Sunday, March 16, 2014

2014.03.16 Stalling Out?

I feel stalled out. Maybe it’s winter blues, or world and church systems run amok. More likely it’s personal disappointment because my consistent, persistent, persevering,very good efforts to get my little memoir published have not born fruit—yet. Plus, it's Saturday with nothing to do.

Thus, I feel like Alexander having his “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” (1972 book by Judith Viorst)  I’m not a fourth grader like Alexander, therefore I’m having not one but a series of such days. Perfectly age-appropriate, no doubt, yet clever rationalization doesn’t get me out of the stall.

You know what it feels like when your car stalls out, right?  Suddenly you lose your GO-power. The stalling out phenomenon is worse in an airplane. I learned about it when, back in the 70s, I took a pinch-hitter course, learning how to fly a small plane. My then-husband was a pilot and owned a Piper Cub. He was an excellent and safe pilot, and I was confident I’d never have to pinch hit. The real reason I took the course was to write about the experience, and also get a photo of myself standing at the wing of a small aircraft—grinning. Those were my Brenda Starr Girl Reporter days on staff for a small local weekly newspaper—my first paid job ever.

My instructor talked a lot about stalling out, especially while taking off. I know little of aerodynamics but a stall on take off, he said, was more dangerous than a nose-down stall that could cause a tailspin.

Technically, a stall can be described thus:  Sufficient airspeed must be maintained in flight to produce enough lift to support the airplane without requiring too large an angle of attack. At a specific angle of attack, called the critical angle of attack, air going over a wing will separate from the wing or "burble" causing the wing to lose its lift (stall).

When the plane stalls on takeoff it feels as if it starts to slide backwards, hovering there, threatening to descend tail first.  In this image, the lower plane is in stall—like me just now.

A skilled pilot knows how to get out of a stall. My ultra-calm instructor was my co-pilot making sure I didn’t overdo the power trip, a big temptation, and stall out. I loved powering up—rising into the air. In a small plane you really feel, well, as if you yourself are a huge bird. 

But how do you "pilot" your life when a stall happens? I have no idea really. I hovered around for a while, doing nothing purposeful, moping. I gave God my worries, but not my aspirations. Were they too high? I had no idea.

So here’s what I did: I mopped the disgusting bathroom floor covered with winter grit; I went for a walk in 50 degree weather; I met a friend for lunch. She felt blah too, so we ordered pizza, one for each of us. I ate some bread before my pizza arrived. Really!  My friend was more sensible and restrained. We laughed a lot. Back home I ordered some new skinny jeans from a catalog because I’d punctured a small hole with my pointy fingernail in the ones I got for $20 at CVS. I called another friend who wondered if I were "too attached". I told her no, I’m sleeping and eating fine. I’ll detach tomorrow—maybe.

I marvel that the high point of days like this is enjoying a glass of wine in the evening with my husband and watching a British soap, like "Doc Martin"—the local doc in a tiny town in Cornwall.  Martin is perpetually ill-mannered and grumpy as hell—and we love him.

Writing about my stall-days helps. Godde knows why but I feel better just getting it out and onto a page.  Feel free to take it all on yourself but don’t feel too sorry for me. Hope and energy return slowly, like wind on wings. I remember this from other stall times in my life when I didn’t crash.

Behold!  The psalm reading for evening prayer was Psalm 138. I use Pamela Greenberg's translation. Verse 8 flew off the page and into my heart. The psalmist prays: If I walk into the thick of my sorrows, you keep me alive—against the wrath of my fears.

End of slumpy stall for today. I'm alive. Sadness and fear can't kill Soul.