09/29/2015 12:19 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2016

Fly the Friendly Skies

Drop like a rock 3500 feet out of the sky on a twin prop cloud-hopper flight out of Aspen and suddenly you get what's important in life and stuff. It's not like the finality of a total plane crash or anything, but hell, maybe it's worse. Crash, it's over. You're done in that one, off to the next one. But bounce your head off the ceiling above seat 6B, with the prospect of more to come, and you've still got a lot to think about. And if that's not enough, the flurry of oxygen masks dropping out of their overhead cocoons leave no doubt. Especially when yours gets to your seat before you do.

And if you're already wrung out on the edge of everything anyway, and you get just a little taste, a little hello from who has to be Who ever, well, damn. Meaningful. More meaningful than the immune wealth and cloistered abundance I've just experienced in Aspen, a painfully beautiful and flush community nestled out there in heaven's valley and a double arm's length removed from reality. Wrenches me out of my wallow for what could have been and suggests that maybe I should consider what still can be. And already is.

I am a raw dilemma of a human. A 30-year ad man with some notable successes, I've been rewarded beyond my wildest expectations with experiences, accomplishments and what George Carlin calls stuff. Yet all I can do is get myself miserable over what woulda/shoulda/coulda been. Plus I'm a believer-in-training who is beginning to understand the true value of service to others, realize that we're all inadequate in the eyes of you know Who and gaining some spiritual traction and reward embracing the true blessings I already have. Hello.

I'm not sure how all this comes together, but falling out of the sky is one serious provocation for figuring it out.

As fate would have it - and it always does - I've rearranged plans and flights so I can stay a couple extra days in Aspen, visiting a long-time and good friend and occasional business colleague, which means as life's dice have it, this flight defies all the odds. I'm not supposed to be on it. But I am, and now I'm at the quadruple mercy of a) all airplane flights every time out; b) a change in plans that gets me on this one, the one that chicken littles; c) a business opportunity out of the blue that got me out here in the first place, and d) life's general mojo.

And it's not pick-one multiple choice, either. It's all of it.

Now I'm back for more a few weeks later, heaven bound again. LaGuardia to Kansas City, for a good old family reunion. Good, because it's family, old because we're all getting up there. Couple of bumps nudge us west, as if to remind me it's still Him that rules the skies, and the earth and everything in between, but nothing near as dramatic as the last one. Yet.

Last time I was 27,000 feet up, minus a sudden 3500, I made a lot of promises about priorities, commitments, family and life's big picture, counting on the adage that it's never too late and assuming the it can cover a lot of territory. I think it's meaningful that this very next flight is winging us over to my brother's where he and our sister and me will gather our progeny around us. Last family reunion was at my sister's house outside Washington DC, three years ago, and I showed up with a 33,000 word look back at two generations of family history, some of it, like all families, not pretty.

Must have been something I needed to do. Put it all in writing.

So I did.

Now, finally, for me, it's time to embrace the present, and be grateful for what it is, and what it isn't, and look ahead and imagine the possibilities. Assume the position. Act as if. Spread your own wings and fly. And it will be.

But stay the hell away from life's air pockets.

Tim Arnold
26 Sept 2015
New York, NY