I AM NOT ALONE.
the sky….it is deserted
for the moon falls to the sea.
But I, the one who holds you,
I am not alone!
I wasn’t planning to write a blog today. Like I mentioned on FB and Twitter, I was going to reblog a humorous story as I have for the last couple of Fridays. But today I saw something inspirational.
I had a flight this morning out of Love Field, Dallas, and as I walked to my gate a periwinkle blue window caught my eye, with the words, “I am not alone.”
“I am not alone.” Aloneness. That existential but common, heart-wrenching condition of life that most, if not all of us, face one day.
Curious, I peered closer at the window mural and read beautiful prose of fields and grass, open blue skies, and the praise of birds in flight. And as you know me, my wheels started turning with that mural’s scope for imagination! I just had to write.
Each of us face aloneness in our own way. My pinnacle of that existential angst was ironically, when I was a newlywed. We had just moved our little family to Munich, Germany for a year. My husband, Sr VP/Director of European Mergers & Acquisitions of an international fiber optics corporation, left the very next day after we arrived, for business. And there I was, alone with the “babies”, no friends, no German words, but lots of foreign streets and a seemingly-supernatural-omnipotent-capriciously-running U-bahn.
My first German lesson was thankfully, from my patient landlady. She brought me to the tiny market downstairs from our flat, and taught me the polite way of asking for things: “ich hette gerne brot, bitte.” I have no idea if I spelled that right- I never learned to read much of it or write it at all. But thanks to Annemarie and my love for languages, in about a month, I was holding conversations with Bavarians. In a couple months I was navigating complex travel plans without accidentally ending up in the Alps (yes,that is quite a story, for another day).
But I will never forget how alone I felt. How frightened and overwhelmed, I was. Frozen. My thought was “Oh, what a terrible mistake I’ve made! I have ruined my life!”
This line of thinking is very similar to my pre-concert melt-downs. My closest friends, before a show, know they can’t talk to me because I’m in my own world of concentration and will lose total train of thought with the tiniest distractions. If anyone asks me a question, I will look at them with no recognition, and then realizing where I was and what I was about to do, try to run for the door, or begin to hyperventilate. No kidding.
When I was a child, I used to take my glasses off before I sang, and that really worked. I couldn’t see the people, so I just sang without worrying about reactions. But having to wear contacts, since my vision had deteriorated so much that I wouldn’t even be able to find the piano onstage, I had to find a new coping skill.
So I insulate myself backstage. As a further precaution, my most-trusted, designated friend acts as my “buffer” to guard me against “out there”–REALITY. Reality can destroy my singing performances, let alone my piano-playing. My nerves, if not within control, will have my hands shaking so hard I can’t touch the piano keys correctly. Yeah, no matter how many years of live performance, and no matter how successful the shows are, I still get stage fright real bad.
So, invariably, right before EACH of my performances while waiting in the wings, EVERY time I ask myself, “WHAT the HELL was I thinking?! I don’t want to do this!”
:::another big sigh:::
I close my eyes.
Stagehands, lighting people, sound people-I don’t care what they think, because at this point, it’s do or die. My concert, my show, MY nerves. My responsibility-I signed up for this and people are counting on me.
So, I close my eyes, picture the vast open sky with cumulus clouds that make Rorschach ink blot tests look uninspired. Breathe in….Stillness. I literally move my arms slowly, up and down as if I’m a swan, and my flight is lackadaisical and unhurried. Graceful but….free. A sense of lightness buoys my soul, and then I know that I am no longer in the dark wings of a stage. I am using my wings of creation and will, prepping my voice to take flight and soar. I am not alone.
Not in what counts.
In Germany, in yet another existential crisis, I used my little swan trick before the first time I rode the U-bahn (in the privacy of my flat, determined to hold onto my imagined skies afterward) Emboldened, I took off- out the door!… down the stairs! …through the gate! …to the omniscient, unpredictable U-bahn! Courageously, I stepped into the hollow steel tube, intimately pushed against strong-smelling people! But I was resolved to use my wings of discovery and lo, and behold! I landed safely at “West Park” a place built on a WWII wasteland, transformed into a profuse garden of hillsides teeming with blooming yellow heads of sunshine- daffodils. I rejoiced in the new sights- the fields and grass. Not just any fields and grass…but German fields and grass, with clumps of clover that were not mowed over, but cherished; crocuses that pushed their little defiant heads through the lawn; and “mesclun” that people could actually eat in their salads. And it was all there. Clover for the bees, spring flowers for bouquets, mesclun for people. Just there. Right there. And nobody absconded it. The bees maybe reveled in the clover a bit.
