"BE CAREFUL"--i.e. "I LOVE YOU" - 31 January 2015
Turret Arch and Jupiter at Night - Arches National Park, File# 1515291
Link to Full Sized Image: http://www.tom-hill.biz/Galleries/Scenics/Utah/i-gMHfWC4/A
I'm sitting in the local Starbucks towards the end of the holidays. As I was sitting here watching the people come and go I got to thinking about whether any of them were traveling and whether they just left family or making their way back home. I'm thinking about these travelers and my own experiences. Then, I remembered when I was younger out on my own for the first time, why it mattered to my dad so much that I check in on whether I made it or not to my destination. To me, it felt like a form of control to always check in, as in checking to my dad was somehow subverting my freedom. I grudgingly accepted the situation but not without a bunch of grousing on my part. Eventually I accepted things and moved on. Interesting enough a couple years ago I got a totally different perspective on this need to look out for loved ones. I realized it's not about control, not in the least. All it's about is love. Let me explain.
Control is about making someone conform to your will. It's about power. Love is about wanting the best for the other. Most people can imagine that when it's about controlling someone, there's very little love involved.
A couple years ago I was flying a mission in New Mexico. I think we were doing a flight not a hundred miles north of where I used to work at Holloman AFB. Like most military aircraft our C-12 had lots of radios to listen to practically anything we wanted. Normally, you set one radio to a controlling agency to coordinate your clearance and flight path. The other radios were normally used to coordinate miscellaneous things associated with the mission. Since we didn't have much to coordinate on this particular day, we set one of our radios to the "chat" freq commonly used by the General Aviation world just to have it tuned to something--might as well use it vs turning the radio off uselessly.
Most times when you listen to this frequency you hear people talking about mundane things like the weather. You might hear someone talking about the score of a football game--though I always thought such discussions weren't appropriate for the frequency. On this day I heard the familiar comm of two aircraft flying in formation. Since I had little general aviation flight time, I listened quite intently to these two pilots coordinate their formation. It was a novelty to me to hear a formation flight in the general aviation context verses what goes on the military context which I have very deep experience. While a bit "chatty" by military standards, I could tell these two pilots where taking their responsibilities quite seriously and making sure everyone in the formation knew what was happening next, an absolute necessity in formation flying.
As I listened to their comm I gleaned they were young women flying Cessna style aircraft from one point to another not too terribly high above the mountains in the area. I got the feeling they weren't the most experienced aviators by them not using "standard" brevity or keywords normal between proficient formation fliers. Still, it sounded like they were getting their messages across and all was well in their formation. I also got to believe by their banter they were probably friends when not flying. I don't know why I thought that. It was just one of those "blink" assessments.
After a few minutes listening I heard the following;
Wingman to the lead, in a vary matter of fact tone - "ah, do you see the ridge ahead?"
With that transmission, I imagined the wingman was flying behind lead a few hundred feet and looking through the lead, the wingman spied a ridge that might possibly be a factor to the formation but probably wasn't. I imagined this wingman saw the terrain and had been taught by someone in her flight training, "when in doubt ask." So, she asked, "ah, do you see the terrain?"
Flight lead to wingman - "why yes I do, thank you for asking."
At first I thought the interchange was a bit odd. With a competent lead, wingmen don't ask such questions. As a wingman, you simply follow and do what the lead tells you to as best as you can. If you're wondering about the terrain, it has to be approaching dangerous to speak up as a wingman which it certainly didn't appear that way for these two. This wingman seemed to simply want to make sure all was perfectly well with a simple question to her flight lead. It wasn't about control. It wasn't about trying to lead from behind as some wingmen might try. It seemed to me wholly about concern for her friend in this seemingly new situation, flying in formation.
As I thought about this interchange, an idea popped into my head, she just wanted the best for her friend, the lead. It wasn't about control. It wasn't about power. It was simply being concerned for her friend's well being.
I have no idea why some thoughts get into my head. Right after I thought this wingman was coming from a "place" of concern for her friend, I connected their circumstances to my dad years ago asking that I check in when I traveled far and wide. As a college kid traveling back to school, I remember being a bit annoyed he would need a call from me I made it safely back. "What, he's not confident with my skills a a driver?" "Was he thinking I wasn't competent enough?" As I made the association with this woman and her flight lead I totally got I never thought of my dad making such requests from a place of love. Back then I probably thought he was coming from a place of control which I bristled at instinctually.
I wonder now if I knew he made such requests to check in because he loved me and wanted the best for me if I would've had a bit different connection with him on such matters. I have no idea.
I think it's very powerful medicine how situations change with a new perspective. I wonder if our family or friends would embrace us differently if they knew when we say "please check in," or "be careful" really means "I love you."