Leaving on a Jet Plane

Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver. So much is wrapped up in the symbolism of that song for me. When my guitar teacher suggested I try that one recently, I experienced so much more than the anticipation of learning a new song. I had been asking for an easier song that I could just strum along with while I sing. This song represents exactly where I am in my journey right now. 

For years I wished longingly that I could spend some time on activities that were just fun or fulfilling. But I knew I had to reserve all my time and energy for my children, whose life experiences left me no energy or room to pursue my own passions or whimsy. I know that was the right decision at the time, and I have no regrets. 

But I am choosing not to live my life that way anymore. I was tolerating certain situations to keep peace in my life, and I was careful not to add in any extra complications. Now I don’t want to limit myself anymore. I want to be fulfilled in all areas of my life and to thrive! I want to live my life with gusto. I want to try new things and satisfy curiosities. 

Does that mean that my children have finished experiencing challenges that require a lot of my care and attention? No, it doesn’t.  But that’s why it’s even more important for me to begin to make the room and time for joy and fulfillment. If I wait until they don’t need me anymore, I’ll wait forever. This is honestly a new realization for me. And it’s giving me the opportunity to dream about what experiences I choose to try next. 

This dream started a long time ago. As a camper at sleep away camp, one of my most poignant memories was sitting around the bonfire on the last night of camp, singing and sobbing while our counselors played Leaving on a Jet Plane on guitar. I’m pretty sure that was a required part of the job, to ensure we’d be so devastated upon leaving that we’d sign up again as soon as we got home. And I wanted to be that counselor. I wanted to be able to strum on my guitar and sing around a campfire. I also wanted long, straight hair like they had, but that’s for another post. 

It took me 40 more years and some life coaching to finally say, “I’m going to do this! Just for me and just because I always wanted to!  I’m going to take guitar lessons!” And it’s coming full circle that the song I’m learning is the one that inspired this desire so long ago.

I initially had all kinds of my typical reservations about not having time, talent or tender. But despite those limiting beliefs, I dared myself one day to ask at the local music store if they had a list of teachers. As fate would have it, the cool musician behind the counter handed me his card, and we scheduled our first lesson right then and there. I had no time to back out or rethink. 10 months later I haven’t looked back. 

The sessions have become so much more to me than just lessons. They symbolize for me how simple it is to just say I’m going to try something new and to make it happen. Despite my hesitations, I was able to easily commit to carve out the time and the investment. I also find such joy in seeing the physical progress that I’m making in something every week. And I’m no natural. But it makes me happy!

This specific song brought up other emotions for me, as well.  As I played Leaving on a Jet Plane for the first time, I felt really sad. My two older children live so far away from me. The only way to get to them is on a jet plane. And this year they were each diagnosed with chronic physical illnesses and I’m not there. I can pray, check in often, and let them know how much I care.  But that’s all I can do. 

I’ve written in past posts how I rarely take time to process my feelings. But every time I practice this song, I  am forced to face my feelings. And it’s important. Because I’m feeling scared and sad yet I am still plugging along, having my lessons, and strumming my guitar. And  what I thought was just a whim is actually cathartic. 

The fact that I waited so long to do something that I’ve always wanted to do, just for the heck of it, seems silly to me now. I figured I’d do it ‘some day’ and I’ve realized that some day is today. And guitar was just the beginning. About a month ago I took a full day Reiki training course, something I’ve been curious about, and became a Reiki practitioner. Next weekend I’m going to a retreat at the Omega Institute, something else that’s been on my bucket list. I’m pretty sure that one of my next endeavors will be voice lessons! Just because I always wanted them. They go so well with guitar lessons, don’t you think? 

Do I know what I’m going to do with all of these new skills? Nope. Am I able to do them now because I’m over the hump of motherhood? Nope. Not the way my kids experience life. There will be lots of ups and downs on this roller coaster. But I’m going to keep enjoying my life and trying new activities as I make my way around this theme park called life.

And one day, I may even be the one strumming the guitar around the campfire, as others sing and sway. But I think I’ll change the song. In fact, the new song I started learning is Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffett. Because this summer I’m giving myself permission to take time to “nibble on sponge cake and watch the sun bake…” I’m giving myself permission to play. 



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