Western culture Readers of a certain age might not have grown up with the expression, to “Fly by the seat of your pants”. On its face, it makes no sense. But when my grandmother used it – especially with reference to something I was doing or even thinking about doing – there was no mistaking her disapproval. “Flying by the seat of your pants” is a phrase from aviation history; back in the day when airplane pilots had few navigational instruments and had to rely on their instincts. (Aviation also gave us the phrase, to “wing it”.) Both expressions roughly translate as, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m doing it !”
When I was much younger, I for sure did a lot of “winging it”: trusting my instincts about what felt true and correct at the time. As I’ve grown older, however, Life has taken on more of a jigsaw-puzzle experience: a lot of pieces showing up on the table; its just a matter of fitting them all together for the beautiful picture I know is hiding in that jumble of shapes.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time and energy looking at those shapes: education; career, marriage, family, more education, a left-turn in my career, friendships and deep connections, and travel. Always, lots and lots of travel. Are there any other pieces I haven’t mentioned? Yes: a home by the sea, good health, grandchildren, abundant love and creativity (whatever those puzzle pieces look like – snippets of a rainbow, I think).
What happens to my mood when the pieces don’t fit together when, and how I think they should? Sometimes I feel as though my Life might be on someone else’s timeline; so, a little frustrated. Why aren’t things coming-together when I want them to? Alana Fairchild, channeler (my word) of all things Rumi, offers a thought that – thankfully – soothes my troubled thoughts most of the time: “…it’s best to participate in this Life with much less certainty than the mind would have us believe is needed for Inner Peace. Inner Peace doesn’t come with understanding; it comes with trusting.”
Deep in my soul I know that Trust is key to feeling peace in my mind and heart. Trust can translate as, whatever words we choose to use to describe our individual beliefs and hope for this world: Source energy, God, Buddha, Gaia, Allah – just to name a few. Whatever’s going on, it will all be “ok”. Will it? I’d love to get that in writing.
I think about how difficult Trust can feel, especially when Life is filled with successive hard-knocks. How do we keep getting up and standing, let alone trying our best to move forward, albeit one step at a time? The answer to that question is uniquely personal; but in the midst of my own struggles, and after working with so many damaged children and adults over my many years in public service, I can offer what I’ve seen, heard, and felt. The most at-risk people in the world can and do not only survive, but can eventually thrive. Even without a faith in a deity or higher power, there’s very often an instinctive desire to survive: to climb up, and out of despair.
The human spirit is amazing in its strength and grace. Peace in mind begins, then, in honoring the living, breathing essence of one’s existence. Life feels fragile, but it’s not accidental. Our primary ‘certainty’, even without full understanding, must be the value of our own lives. We learn to Trust our own beating hearts, regardless of how many times we feel betrayed by others. Peace in mind that can never, despite how complicated or jumbled Life may seem at times, be misguided or misplaced. I’m going to relax in that Peace today, however long it lasts.