As I write this blog, today is the thirty-fifth anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger’s explosive last flight, in 1986. The fateful flight has been posted many times on social media today, and it reminded me how easy it is to fall back into known patterns of emotion and stay there because it feels comfortable and safe. As I watched the video someone posted on their timeline, I found myself falling right back to that day; a seventeen-year-old kid dreaming about the future of space flight. I had visions of starbases on different planets as we moved further away from our solar system as I watched the broadcast of the launch (in those days, space launches were big on TV). As it did each time I watched a launch, my stomach tightened as the countdown came closer to zero. I was always rooting for the astronauts, that we met in individual and group interviews presented while we awaited lift off. We met normal people, with families, hobbies, passions that they put aside to further our knowledge of space exploration and step into the future.
Liftoff happened as it did each time, a huge explosion under the shuttle, lifting it gently at first, until it was going full throttle in a matter of seconds, disappearing into the sky, leaving a thick trail of smoke for us to follow. My heartbeat was gradually coming down as I watched the shuttle rise. The broadcast included some talk between the shuttle and the main control room, and everything seemed under control. It was magical, as always. Then the shuttle exploded. My life came to a standstill for what seemed like an eternity, as I watched the puff of smoke that once was the Challenger shuttle hang in the sky, immobile. The silence was deafening all around. In my house, on the television broadcast, in my soul. The camera panned the onlookers who were attending the launch, each one’s mouth agape with horror.
This long intro brings me to my point. As I write the words relating to that fateful day, my emotional setting is going back to the person I was at that time with ease. I still feel the chills I felt that day, the horror that filled my soul is still present. Even though they are not good emotions to feel, they are comforting, I know them, they know me; but it’s a lure. While it’s important to remember where we come from, what shaped who we became, it’s also important to let go of past emotions, as they are but a photograph, an image that speaks volumes but overlooks the fundamental reality. By coddling a past emotion, all we do is retreat to a past that no longer exists, which can cause stagnation. To acknowledge what happened, how you felt is all good, but it’s essential to remain in the present moment. By doing that, the emotion that once existed becomes a source of energy you can use. I used mine to create this blog today.
One exercise I do when I realize this is happening is to take note of my feelings on a page and see where I am going with that train of thought. Or talk about it with someone. Putting the words out there, whether they're spoken or written gives them less grip on your soul and creates perspective.
Thank you for indulging me today, this was a thrill ride, going back to that day and letting it engulf me.