Thursday, December 8, 2011

Personal Flight

“There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. Its knack lies in learning to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, that provides the difficulties.” -- Douglas Adams, in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

I bought a new car a few weeks ago, and I had an accident on Monday. It was a pretty scary accident, but the car doesn’t have a scratch on it. That’s because I wasn’t in it.

When I was a kid I often dreamed of flying. Not in a plane, mind you, but on my own; like a bird, like an eagle. Effortless and free.

As an adult I embraced the concept of personal flight described above. That’s just the way I wanted to do it. No strings attached; no propellers; no engines. Just me. The trick, Adams says, is to stop thinking about hitting the ground right before you do.

I never really imagined that I would get the chance to try that out, though, so in the middle of one of the best morning jogs I’ve had in a long time my mind was occupied with thoughts of the upcoming holidays, a few worries about aging parents, nursing my injured soccer team back to health, and all kinds of things other than the running itself.

Then it hit me. Literally. And it wasn’t the stuff of dreams unless dreams are sold at the Honda dealership.

As I crossed an innocent neighborhood intersection just at sunrise I remember seeing a pair of headlights about five feet away. I instinctively braced and bent my body away from the oncoming traffic, but I just wasn’t fast enough to avoid it.

Have you ever laced into a pitch where the sound—and the feel—of the hit is perfect? The car was the bat, and I was the ball. You get the picture. It was one of those moments where everything slows down and your senses come alive.

I remember what it felt like while I was in mid-air. Really, I do. I only travelled about fifteen feet because the driver had just turned a corner and had not gained a lot of speed. But I was flying, I knew it was happening, and there was an eerie sense of calm all the while. Thump—then quiet—then thump again, and back on solid ground.

I landed nearly perfectly flat on my back which meant that somehow I twisted either 90 degrees or 270, but I’m not sure which. I think I closed my eyes, and I didn’t hit my head, which I’m very thankful for. I stuck the landing, Bela.

My foot hurts, I have a few bumps and bruises, and I pulled a muscle in my back. But, after all is said and done, I’m okay. The hardest part of the whole thing was that I had to call my wife and start a conversation by saying, “I’m okay, but, well, I just got hit by a car.” That’s probably not what she wanted to hear right then. Actually, when would someone want to hear that?

I already knew many of the things below, but they all came back to me during and after my flight:

  • Neon and reflective gear forever. I’m not 100% certain it would have helped me remain earthbound, but having flown on my own now I am not interested in doing it again.
  • Life is too short.
  • Take nothing for granted.
  • Tell people that you love them. Often. Appreciate everyone who has you in their hearts.
  • There are some things worth worrying about. Most are not.
  • Be at peace.
  • Run. Jump. Laugh. Live a life of abundance.
  • 42.

I’m going running again soon—just as soon as I heal up a little bit more. And I’m going to go back and cross that street, too. I’m done with flying for a while, though.