I’ve been a little quiet on the aviation front lately, in large part because my stuff is up (another way of saying I’m feeling frustrated because I’m up against yet another learning curve – haha!).

In this month’s episode of Aviation as a Metaphor for Life, I’m learning how to use a sectional chart with an E6-B calculator, ruler and pencil to find my way when I’m lost in the sky.

A paper map!

Me to my CFI: “Are you freaking KIDDING me?!? It’s 2021, Mark, I have GPS!”

CFI to me: “Not on this flight, you don’t.”

I can hear myself complaining, “Gah! I just wanted to fly an airplane!” 😂

CFI: [staring at me]

Okay, okay … where were we?

I begin by learning the “lost protocols” process on the ground and I must also learn to master it in the air while piloting my Cessna 152 which, by the way, requires I be focused on at least 5-7 tasks simultaneously (and that’s on a beautiful, clear, smooth day).

Little side note: Listen, if it sounds like I’m complaining, it’s because I am – even though I clearly understand and deeply respect WHY it is important I know how to do this.

So, bitch and moan as I may (here in the privacy of my blog) I continue along with exercise after exercise; fine-tuning my understanding of VOR (variable omnidirectional receiver) frequencies and radials, alternate airport compass headings and morse code identifiers. Yes, I’m also learning morse code. 🤓

As I was pondering (and procrastinating) the exercise of lost protocols and diversions last week, I got to thinking – as I often do – about how this exercise relates, in some way, to what is happening in my personal life. It didn’t take much introspection to connect the dots.

A tiny bit of back story for those who may be new to following my journey…

The Path to Feeling Lost

The past two and a half years have been an excruciating time for me; beginning with the 2018 unveiling of who the man I married really is, into a period of death and rebirth of myself in the process of untangling the marriage I had vowed “to have and to hold forever”.

I began my journey into the art of airmanship at the half-way point between then and now, and have constantly been amazed by the ways in which my personal life has paralleled that of my experiences in the air.

If you’ve been following my story, you’ve heard me talk of “aviation as a metaphor for life” frequently. Working on “lost protocols and diversions” is yet another opportunity to observe the beauty of the universal parallels at work.

I had been lost for two and a half years. Y E A R S !!!

That is a long effing time to not know yourself, to experience repetitive mental and emotional trauma, to feel alone, confused and utterly unworthy across all areas of life.

I had been lost for so long, in fact, I began to cycle through three possible scenarios. I sometimes wondered if I had actually died and was stuck between worlds. Other times I was sure the heartbreak had fragmented my psyche and I needed to check myself in someplace. On semi-normal days, I was so depressed that I resigned myself to this “gray zone”. It had become my new baseline and I couldn’t shake it.

Flying airplanes was the only time I felt alive – truly ALIVE. I often say that aviation saved my life.

And here’s how this month’s aviation theme continues to be a lighthouse on my voyage.

Lost protocols teach you how to get back on track when you fall off course.

Finding Myself Through Intuition and Charting Invisible Lines

I begin by dialing a particular frequency to find out what directional radial I’m on, based on these VOR devices that are anchored to certain geographical locations. Once I’ve established the nearest VOR radial I’m on, I draw a straight line on my sectional chart. Next, I plug in the next nearest VOR, determine that radial and draw a line on the chart that intersects with the previous line. “X” marks the spot of where I’m at.

My next step is to locate my original destination (or alternate airport) by calculating the heading I’ll fly to arrive there. I also need to verify the distance, the time it will take and the amount of fuel I’ll burn getting there. A lot going on here – while I’m also flying the plane, mind you.

Okay, so definitely more detail than what’s necessary here but details paint a clearer picture and, isn’t that what story-telling is?

I need to know how to do this because I’m preparing for my solo cross-country flights. This will prepare me for finding my way when I no longer recognize unfamiliar terrain.

When I knew my marriage was doomed, I bought a one-way ticket to London. I don’t know why London, I’d just been getting these intuitive hits to “Go to London!” for several months. So, I went and I just wandered around lost in an unfamiliar land for several weeks. I didn’t know where I was, or why, or what would happen to me. And I was scared.

Late last summer, I began getting these intuitive hits to “Go to Montana!” I didn’t know why Montana; I’d never been there, nor did I know anyone there. Here’s what I can tell you today: London and Montana book-ended my 18-month “in-between period” of healing from heartbreak. London was my first VOR and Bozeman, MT was my second.

So, for fun, I decided to work out the idea of lost protocols as a metaphor.

There are very clear and distinct lines between these two locations; inexplicable happenings and “chance meetings” in Montana that were directly linked to my ancestral lines (England + Scotland) and experiences I’d had in the UK countryside. Two seemingly VERY different locations and energies were directly connected through invisible cross lines (VOR radials) and I now knew, on some level, I would always know how to find my way back to my Self.

There is something empowering about knowing how to chart your course back home using your intuition, charting invisible lines and paying attention to the signs.

Follow more of my Aviation as a Metaphor for Life journey here in my Blog or head on over to join the private Always Be Rising Facebook group.