Thursday, November 22, 2007


I know that this blog has few readers who don't know me personally and who don't know where my life has been lately. So, let me share, just a little. I said on New Years this year, that I thought 2007 would be the most profound year of change I'd seen in as long as I could remember. It's shaping up that way.

I've been busy finding my way back to myself. I've been getting to know my daughters better than I ever have. More importantly, they've been getting to know me--not me filtered through anyone else's eyes, but through their own, seeing me, perhaps, in some ways, for the first time.

Anyone who knows me, knows I pretty much don't get nervous. I've crashed cars, experimental planes, come out of a coma that was supposed to be final, twice opened a reserve chute less than two seconds from impact (the last time, only a month ago). People asked if I was scared. The answer's always been honest--"Not really. I was busy."

Only twice in the last two years could I really confess to being no kidding nervous to the point of knowing it. The most fascinating thing about it is how much it's surprised me.

Once was orbiting a stadium packed with 50,000 people, waiting to jump in with my class flag. I'd planned that jump for more than five years. That the reality of it set my heart to pounding nearly out of my chest, with nearly 800 jumps behind me already then, was itself almost surprising enough to calm me down. I rarely even got excited about jumps any more, let alone nervous. Don't get me wrong, I love every jump. But mostly, they're calming now, centering more than exciting. I never did figure out what made that one so different. But I haven't forgotten the feeling.

Today, I've figured it out. That feeling's back. What it is, is the waiting. Having set events in motion that you've imagined again and again, the time almost here finally, yet nothing to do for the moment but orbit, door open, knowing you're about to step out into thin air again, but this time, into the irreconcilable flesh and blood of a reality you've imagined a thousand times. A thousand times a thousand. It's the waiting. Nothing to hear but the pounding of your heart in your own chest. A thing you've grown personally and professionally unaccustomed to. Ground rush is less frightening.

Today, I'm like the little boy, who having behaved badly in church, is being carried out by his dad, and passing the last pew, throws one last glance and plea to the parishioners, "Ya'll pray for me." I may not land on target this time. I may not land standing up. I might not, I'm afraid, even make the stadium. By I am, by God, going out the door the second that green light comes on.

"You know who you are."