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The Art of the Possible

I could feel my gut tightening and my brows furrowing as I pored over the spreadsheet on my computer screen. Those numbers weren't looking good, and no matter how I moved them around, they added up to one conclusion: I had a cash-flow problem.

As we're all too aware, daily life is full of challenges like this. Like everyone, I find myself continually balancing conflicting needs and handling "over-constrained" problems—and like everyone, I undergo my share of stress over this. But this is yet another area of life that has been informed by my flying.

Flying continually presents opportunities to practice what might be called the "art of the possible." From flight planning to in-cockpit decisions, I'm constantly balancing the aircraft's capabilities, environmental conditions, my own skills and abilities, and a host of other constraints to either accomplish, modify, or postpone the intended mission—or decide that the better part of valor is to give it up altogether.

Which brings me back to that spreadsheet. The cost of flying has more than doubled since I started flying—but during the same period, my income has increased about 30 percent, while the cost of living has increased about 33 percent. Put it all together, and it's clear something's got to give—and lately, that something has been flying. And it's killing me!

Now I realize it's both useless and annoying to complain. I'm keenly aware of how lucky I am, by accident of birth, timely opportunity, and my own efforts, to have the life that I have. I am truly blessed to have encountered the people and places I have known and the countless wonderful experiences I've had—including flying airplanes. Still, flying has become so integral to who and what I am that I can't help but feel a pang of regret every time I see a small airplane fly overhead.

But like the journeys I've made in those small airplanes, I know that this is just a part of a larger journey. It's like sitting in a hotel room for a couple of extra days while waiting out the weather. I really want to be flying, but the "art of the possible" says I need to cool my jets for the moment. It just takes longer in this case because the constraints I'm dealing with operate on larger time scales.

So I keep frowning at those spreadsheets, looking for ways to make some numbers bigger and others smaller, so that someday soon I can make that "go" decision and start the process of getting my backside back in the air. I still don't know how I'm going to arrange my life so that every month there's fresh ink in my logbook and black numbers in that spreadsheet, but I will find a way. In a very real sense, my life is at stake—the life I've chosen to live.

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