Navigationally Challenged

Recently, the children and I decided to take a non-rev trip from IAH to STL to meet up with the Captain. It was my son’s tenth birthday – the big 1-0 – and if daddy couldn’t come to us, then by golly, we were going to go to daddy!

Now, by non-rev, of course, I mean there was absolutely no way we were getting three people on a plane flying standby without a little (lot of) devine intervention, so we gassed up the ol’ mom van, slipped into our most comfy, non-rev-inappropriate leggings and beach-style flip-flops, and let the ribbon of pavement roll out before us like a familiar old friend,  beckoning us toward our beloved pilot and his awaiting arms.

My husband is a pilot and an Eagle Scout. It’s seriously like the man was born with a handy-dandy, foolproof, built-in INS. I swear you could spin him around a bazillion times blindfolded in a white-out blizzard and he could still tell you north from south.

And then there’s me.

It’s a bit of ironic hilarity that he married a navigational planewreck. I can literally get lost driving to my own house via the same route we’ve taken for three years. True story.

I have been known to cruise right past my own driveway, and when the children (annoyingly) notice this minute detail, I inform them I’m just casing out the hood and checking on the neighbors. I don’t think they actually buy it.

In my defense though, we do live out in the country with a [relatively] unmarked driveway. Except for the fence…and mailbox…and… Oh, whatever! That’s my alibi and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, that’s why I was feeling pretty stinking good about myself as we neared Texarkana, a city on the borders of Texas and California (seriously, I’m just kidding – sort of). Four hours into our road trip without any ‘man’ intervention, and I was killing it! We hadn’t taken a single wrong turn. KA-CHOW!

The GPS chick is my BFF. Well…until she’s not.

Now, if you are navigationally challenged, it’s always a good idea to keep the little red gas needle above the halfway mark. Take my word for it; you just never know where you might end up. My husband calls it getting lost; I call it an unexpected adventure. I’m right, of course. It’s all about perspective.

The gas needle was dipping precariously low, so the kids and I stopped to fill up the tank just before we hit the city. However, we unanimously decided we would wait to use the bathrooms until the restaurant we planned on visiting in Texarkana; after all it was only another 15-20 minutes away and this little joint was about as sketchy as EWR at redeye.

They should have peed.

Because that, my dear friends, is when the Google chick decided to betray my trust. She informed me in no uncertain terms that I needed to be ‘rerouted’ due to an accident that had, according to her innocenct explanation, completely closed down the highway ahead for an undetermined amount of time.

Let me just say here that ‘rerouted’ to a navigationally challenged person is translation for ‘I’m about to send you on a fantastic adventure (i.e. get your butt totally and royally lost) and there’s nothing you can do about it’. This day would be no exception.

As there were tons of other cars including a bus and even some semis headed down the same ‘alternate route’ as us, I sighed in relief, figuring we were still golden. After all, when in doubt, follow the trucks! That’s the unspoken rule of the road.

Well, long story short, we drove…and drove…and drove some more. And the road got narrower…and narrower…and narrower until those semitrucks were taking up the whole thing – I mean shoulder to shoulder. The road was decorated with potholes the size of my front tire, often forcing us to drive with one wheel in the shoulder to keep from bottoming out. And eventually grass – I am not exaggerating – was growing down the middle of the ‘road.’

Ummmm… That’s about the time I started to get a little, tiny bit suspicious of Google chick’s intentions. Yeah, I know, a little late on the uptake.

I kept thinking, “Well, this doesn’t seem right…” But upon checking the GPS map, it clearly showed the road we were on curving around and reconnecting to the highway just up yonder. Plus the semis were still in front of and behind me and there was literally nowhere to turn around. Besides, according to the map, just one more right turn up ahead and…

In her sweetest, sappiest voice she informed me, “You have arrived at your destination!” And then we lost all cell service.

Uh to the friggin oh.

Yeah. Apparently, my destination of choice was some farmer’s deadend cattle pasture in the middle of the Arkansas boondocks. Useful.

There I sat along with a hundred other hopelessly lost highway travelers because that’s where my two-faced, former GPS BFF dumped me off and decided to cut all ties. See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya.

There was nothing, and I mean nothing out there but cow patties and prairie grass. We even saw a real live, Arkansas razorback. Look, I live in the country, but this was like the untamed wilderness. So there we sat in a cluster of chaos in the middle of nowhere. I was glad I had filled up my gas tank when I did because we wouldn’t be seeing a single pump for at least a couple of more hours.

