Everything I’ve learned in aviation has taught me to think ahead. Hundreds of miles down the road. Plan in order to be prepared, learn to anticipate every possible outcome. While this strategy is incredibly useful in flying, it doesn’t translate so well in day to day life. More specifically, interactions with other people. What started out as development of yet another personal communication skill, has somehow mutated into the unproductive act of judgement. Ahhhhhh…not the “J” word again. I was sure as sunrise,  that I’d removed that line of thinking a long time ago. No such luck. Apparently still a work in progress.

Recently I worked through a very confusing life skill. The self-awareness and balance that allows others to be however they wish. With this in mind, I heartedly believe that no one wakes up in the morning and thinks let’s see how big of a donkey’s butt I can be today. Saying that, I have to admit there are a lot of days I encounter other carbon emitters who seem to be doing an oscar-worthy arse impression. At least from my perspective. Which doglegs back to my original point. The world wide truth that each of us are doing our best for where we sit at any given moment. I know this because it’s something I’m constantly working on myself. Sometimes when we’re feeling out of control or powerless our best might be irrational and although spoken in a calm voice, unreasonable and passive aggressive. Now I don’t know about you but there have been times in my life when I’ve been on both sides of that prickly, picket fence. On the giving and the receiving end. But the pilot in me, the uber planner, likes to operate in a world with universal certainties. For example–I treat you with respect and you will offer the same courtesy in return. If a favor is done, a sincere and genuine thank you is exchanged. If I’m flexible and keep a level head, then others I encounter will conduct themselves in the same manner. This is where I stub a toe.

Aviation is a highly technical domain with grave consequences if the protocols aren’t followed to a “T.” In the rest of the world, however, no universal parameters apply. I’ve discovered we all vibrate at different levels, are raised in unique family cultures and value different things. So I’ve had to learn the tough lesson that although we may resemble each other on the outside–one head, no tails, fingers and toes–our differences are as many as our similarities and we all own the right to choose how we conduct ourselves. We have this right not because we inherit it, buy it, earn it, every living thing possesses this opportunity solely because it exists. Fortunately, we are born with the right to pick. Do we want to ask questions, get information, move forward and progress? Or are we comfortable and content where we currently sit? Do we feel balanced and fair or does our perception of powerlessness cause us to run over others and take advantage if given the chance? When we are irritated and angry do we lash out or pause to reflect? As you can see just by this short list there are hundreds of ways to handle each interaction we have with our fellow humans. And when the sunsets, all that matters is we all get the luxury to pick.

So as part of my personal growth plan, a commitment I’ve made to be the best version of myself, I need to remove any mounting frustration that builds when others don’t act as I expect. All I can do is allow them to be and if their being happens to damage me in any way, then I must use my voice, speak my truth and hold them accountable for their actions. (As I expect the same in return.) Otherwise, I’m destined to waste my most valued resource. The limited reserves in my internal energy tank. A commodity so precious that I’m not willing to squander it away by being irritated, angry or frustrated.

There really is no point worrying about how I think things should be and how other humans should act. Instead, I remind, I haven’t walked a mile in their shoes and forgive myself for having a weak moment and passing judgement.

How curious I find the concept of forgiveness. The easiness that settles when you let every individual be as they choose. No expectations, no stake in the outcome. An observer on top a mountain. Watching as each breathing entity walks at their pace, on their time, being guided on their path.

E.L. Chappel author of Risk/Spirit Dance/Storm Chasers

Honoring the two-legged, the four-legged, the winged, the finned even the creepy crawlers, the dark keepers of the night

aka The Glamorous Wife

Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me….



  1. Joanie on June 20, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Good post. A theme I think all of us should sit a spell and think and write about at least once a year. I always tell my husband and daughter “you get what you expect.”

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