The plane turned the corner to the runway and the jet engines fired up. We were sitting in the very last row, not speaking. Wired and sleep deprived, we had gotten in a fight in the airport after almost missing the flight, and moments before boarding the plane. As I sat there in a tense silence, staring out the window at nothing, shame set in, and doubt. Maybe this trip was a bad idea. It felt irresponsible, especially since the boys had just gotten a cold. I didn’t even get much of a chance to say goodbye to them; the last I saw them was the prior morning, and it was rushed. I was filing a 100-page complaint for a major lawsuit at work that I had to finish that day. My goodbye to the boys consisted of holding each of them for a few extra minutes, muttering words to them they wouldn’t understand.
The roar of the jet engines was loud, especially where we were in the back. It got even louder as the plane surged forward and began gaining momentum. As the plane reached the moment when it would begin lifting into the air, I had a fleeting thought that it wouldn’t be able to get off the ground; our negative energy would hold it back. I immediately chastised myself for thinking that, because thoughts have power—and then I chastised myself again for being silly, because thoughts don’t have THAT kind of power.
Seconds later, there was a deafening bang. The plane swerved slightly to the left and we saw the wing flaps fly up. The pilot had slammed on the brakes, hard, mid-takeoff. Everyone gasped and frantically looked out the windows. Jimmy and I instinctively grabbed each other’s hand. We first verified that the other was okay, and then that there was no smoke, or fire, or discernible damage to the plane. Then we, along with everyone else, began asking what the hell had happened.
Several minutes later, as we were taxiing in circles on the runway, the pilot came on the intercom. He said the plane’s “wind shear” alarm had gone off, requiring him to abort the takeoff. Later he explained that wind shear can cause a plane to stall during takeoff, and while he knew 737s were outfitted with wind shear warnings—and he’d seen them several times in the flight simulator—he’d never seen one go off on an actual aircraft. He apologized, saying he was required to abort the takeoff if that warning goes off before the plane leaves the ground, “and there’s no easy way to stop 60,000 tons of steel.”
I wasn’t angry at the pilot for the hard stop. I was grateful. Thank god someone is fucking awake for once, present to and engaged in their job. How rare is that?
The pilot explained that we had to wait a little bit, for the brakes to cool, before we could attempt another takeoff. Outside it was foggy, and gray. It had set the tone for the morning: murky, and unsettling. But as we sat there holding hands, relieved, things felt better. The fog didn’t seem quite so ominous.
“I think I may have caused this,” Jimmy said.
“How do you mean?” I asked.
“Part of me was hoping for something bad to happen. Something that would cause us to appreciate the other.”
I didn’t tell him that I too feared I had caused it; only my thoughts were rooted more in guilt and shame than a desire to shift into appreciation and gratitude.
Jimmy got his wish, though; the incident caused us to shift, instantaneously. It was, in the end, a gift.
The rest of the trip was filled with things we needed; rest, good food, fun, play, and sex (of course).
On the last night, we shared what the trip had meant to each of us, and why it was important. We got so enrolled in our own sharing that, seconds after, we purchased another trip for next year.
You wouldn’t think taking a trip like this with your spouse is an outlier thing to do—but we did suffer a fair amount of judgment for it, including from our babysitters. They were happy to watch the boys—they love them dearly—but all the while were muttering under the breaths. “Well I’ve never even been away from my children for more than three nights…” Comments like that. Add to that that the boys were sick, and got a bit worse while we were gone.
I’m not immune to societal pressure, of course. I doubted myself. Maybe they’re sick because I left them. Maybe they’re not getting better because I’m gone. Maybe my sister-in-law is a better mother than me; maybe they know it, too. Maybe they don’t miss me at all, and will cry when we take them back, because they know: she’s not a real mother. She left us.
But, I know that’s not coming from me. It’s coming from out there.
The truth for me, in my heart of hearts, is I need my relationship with my husband to be lively, fun, sexy and intimate. I know we can’t have that all the time; we’re parents. But, we get to do it once a year, with a few day trips and weekends sprinkled along the way. We have the family support, and as for their judgments: I’ll pay that price. Seriously.
I mean, Antigua was fucking magical. This is going to sound like a Sandals commercial, but, shit — they deliver. You’d think, as non-drinkers, “all inclusive” is lost on us, but, no. We indulged in the speciality coffee shop and French bakery that was open all day and night, the jars of warm cookies throughout the resort, the variety of delicious restaurants, both casual and high-end. The place also looks amazing; amazing prime beach access with plenty of umbrellas and chairs, fire pits, romantic nooks, a million pools and hot tubs, garden swings and hammocks—if you’re in love, their resorts offer these wonderfully choreographed playgrounds full of hidden spots to escape into. Sure, many couples may say screw the planned out resort with its manicured pools and grounds — we think finding our own way is what’s romantic. It is, I like that too — but, talk to me about that AFTER you become a parent. For where we’re at, right now: we wanted to just show up and have everything miraculously and meticulously planned out, to where we only enjoyed it all without having to think about a thing.
