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Flying Blind

This is my brother, Sylvester. He's studying to be a pilot (aka my personal air chauffeur)

"Hey, hey!" I chirped as I answered the phone.
"Hey, sup?" a cool, familiar voice replied.

My brother is currently studying aviation in the states. We don't speak every day but we somehow remember each other's numbers at some point in the week. Our weekly convos range from ranting about an inconsiderate driver to sharing news updates that the other might have missed to silence - I kid you not, 5 to sometimes 10 minutes of silence.

Some may find this strange, but our friendship dictates we make sure the other person isn't dead, no matter what form the ensuing conversation (or lack there of) takes.

Also, though he never says it, he calls me when he's unsure, or feels like giving up. And that's ok, because if it's one thing he can be sure of, I am his biggest cheerleader - even when his crazy Science projects or grand life goals seem impossible to others. I've learned that having someone who thinks that you are capable of all your dreams regardless of what others tell you makes the difference. I've made sure to tell him he COULD, when his science teachers told him his project choices were too difficult, and that against all odds he would make it to flight school, even if that goal was delayed by years.

Never doubt the power of a strong support system!


On this particular day, during this particular conversation however, I struggled to be an enthusiastic and supportive big sister, because of fear.

"Sis, I'm going to do my check ride next month. Ummm… basically, it's an exam that'll let the FAA approve me for a private pilot's license."

"AWESOME!!! So proud of you!" I squealed, still not sure why this exam was called a "check ride" or who the FAA were. Oh well....

He continued. "For part of my exam I'll basically have to fly blind," he explained.

"I'm sorry, say that again," I squeaked while shifting the phone from one ear to the next and balancing laundry on my hip, "Say again?!"

"It's a requirement for my instrument rating course," he said excitedly, "it's to make sure that in case of low visibility, I'd have a sense of direction based on the plane's instrumentation ALONE!"

***pretends to know what that means***

"Ohhhhh, woowwwww! You'll do great!" I said, feigning excitement. The blood drained from my face.

Now remember, I am my brother's biggest cheerleader. I promised myself that no matter what, I would cheer him on and let him know that nothing was too difficult to tackle. And I totally believed that, until now.

See folks, while others mocked my brother's ability to operate anything with 2 wheels (or even 4) I proudly said that I would comfortably and confidently sit in any plane he was flying. (#facts)

Also, I told everyone that I would make every effort to be one of his first passengers when he got to fly commercially. (#strongfacts)

So confident was I in someone who has limited experience at the helm of a plane that I was willing to hop in the jump seat if needs be to prove to everyone that flying with him was perfectly safe.

So why did this 'Instrument Test' freak me out.

You tell me? Would you trust your father, mother, husband, wife, Barak Obama to drive you down a highway blindfolded?

I thought so.

Who's idea was this anyway? Was this safe? What if the instructor passed out mid-flight? Then what?

Bet they didn't think about that, huh?


The truth is: instrumentation is actually well thought out.

Sylvester (sensing my panic) clarified that for this part of the flight he would wear a 'hood', which masked his view of the windows, forcing him to depend solely on the instruments in front of him. It mimics the real life possibility of losing all visibility in the cockpit due to weather conditions.

The test is essential, as many pilots in these conditions believe the nose of their plane is pitched upward when it's actually turned nose down.

Such was the case of the July 16, 1999 plane crash involving John F. Kennedy Jr. According to an official investigation, JFK Jr. experienced spatial disorientation while flying at night and nosedived straight into the water. He had no sense of direction because of how dark it was and lost control of his plane! Me and bro's conversation got me thinking of how important it is in life to trust our instruments.

It's not easy to hold firm to what you know when you can't see what's in front of you. When your path is cloudy, and everything gets dark, and the usual lights and markers that guide you fade into nothingness it is easy to plunge into an abyss of depression, anxiety, alcoholism, self-harm, substance abuse, lashing out and binge eating.

Sometimes, we even place our confidence in the wrong instruments - what APPEARS to be. Perhaps today we place our trust in a person, a partner, a job, financial security, a politician or possessions. I urge you today to get to know your personal life instruments. The things you know to be real. The practices you can rely on when everything or everyone turns dark. For me these are:

1. Meditation

2. Breathing

3. Acceptance

4. Letting Go

5. Positivity

6. Gratitude

7. My Faith

These 7 things allow me to stay in control. When my vision is obscured by anxiety, anger, sadness, regret, guilt or fear, I take a moment to clear my mind and focus on the truth, the FACTS of my current situation. I take several minutes to breathe and focus on calming my heart rate. I accept the things I cannot change and release the need to change them. I look for the positives, perhaps not in that current situation, but the positives all around me. Daily gratitude keeps me grounded. Finally, I allow my faith to be my compass.

To finish the story, my brother successfully passed his check ride. (YYYayyyyyy)

And is well on his way to be my ticket to Bora Bora....uhmmm…. to becoming a pilot! In the same breath, I learned a vital object lesson. Trust your life instruments!

Finally my loves,

Have confidence that dark clouds and inclement weather will pass, and one day soon you'll be able to enjoy the view from up in the sky.

Chin up! With So Much Love,



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