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10 Minutes of Turbulence

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: f2n_downtown

We’re our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves.

— Tom Robbins

In his latest book, Joel Osteen tells of a flight to India that he took with his father.  Doing missionary work in India was one of Osteen’s father’s joys in life.  Sure, he liked saving souls here, but he really loved India.  Every year, the Osteen family would go on mission trips to India.  One year, 13 hours into a 15 hour flight, they encountered the worst turbulence they’d ever experienced.  For 10 horrific minutes the plane was thrown around like a giant was playing with a toy airplane.  People, luggage, dishes, everything, were thrown up into the air and dropped again.  Osteen thought for sure that they were doomed.  Instead, after 10 minutes of this, they got through the turbulence and the flight was smooth all the rest of the way into India.

To go back to Winston Churchill’s “If you’re in hell, keep going”, in this situation, what choice did they have?  Odds are that if they encountered this kind of turbulence without warning, it was clear air turbulence.  They had no way to know if it was actually better to try to climb above it, try to go below it, or take a more indirect route.  All they knew was that in order to stay airborne, they had to keep going.

Get Unstuck

As Osteen points out, we all get our “10 minutes” of turbulence.  Sometimes we get 10 minutes all together and sometimes it’s comes at us in smaller pieces.  Our job is to keep moving.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes we seem to get caught right where we are?  I’ve noticed that I often prolong my discomfort by actively resisting whatever action or change I need to make.  There’s a part of me that thinks that if I just stay where I am, eventually life will give in and I’ll win the contest.  So I stay right where I am – waiting for the deliverance that means I don’t have to grow up or lose weight or find a job or…  I hold on tight to where I am, even though I’m miserable and afraid that I really don’t have a choice about what needs to happen next.  And worst of all, I make myself unhappy because then I judge myself for staying put – because I know better.

Don’t Just Stand There – Do SOMETHING!

There are a couple of things wrong with this “stand and hope” strategy.

First, standing in the wrong spot doesn’t get us any closer to where we want to be.  If you don’t know where you want to be but you know you don’t want to be here, move to a different spot.  You never know what you might learn, who you might meet, and what opportunities you might encounter.  At the very least, you’ll feel better just because you took an action.

Second, hope without action often just results in disappointment.  You wait and wait to be rescued and in the end, you rescue yourself.

I’ve waited and waited to be rescued, so I completely understand.  At the ripe old age that I’m about to be – I still want someone to rescue me from my difficulties.  After all these years, it still doesn’t happen.  What a bummer!

But, the worst part is that I know I’m not going to be rescued.  I may find help if I ask for it, but there is no knight in shining armor in my future.  If there ever was, he got lost on the way to my castle or he met a younger and prettier princess.  (Actually, the princess was probably just less independent that I am – looked more like she needed a knight.  I’ve never played the damsel in distress very well.)

Finally, “stand and hope” keeps us totally focused on ourselves.  And being totally focused on ourselves while facing a challenge often results in harsh self-judgment.  Focus on someone else.  Find someone to help.  You have something to give.  The more helpful you are, the more you develop self-respect, self-reliance, and self-confidence.  It’s hard to solve problems down in the pit, so make staying out of the pit your #1 priority.  And, in order to stay out of the pit, you have to feel good about yourself.  Find someone you can help.

Turbulence Happens

No matter what you do, turbulence happens.  It’s not your fault, but you’ve still got to get through it.  So, figure out what makes you feel best – spending time with friends, finding answers in books, taking classes, gardening, whatever it is, sprinkle it liberally through your days as you work your way towards an answer.  As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a grand adventure or nothing.”  Make sure yours is a grand adventure.

For some people, many challenges are fun – for others, not so much.  That’s life.  Protesting that “It’s not fair!” doesn’t change a thing and if you’re looking for fair, you may make yourself very unhappy.

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