Novelist Katherine Anne Porter once stunningly observed that "all our lives we are preparing to be somebody or something even if we don't do it consciously. And the time comes one morning when you wake up and find you have become irrevocably what you were preparing all this time to be. Lord, that could be a sticky moment…."
My sticky moment came recently when I was forced to admit that my life lacked adventure -- not purpose, not love and certainly not stability. (I've been married to the same man for 23 years, I've lived in the same, albeit heavily renovated, house for 21 years, and I've done the same work -- writing -- all my adult life.)
Yet the list of what I haven't done staggers me: despite some travel, I have not really explored the world. I have not physically challenged myself nor have I spiritually enriched myself by, say, meditating atop a mountain. All around me are women -- many, like me, with grown children -- running marathons, dancing their hearts out, wilderness canoeing, floating in hot-air balloons, journeying to faith healers, rope-climbing, skydiving and going on safari.
So what's with me, I wondered. Was I so complacent that I felt no need for anything more challenging than white-water window shopping and a latte with friends? Was I risk averse? Or, even worse, did I lack imagination?
One day, while driving with my mother and son, I surprised even myself: "I'm thinking of getting my pilot's licence," I declared. You would think I had announced plans to be a lap dancer. "You're not!" said my mother in horror. My son shook his head violently and, back home, my usually supportive husband could not resist joking about being up in the air with a woman who loses everything in her purse. (Now where did I put that flight plan?)
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But I knew exactly why piloting seemed so attractive. I love driving and I'm good at it. What's more, I'm not the type to do daredevil sports (well, any sports), so flying a plane is the most daredevil thing I thought I could actually do. I imagined myself competently winging through blue sky, radioing some obscure piloty jargon (joystick down, circle right, roger).
Now, if my story were a triumphed-over-all scenario, I could tell you that I got that pilot's licence and it changed my life. But I can't, although I did click on a flight-school's website once or twice before deciding that it was the idea and not the reality that drew me.
Wings of change
You see, what that rootless, romantic Katherine Anne Porter didn't say is that there comes a time in the life of almost every woman when she longs to be precisely the opposite of what she is. The undomesticated free spirit yearns for the house with a white picket fence and the ballast of family. And the woman whose boldest adventures take place in her head pines to experience the world in more physically exhilarating ways. Even modern women who love what they do know that longing; it is deep, visceral and insistent.
By dreaming aloud of a pilot's licence, I was facing my own terror: fear of not flying, of staying the same, of going nowhere. So it was actually a great moment, not sticky at all. Now I just need to figure out how to fly in my own idiosyncratic way. And whether, in case of emergency, the seat of my desk chair can be used as a flotation device.
(Learn about self-limiting beliefs that may be stopping you from your own life adventure.)
Judith Timson is a Toronto-based freelance writer and a regular columnist in the Globe and Mail.
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