As for the boys, yes I missed them, and I worried about their illness and checked in frequently—but we knew what we needed and why we were there. How foolish it would have been to squander it away, because of others’ shortsightedness, or judgments
And I know we’re not bad parents for getting away. I know what I’ve done, what we’ve done, this year, as parents. We showed up big, we gave our best—all while continually dedicating ourselves to continuing to take a look, get support, get feedback, improve. I’m not perfect, but I’m dedicated to my own growth; I will do whatever it takes. And, I’m learning more and more that my ego has no place in my personal growth. I will not be stupid and assert I can do it on my own.
Here’s why it’s stupid: yes, I can do a LOT on my own. But, everything I can do on my own—I’m already doing. Of course I am. I’m an ambitious person.
Then there’s this other category of stuff, though. The stuff that is blocked by the limits I can’t see. Not because I am deficient somehow, but because that’s true for everyone. I’d say you cannot see at least 50% of your own limits. Like, it’s impossible. You are blind to them. If that’s true, isn’t doing it on your own, and expecting to create dramatic results, a bit dubious?
Now maybe other people don’t care about all that. Maybe they aren’t chasing extraordinary success. Maybe incremental success, or some success, is enough.
But, what are we here for?
That brings me to Carl. I knew I was going to write about Carl, but I wasn’t totally sure how I’d get there. This segue is admittedly imperfect, because this post started in one place and is now veering to a totally different place. Oh well.
VNT had its first guest event the night before we left to Antigua. The coolest part of the event to me was how there were grads there spanning many different centers and time periods—and how it didn’t matter at all. Why would it? Our aim was so obviously the same: to get more people into this work. I loved feeling that instant connection, based on nothing except knowing those people and I shared the same vision. It was instant trust, instant acceptance; something I wish I could walk around feeling with everyone I encounter.
Anyway, Carl was one of these grads. I changed his name. He’s the husband of Jimmy’s high school friend. Jimmy hadn’t seen this high school friend since high school—and he had no idea she’d done the work. She did it while living in Florida; she reached out to him when she saw he was starting a center.
Back to Carl, though. Carl is your quintessential “white male.” Stoic, clean cut. Sells insurance. Salt and pepper hair. Stiff handshake.
I had a hard time believing Carl had actually done the work. I couldn’t picture him doing junkyard, or bawling sharing in front of the room. His wife had probably dragged him through all of it, and she’d probably dragged him to the guest event, too.
But, no. I was very wrong about Carl.
At the end of the night, Carl gave a share that shook everyone at their core. It wasn’t the words he said. It was his being.
We went around the room asking each person what their major takeaway was from the night.
When it was Carl’s turn, he said the guest event reminded him that he was really upset about the state of the world. His eyes watered as he said it. And as he said it, I felt it; I saw it, too. I saw the wars, the hate, the violence, the joke of a President we have, the unfairness, the people living in squalor for no good reason. That’s how raw his being was. He caused all of us to see it, to take our heads out of the sand. Then he said: “I want to create a world where, instead of reaching out your hand to take, you’re reaching out to help each other up.”
Simple. Nothing earth shattering. But, it was how he said it. He fucking meant it. He meant it with his whole heart. He actually connected to something real—with life, and force, and passion.
And then: there’s this group.
What are we even doing? There’s nothing wrong with supporting individuals’ personal growth, nothing at all—powerful parts make a powerful whole. I don’t think we all need to have goals Mother Theresa would approve.
But, are we even supporting real personal growth?
No offense, but look at some of our goals (and trust me I include myself). Is your losing ten pounds, or cleaning out your car, going to change the world?
Nope. Let’s be real: it’s not going to even come close. It probably won’t change even YOUR world.
Is that what we’re about? We support people in cleaning out their cars, meditating daily, and creating a “self-care” practice?
I don’t know how to say this softly. I only know how to say it somewhat offensively (or maybe full on offensively).
We need Carl, is all I can say. We need to, as a group, hear his share—and then ask, what are we even doing here? What’s the end-game?
Am I surprised there’s a bout of apathy going around? I’m really not.
I don’t know what the answer is. I guess JBJams has a point. Even if you follow the ground rules perfectly, if you’re not playing in the spirit of the work—of creating an extraordinary life—then you’re sort of out of integrity.
Or, you would be if we had any defined vision for this group. We don’t. I joked with Rocco that our mission statement is: “incrementally change your life while staying safely within the marshmallowy walls of your comfort zone!”
Again, offensive, I know. Offensive even to me, I want to argue and say I’ve made REAL progress here. I’ve done some major things, hit some major goal posts. I have, too. Mixed with a lot of really minor ones.
We play small here. That’s what it comes down to. “PSPLife: why play big when small lets you check the box and is way easier?”
Why is that?
You get that Trump is President, right? That’s real. Remember how “devastated” everyone was? Was that all talk?
Your donations to X and Y cause ain’t gonna change anything, I’m sorry.
And it seems like we’re totally cool with playing small, because gosh, we don’t want to offend anyone by kicking them out! We don’t want to offend or hurt anyone’s feelings by having standards! We want to welcome and support everyone, in being comfortably mediocre!
Come on. I don’t care about numbers, or being inclusive. I care about creating something impactful. Is that possible here?
I’ll try to end more positively: we have a committed group of powerful leaders who have been playing together over theee years.
What is the GREATEST possibility of that? Is this it? If you’re being honest, there is literally no way you can claim this is it.