Thanks, but no thanks Google chick.

So check this out. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. The local Sherriff’s Department – which consisted of one old guy with snowy hair, a handlebar mustache, and a bright red face – had to come out and, along with the farmer in his overalls (both of whom were incredibly nice considering the bazillion cars stretching as far as the eye could see on their one-horse road), had to give verbal directions to each and every single vehicle. Helloooooo Mayberry.

Their titilating directions went something like this, “Foller this here road till ya see the white fence, then hang a right. Take a’nuther right down by the ‘ol Johnson barn and foller that ‘un fer a long time till ya hit the main road (by which they apparently meant one only slightly wider without grass growing on it).

Oh, and watch out fer them there cows. They sometimes git on the road and don’t feel like movin’!”

Just. Perfect.

Now at this point my kids started to panic a little. To be fair, we were in a totally foreign place where we never intended to be, completely lost, without anything or anyone to guide us. And they really had to pee.

There was no turning back because the road was jammed up with 18-wheelers. We couldn’t go right because it was a dead-end. So our only choice was to keep rolling forward one terrifying foot at a time.

“Mommy, mommy! What are we going to do??”

I told the kids with more confidence than I actually felt, “We keep going, that ‘s what. We are where we are. Now let’s figure out how to get where we want to be.”

We whispered a quick prayer, put the pedal to the metal, and stalwartly stayed our course until the GPS eventually came back from her vacation and picked us back up. How considerate of her. Along the way, we looked for things to marvel at – baby calves, a herd of wild deer, Farmer Johnson’s barn, a beautiful patch of wildflowers – and we clung to those things. We intentionally sought out the beauty in the chaos.

Then we ended up in a little place called Stamps, a 62 mile detour (each way) from our original planned path. Stamps, by the way, happens to be the former home of Maya Angelou. And their one and only gas station? It apparently closes at 5 sharp. Who knew?

But do you want to know what? This crazy, ridiculous, little side adventure of ours ended up being the childrens’ favorite part of the entire trip – and maybe mine too…after it was over!

It was the part where we discovered what we were made of. It’s the part where we could have given up but decided to keep moving forward. It’s the part where we discovered hidden beauty, unbreakable fortitude, and inner strength. It’s the moments during which we bonded the most.

When my son sat me down that night at the hotel (four hours late, mind you) and said, “Mommy, I just want to thank you for trying so hard today. I know it was really frustrating and scary, but you didn’t give up and you didn’t get mad. Instead we found a way out – together!”

Well, I may or may not have gotten a little [as in Niagra Falls] teary. Because he was absolutely right.

We did it together! We chose to be brave and keep going when quitting would have been easier. We made it.

Perhaps some of you have been there or are currently there – not on a crosscountry road trip but on your marriage journey. Maybe today you are feeling navigationally challenged.

You thought you had this thing called marriage all planned out. You knew exactly where you were headed, exactly what the road ahead looked like, exactly where you would end up.

But then life rerouted you.

Now you have been dumped off in the middle of nowhere: alone, frustrated, miserable, scared. The blissful marriage journey you set out upon and envisioned is now the unrecognizable marriage boondocks  and is filled with deep potholes and more than a few cows in the road.

There’s no highway in sight. The GPS has abandoned you. You are surrounded by people and yet you feel utterly and hopelessly lost and alone. This is not the life journey you planned out.

And frankly, it sucks. 

Listen to me, friends! I know it’s hard…so very hard. It’s painful. It’s scary. It’s lonely. It would be easier to quit. But just because GPS (i.e. the world) declares that you have reached your final marriage destination doesn’t make it true! In fact, it’s anything but. You didn’t marry the world, so don’t let the world tell you that this is the end of the road – that your marriage has to end in static misery. It doesn’t. 

But how do you even begin to find your way back to a place of relationship bliss when you have been rerouted to marital boondocks?

You put the P.E.D.A.L. to the metal, that’s how.

P- ray. It is hard to hate someone for whom you are praying earnestly. Making specific, regular,  intentional prayer for your spouse part of your life will change your marriage. Keeping a prayer journal to see how your marrige has progressed over time will also help you to see the way prayers have been answered in your marriage. Write your own prayers or find a resource such as the Just Winging It aviation specific prayer books to guide you on your journey. Also, reach out to trusted confidantes and have them pray for your marriage too. It is a powerful tool that we too often neglect. Yet, I have personally seen ‘hopelessly lost’ marriages miraculously come back to life through a restructured and intentional prayer life.

