.
I absolutely LOVE to travel. I could list all of the reasons why, but it would take too long, and I’m sure you’ve heard all of them before: adventure, new cities, new experiences, etc. But I’m pretty certain that flying has the potential to kill me. Not because of the potential of plummeting to earth in a fiery ball (I’m told, and remind myself before every flight, that statistically flying is far safer than driving a car). It is the fact that without fail, every time the landing gear touches the ground upon arrival of the tarmac, my heart rate jumps from somewhere around 60 to 200 beats per minute in less than a second, just begging for some sort of fateful cardiac event. I’m glad the seat belt sign doesn’t go off for another 5 minutes or so, because it takes at least that long for my hands to stop shaking. I mean, hundreds of thousands of pounds of steel hitting the ground at 150+ miles per hour on just three tiny wheels sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.
Physics: terrifyingly fascinating.
This week I had the honor of being invited out to Portland, Oregon to meet with some amazing people from Merrell and the running industry to discuss the future of the industry as a whole. It was a very insightful (and incredibly fun) 36 hours. The flight toPortland was long and tedious, as most flights are. One issue of Outside Magazine and two issues of Runner’s World later (warning, do not read the July issue without a box of tissues handy) we were just about nearing the point where the pilot’s voice comes over the loudspeaker saying something like “Ladies and gentlemen this is your captain speaking (long pause), we are about to make our final approach into Portland. The weather on ground is uhhhh (long pause) sunny and clear with temperatures hovering at about uhhhh (long pause) 70 degrees. At this time we ask you to turn off all electronic devices and return your tray tables and seats to the full, upright, and locked position.” For some reason, despite being in the aisle seat, I felt an urge to look out the window, and was stunned when I saw this:
photo credit: flickriver
I have to confess, I didn’t take THAT picture, as I was in the aisle seat and didn’t want to bother the two people next to me, so three cheers for google image search. But I digress, that is almost exactly what I saw, though I feel as though we were even closer (but that very well may be due to that “I swear the fish was this big” syndrome). I was staring at all 11,240 ish feet of Mount Hood. Though far from the tallest mountain peak on any list, it was the biggest mountain I have ever laid eyes on, and I was in awe over it’s majestic beauty. I looked (more like rubbernecked around the three people) to my right, and saw even more mountains. I’m sure those of you from the Mountain to Pacific Standard Time zones are now laughing and saying “aww how sweet, Heather saw her first real mountain!”, but I was really giddy over the sight of these mountains. There is something so exciting about seeing things you have only read about.
I was also utterly shocked that it appeared that almost NO ONE else was looking at these amazing mountains, and instead had their faces glued to their phones, ipads, and laptops. But this won’t be another lecture on the importance of unplugging. No, today’s lesson is on perspective.
When I was in school, one of my favorite professors (now a really good friend) was lecturing one day on the ill effects of stress. She said that in life, there are many things that are completely out of our control. Worrying about such things was futile, for they were either going to happen, or not happen, regardless of the amount of worry or stress we exude. And we all know that excessive stress and worry is not only unhealthy, but the truth is it can simply destroy you on an emotional level. That invaluable advice resonated within me, and I’ve held it close ever since. Further, I’ve added my own spin: when life hands you those inevitable lemons: make your lemonade and ENJOY it. Sure, it’s cliché, but science backs me up here. According to the Mayo Clinic, research on the power of positive thinking could provide benefits like:
Increased life span
Lower rates of depression
Lower levels of distress
Greater resistance to the common cold
Better psychological and physical well-being
Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
As I sat there staring at the fast mountain ranges thousands of feet below me, the buckle safety belt sign did come on, and we hit some turbulence. Normally, the bouncing of an airplane hovering in the sky results in me assaulting the seat arm rests a white knuckle death grip (again, the laws of physics are powerful and frightening). But that day, looking at Mt. Hood, all I could think about was how AMAZING it is that we can even fly in the first place. That human beings, born without wings, could view a massive mountain from above. And that we have the ability to travel to other parts of the world in no time at all, and see things we’ve never seen before. And as I thought about how lucky I am to even have such opportunities…on a personal level, and even more so in the much bigger picture, I felt my anxiety slip away.
Listen, bad things happen. Plans get ruined. People can be jerks. Situations don’t always turn out the way you planned. And sometimes, things are downright scary. But at the end of the day, I am convinced there is far more good than bad. YOU decide if you are going to let those bumps in the road (or in this case, in the air) knock you down or lift you up.
I suggest giving the latter a try.