HOW TO BE MARRIED TO A MARINE FIGHTER PILOT--A Marine Corps pilot's wife: F-4s, F/A-18s and aviators from my perspective.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Aviator Brief XVI: Donuts and Sympathy

A well-run squadron is like a family, with the CO the tough yet benevolent father figure watching over his aviators. Personal troubles at home could affect performance in the air. A pilot might be taken off flight status temporarily for a death in the family, financial problems, a separation, or a pending divorce--anything with the potential to  divert concentration. The CO had an obligation to evaluate how each aviator handled stressful situations and the likely impact on his ability to fly safely.
Jack Hartman got called into his CO’s office. The CO invited him in, told him to take a seat, and make himself comfortable. He offered Jack a donut out of a pink bakery box. Jack chose one and sat back, waiting to see what the CO wanted.
The CO hemmed and hawed, then in a roundabout way suggested everyone went through tough times and there was no shame in it. The CO said, “I hope you know you can always come to me to talk about anything troubling you.”
“Sure, CO.” Puzzled, Jack figured the boss needed to feel needed. He took a bite of the donut.
The CO said, “So tell me about what’s troubling you.”
Jack didn’t know what to say. He took another bite of the donut and mumbled, “I don’t have anything troubling me.”
“You’re not going through marital problems?”
The red-faced CO stood up, grabbed the half-eaten donut out of Jack’s hand, and kicked him out of the office.
No troubles? No donut.
Jack unknowingly broke the number one rule. Never make the CO look bad at the field.

It is human nature to reach out to another who we perceive to be in need. We want to comfort them and feel better about ourselves--if only for a moment--for breaking out of our self-absorbtion. Sometimes the other has not wanted my comfort, pity, or I have completely misread their life and emotional cues. 

At such a time I want to grab my donut back and kick them out of my sympathy office. Rejection! 

Just as I believe our reaction to tough times in life defines our marriage, so I believe my reaction to rejection defines my life. 

I have been blessed in my life by tragedy. How can I look at it that way? I would love it if bad things never happened. I would give almost anything to have my brother back alive and well and with his beloved Kathy and adored kids. But he is gone, and his loss in a midair tested my commitment to my husband. Could I afford love when my husband flew the planes that my brother had died in? Instead of drawing away from me when I backed off emotionally, my husband reached out again and again until I realized he was going to be there for me no matter what. I knew then that I would also be there for him no matter what. In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in good times and bad, 'til death do us part. 

Being rejected by an agent, an editor or a publisher shouldn't make me angry or make me give up writing or give up sending out my manuscripts. I need to write. I made a commitment to myself to write, to put ideas out there, to try to make sense of the world. "In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in good times and bad, 'til death do us part."

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