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Life Without Gravity

The Gift of a Long Flight:

When an airplane unlocks

the incubator of your mind

It was not a particularly long flight. My seatmate was quiet and kept to himself. Not the usual long, cramped, misery of a 3,000 mile journey to my next client. Only three hours - but I was restless and unsettled.

I find myself spending much more time on airplanes and in travel now that I am consulting. I struggle with sleeping while in flight. I also can only read for a short time before I fidget. I generally drive myself mad with the boredom. But the more time I spend in the air, the more my mind is developing a wondrous new coping mechanism. Staring out the window, I am starting to learn how to entrance myself. I feel at peace. A few years ago Time magazine called daydreaming “the mind’s incubator.” When we are in conscious mind mode, we have a tendency to impose the practical and to not allow emotions or ideas come to fruition. In essence, we can stifle our own “Ah Ha!” moment.

Now, on airplanes, I find myself nestling in my daydreams. I drift back to my teen years and remember the most remote things. Like my kids today, my young life was punctuated by the music I listened to. Those memories drove me to download some of my old favorites: Gin Blossoms, Phil Collins, even Skid Row. Those tunes reinforce my new learned daydreaming task. On my latest trip, that music made me remember the dozens of concerts I snuck out to see at City Island, Harrisburg, PA: Motley Crue, Billy Idol, Kixx. My, those were the days. Defying my mom and slipping out with my girlfriend to see those long-haired ‘80s wonders and to deafen with the screams of guitars and drums. Once I started to listen to those oldies but greaties on my plane rides, Adele felt depressing and overburdening. I will save her for more routine tasks – she interferes with my creativity.

I also seem to recall movies and scenes long forgotten while I sit, squirming in seat 12A. For  some reason I keep replaying St. Elmo’s Fire lines in my head. No clue why, but I smile as I recall old movies. One of those restored memories happened on Aug. 16, 1977 - the day Elvis died. My brother and I longed to see a new sci-fi movie that my mom forbade because it looked too violent. But my brother-in-law came to our rescue. He snuck us out of the house in his orange and white Chevy truck and whisked us to the local theatre. On the way, the news of Elvis’ passing came over the radio. He pulled that truck over to the side of the road, leaned up against the steering wheel and cried. That was also the same day that I saw Star Wars and began my love affair with Luke, Leah and Han. Why did I not remember the color of his truck until I drifted on Flight 2482 to Dallas?

A side benefit of this new daydreaming habit – I am relaxing enough to start to imagine deeply again. Perhaps I don’t allow myself enough daydream time to relax my mind and  “remember” when I am on the ground and when my head is not in the clouds. But the altitude has this wonderful way of helping me recall my Pennsylvania roots, my youthful joys and my glory days. It also gives me time to think about friends and families I miss. My college friend whose cancer took him at 19. My grandfather, who my mom says I look like. My father who passed away this past summer. It is comforting to remember that he never missed one of my softball games. To recall how he was always waiting for me in the parking lot of school, nearly five days a week as I participated in too many after-school clubs and activities. It is a pleasure to slip into the days he taught me to drive. Or to understand suddenly how my passion to always be busy and outside was inspired by him - I would join him in his chores just to talk with him. Instead of feeling sad, these airplane memories allow me to celebrate those I lost and to feel reconnected.

Consulting can be a lonely business. Lots of travel time alone and living in and out of hotels and suitcases. Sometimes I am consumed with business thoughts and that doesn’t seem to help me very much when I land and try to compartmentalize those “great” ideas I had while traveling. Instead, I am surrendering to this new idea of reliving the most cherished moments of my life, trying to recall details that I may have lost over the years. Trying to remember the smells, the way something felt when I touched it, or the sounds of those moments. For all of us who are trapped for hours in travel, I suppose we need to change our thinking about the challenges of airports. Maybe our frequent flyer miles are worth more than perks and a free trip here and there. Maybe we are gifted these long and confined hours to allow the lock to be picked on our memories and perhaps on our imagination and creativity.

A blog chronicling the up's and down's, trials and tribulations, fear and happiness of moving your life from the expected 9-to-5 job to a life of consulting. While it is a big and often scary decision, it is a time of discovery, rejuvenation and introspection that will help you remember who you are and who you were supposed to be. It's a wonderful journey.