E- xperience the scenery. Take care of yourself and enjoy life. Learn to F.L.Y. Take time to truly examine how you treat your spouse and react to him/her. Emotions are reactionary, and by changing the way we respond to someone, we can change everything. We can’t control circumstances in our lives (schedule changes, missed holidays, lonely nights), but we can control our reactions to them. Choose to love your husband/wife fiercely even…no, especially when it’s hard. Our own hearts will also follow the course of our actions. Create new memories by taking time to experience some fun in your lives. Monotony is a big, fat cow smack dab in your marriage road. Take time to remember or even write down all of the reasons you fell in love with him/her to begin with and cling to them desperately. Let that fuel you. Take time to remember. Relive the amazing memories you have shared together over the years. Tape pictures of your joyful moments all over every surface of your house if you have to. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself and your spouse that your marriage is beautiful and worth the fight. Because it is.

D- on’t stop moving. When we have been re-routed far off the beaten path and we feel lost and scared, our gut reaction is to throw it in park and abandon the whole journey. However, I encourage you to take a different approach – keep rolling forward one terrifying foot at a time. Be brave and keep going even when quitting seems much easier. You are where you are. Now it’s time to figure out how to get where you want to be! Will the road ahead be long, grassy, and full of potholes and stubborn cows? Yes, absolutely. I’m not even here to pretend it’s not. But it’s also the part where you discover what you are made of. It’s the part where you discover your hidden beauty, unbreakable fortitude, and inner strength. No road goes on forever, and this one, no matter how bumpy, is just a short stretch of your larger journey. Keep moving and the scenery will eventually change. And when you finally reach your desired destination, you will cherish it more and cling tighter to your spouse than you ever would have without the detour. You will be amazed at the breathtaking beauty that awaits your marriage on the other side of the broken road.

A- sk for directions. Sometimes we all need a little help. It’s easy to feel surrounded by people and yet completely lost and alone. There is nothing wrong and everything right with asking for help when you have been rerouted. Whether it’s grief, finances, or marital challenges that you face, finding the right person to help you get back on track is very, very important. Remember that aviation marriage is not exactly like a 9-5 marriage, however, and seeking help from someone who does not understand the ins and outs of your circumstances can leave you even more lost and frustrated. That is like trying to fly VFR in IFR conditions. Confide in friends who understand what this life is like and who are positive and encouraging towards your marriage. Seek out professionals who have experience with aviation marriages, military marriages or other similar fields where distance is a tangible hurdle that you must face. Once in awhile, we all need a Sheriff who ‘knows the area’ to guide us back to the main road.

L- earn the correct fuel and keep the tank full. The thing is, we all too often think we are putting the right fuel in our spouse’s tank, when in truth it’s more like we are pumping AvGas into our Honda Civic. In the end, no matter how much we pump, things just won’t run and will likely break. We need to figure out what exactly makes our spouse’s motor purr and be sure we are filling them up with the right fuel! We also need to tell our spouses exactly what fuel we need. There’s a great resource called The Five Love Languages about this subject if you have never read it. It’s amazing how often we think we are loving our spouses well when in fact we have been giving them things they don’t run on. If we keep our spouse’s tank full (of the right stuff), we can coast through the re-routes of life with confidence that we’ll make it through!

Marriage is a journey. Sometimes you cruise through without incident, but sometimes you find that you have been unexpectedly rerouted and dumped off in a field of marital potholes and cow patties. You know what? It sucks. It really, really does.

But the good great news is that you have not reached your final destination. Don’t let the world convince you to abandon the journey quite yet. You’re marriage is worth fighting for, and you deserve more than stalled misery; you deserve a marriage the way it was meant to be – filled with passion and joy!

You are where you are, now it’s time to figure out how to get back where you need to be. Will the road be long? Undoubtedly. However, once you arrive, you will find that the destination was well worth the journey.

Angelia (a navigationally challenged pilot wife)



5 thoughts on “Navigationally Challenged”

  1. Awesome post! Our aviation marriages definitely have unique challenges (and unique perks too!) I so appreciate your perspective and encouragement and I just ordered both your books. Thank you

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