I marveled at the incredible way these particular cedar trees grew not on the banks, but actually IN the shallow water. Surely, this was an enchanted land of flowers, trees, ponds, and yes, swans. (And that is another story. I picture myself as a Wild Canadian Goose in the stage wings now, rather than a swan. Swans are not pleasant “people”, after all).
“I am not alone.”
In fact, I lost myself so much, in the fresh beauty I had just discovered, I had never felt so alive and “attached” as coming across that beautiful park.
So, back to Love Field, and the mural. The birds, the uplifting prose, the pioneer aviators – what made them feel alone? And what’s more how did they realize they were not?
These fledgling pilots were brave. So many people died in trying to find the use of their wings. But the passion and lure of the skies must have called to them, louder than their fears. How wonderful that yes, as they should, they valued their lives. These planes weren’t just thrill-rides like jumping off a bridge, bungee-jumping. There was a purpose to it and a greater good –nonetheless, a purpose plagued with unknown risks stemming from inexperience and experimental equipment in the new field of aviation. But how I love that these brave men and women took those risks anyway, eyes wide open, and chose to LIVE!!! Not just “live”.
On the mural, there is a large profile of a pioneer aviator with his iconic leather cap and goggles. His goggles upon his forehead, he stares beyond the blue skies of the mural. What has he seen? What does he see now? What does he know, that we do not? If he could be in our world for one day, what would he notice? What wisdom could he share with us? I have some questions for him….”Do you think we have lost our courage? Are we the same people as you were?” We are so tired, so spent with our busyness, that the only refuge we seek is anesthetics of being entertained by a box, watching other people live their lives. We have become too tired to LIVE!!! We “live”.
“I am not alone.” But these winged pioneers WERE alone…at first. Then others joined them. But before then, up in that sky, solo in the cockpit of a biplane with nothing but the roar of propellers and the wind in their ears, they could have easily felt a deep aloneness.
Or? Was it possible? That they were able to “lose themselves” in that glory of the endless sky and it moved them? That closer to nature and all that makes even science mysterious…they sensed something that many of us do not truly experience?
Perhaps the realization came to light in their Spirit. We are NEVER alone. Ironically, “losing ourselves” in what we truly love, we find ourselves and each other. Bravery and overcoming our fears are just the prices to pay to see beyond our earthly limitations. A lot of us never pay the price. We don’t have to- we choose a safe life to live because we can. And it’s recommended by the culture we live in today. But there are still those who can hear that calling… beckoning….teasing…. ruthlessly PULLING. Don’t you know? We are MEANT to grow, to discover, to expand. To think of the “impossible” and then make it real. When as a human race, did so many of us forget this?
People once said we weren’t meant to fly, or else we would have been born with wings.
They were proved to be incorrect.
And I ponder the source of that passionate calling. I like to think that Our Spirit always had wings, remembered what it was like, and longed again to see the world the way it is to our soul- our worries, our difficulties, our smallness -compared to the great vastness of the skies.
We are all a part of something so much more. Whatever you call it- it is MORE.
And we are never alone. For a minute, we think we are. Then we choose. Do we stay within what is known? Or flap our wings to face the undiscovered, knowing many will think we are foolish or strange?
I have been on both sides of that question, as I suspect many of us have been. But I pray that God continues to give me the inner strength and courage to close my eyes. To move my arms as wings. To see what else is out there, and in doing so, to expand my world by truly LIVING.
Can you hear them? The pioneers before us? The risk-takers? The dreamers-AND-doers? Do not dismiss them from another time. They breathed, they lived, they were real. They are whispering from their altitudes. They are whispering to you. To me. They are reminding us of what is truly important- and sorry, but it is not who gets a red rose, or whose team won the game. These ethereal sages are whispering, encouraging, imploring us to let our love and passion conquer our fears and perceived limitations.
The choice is ours. The cages are of our own creation. What are you most afraid of? Then if you are of the will to LIVE!!!, you will face that fear and do exactly what you are afraid of. You will learn to hug your monster, by the simple act of doing so.
No matter what we decide….
It’s one of our greatest choices in this gift we’ve been given.
As for me, my soul will sing for the skies, despite my constantly un-earthed, most recent, neurotic worries. I will fail. And I will succeed.
The thing is, we may not be pioneer aviators. That has been done. But what else has not been done? If it makes your soul sing to just think about, DO IT. Answer those who have gone before you whispering from the altitudes, with your own shout, “YES!”
Do we really need “Winners”? Winners of what? And from the perspective of time, will their “win” be remembered or be relevant?
Our world needs pioneers. Our world needs courage. In the act of courage, and the joy of doing what we love, don’t we naturally win, despite the risks?
What “game” is important to “win”?
Learn. Do. Discover. BE. Soar.