My husband is a pilot. Many of you already know that, but for those who don’t, he flies for a regional airline and is very good at what he does. With a job this intense, you might guess there is a lot of training, and you’d be right. And with airline pilot training there comes a lot of pressure. The kind of pressure that might make you want to curl up in a fetal position and stay that way for a while; but, not him. He loves his job and considers the training the most stressful part of what he does, but not the defining factor.
Many of my friends have told me how thankful they are to hear the people flying them through the air at warp speeds are required to take a lot of training. I don’t blame them for feeling this way, but I get to see the other side of all this rigorous schooling. I get to see my husband pouring over books as thick as a cinder block, I get to hear him stress out over taking an oral exam that is basically no-holds-barred. He gets to the briefing room for the oral test and faces an examiner who can ask him about anything in the cinder block sized book and then wait with a steely-eyed poker face for to him explain it inside and out to their satisfaction.
And one hopes and prays they can be satisfied.
Then you head straight to the simulator for another test. This is not the fun simulator that you might be thinking of, not the one you might see in an aviation museum; no, this is one ride you don’t want to take. Specially trained examiners spend FOUR HOURS putting the pilots through very difficult scenarios and monitor how they respond in each crisis and decide whether or not they measure up to the standard. And the standard is a little different for each examiner depending on his/her expectations. Now imagine having your career in jeopardy once every year. For six hours, you are quizzed on your knowledge, examined while you work through manual calculations you almost never do on the real job (thanks to automation!), and then you are observed working through emergency situations that you have never actually done in real life, only during these annual reviews. It’s all so uncertain and stressful.
And for this pilot husband of mine, it can be seriously nerve racking.
Last week was training week for him and I know instinctively after ten years of commercial flying that it’s going to be a long week for him and our family. Late nights, raw emotions, exhaustion and absence all play a part in making this annual affair so dreadful. But, over time and with much communication and an abundance of prayer, we have figured out a few things that make it a little easier.
Focusing on the positive is probably the first thing, with giving lots of grace, a close second. You just have to learn to give each other a pass when you know high stress is coming. You determine to prepare in advance and not let it catch you off guard. We know training is coming, so we have learned to take the necessary steps to make it as bearable as possible. I know many times in life we don’t get to see the stresses coming; there are days, events, and circumstances that take us by surprise, and we pray and do our best to be our best.
But in this case, our training week, we see it coming a mile away.
My husband has always been shy. I mean the kind of shy where he would walk around with his head down as a kid and try to avoid eye contact with others. You would hardly know that now as God has grown him into such a friendly and kind person. But, the growth has been intentional and he has been through a lot to get to this “less shy” place in his life.
Before he was a pilot he was in youth and music ministry. I know what you’re thinking, “what was he doing in ministry if all he wanted to do was run from being in the spotlight?” As you know, ministry requires constantly dealing with all kinds of people and standing center stage Sunday after Sunday. I don’t have an answer for you except that he felt God calling/asking/beckoning him to do it. Religiously on Sunday mornings he would get up early with a sick stomach. It never failed. But, the amazing part to me was that he never quit. I mean, I might’ve decided that I just wasn’t cut out for this and moved onto something a little less intense, something more comfortable; but not him. He just kept doing week after week what he felt God had called him to do; sick or not.
It’s amazing what anxiety can do to a person if left to its own vices.
Since we’ve been married, he has slowly been working on how to handle all of these fears that want to dominate his heart and mind. He has prayed so hard and read books and practiced positive self-talk, but only recently did he finally have a breakthrough and I had an epiphany.
To be continued…