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Ground Control to Airmen Alex

I feel like I’ve always been a bad sleeper, but when I look back at childhood, as tumultuous as it was, I don’t remember much in the way of restless nights, hours of staring into the darkness, or spiraling thoughts demanding my attention throughout the wee hours. No, being a bad sleeper came much later, and has, apparently, lasted much longer than anything else I’ve ever experienced. A decade plus of shift-work, life and marriage, and the usual worries that go along with those things has made me pretty much resigned to being, now, a bad sleeper. And, like everything we suffer from and try to beat but can’t, we learn to cope. How have I coped? Not well, to be sure, but coping is just that. Coping. I delve into sleep mediation sessions every once in awhile. I’ve found some worthy videos on Youtube that have kept me company on many a sleepless night. Also on Youtube, is one particular ten-hour video of - what do I call it? - a spaceship bedroom. It presents the visual of a cozy, calming bedroom on a spaceship. Doesn’t sound relaxing and sleep-inspiring? You would be surprised. Accompanying the visual are the spaceship sounds - very similar to jetliner sounds - droning engines, air ventilation, space and wind whirring around the craft, and the occasional beeping from, you know, spaceship equipment. Super relaxing, people!


Recently, an experience from my past came back for a visit. In 1997, while I was stationed in Phoenix, Arizona with the Air Force, I received the honor of witnessing a real-life UFO. It became very popular as the most-sighted UFO phenomenon to date. That phenomenon has since been given the name the Phoenix Lights. I was on duty at Luke Air Force Base that night. I was just finishing up my dinner from Taco Bell when the phone at the weather station began ringing off of its hook. “Look outside!” the voices on the other end were saying, “Look UP!” Living in what our superiors had warned us was the “wild, wild west,” I took heed to these kinds of calls. Besides, Phoenix weather was super boring. I was so sick of reporting “clear and a million” that these calls were a welcome diversion. Putting the calls on hold, I made my way to the spiral staircase that would lead me up onto the roof, also known as, our official weather observation point. As the official weather observer, this was the thing to do. I reached the rooftop location and all I could and can say was, “Whoa.” Several white globes suspended themselves over the city, unmoving, silent. This lasted for several hours. Now, this is where we could go off on a tangent that would take us all over the universe. All I need to say is that I saw a UFO that night. Always having been a believer, this was not the stunner to me that it was to some. I had seen quite a few documentaries on this phenomenon and several like it over the years that followed. One on Amazon Prime called “The Phoenix Lights: Beyond Top Secret” had caught my eye a few nights ago, and after viewing it, I was prompted to get in touch and talk about my own experience for the first time ever with the documentary’s creator, Dr. Lynne. We had a lively and friendly discussion the following evening. Flash forward, if you will, to my BeautyRest mattress later that night. (Side note: paying an arm and a leg for a mattress won’t guarantee good sleep.) So, anyway, the memory of my experience with the Phoenix Lights was fresh on my mind, once again, as I went to bed that night. And, once again, I found myself realizing that actual rest and sleep were about as far away as Mars, so I tuned in to my favorite Youtube video. Click here to enjoy it, too. Immediately, I was on board. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend another film called “Lucy in the Sky.” It stars Natalie Portman (that already makes it a hit, right?!) who stars, no pun intended, as an astronaut. There is a scene where she floats in outer space in nothing but her spacesuit, completely alone. The silence, the peacefulness, the carefreeness, you can feel it. It seems like it must be better than any drug could ever be. Lucy ends up suffering from an addiction to this, so I won’t give away the movie, but I will say that I totally get it. I may be addicted to a sensation I want to feel. But, back to my Youtube fantasy: I could feel the crisp sheets on the bed in my Youtube spaceship. Looking out of the window above my head, Earth loomed far away. All I felt was peace and calmness. The droning sound of the spaceship engines began to lull me into a deeper state of relaxation, and I found myself still ruminating a bit on my earlier discussion with Dr. Lynne. The questions abound as they have for centuries: Who is out there? What are they trying to communicate to us? Are they trying to communicate with us at all? Is it a time travel thing? These notions all danced in my head together, not unhappily, as I began to not just imagine myself on this virtual Youtube spaceship, but also on board whatever caused that surreal sight in Phoenix more than twenty years ago. If I had been a being on that aircraft, would I have been trying to communicate with the humans below? If so, what would have been the message, and to whom? And, suddenly, those answers became as clear as day. It was 1997. I was on board the Phoenix Lights spaceship, and I was attempting communication. With one human. Myself. In 1997. Okay, okay, I know you may be considering my self-admitted “addictions” right now and wondering what I may have taken as a sleep aid this particular night. Does it matter?

It doesn’t. Because what ended up happening was what I imagine our alien counterparts concluded: We can’t stop these idiots from doing what they’re going to do and feeling how they’re going to feel about it. There is no sense in trying to alter the course of history because all will be as it’s meant to be. So, let’s just give them a show and try to communicate our empathy for them and then let them be. I’m not sure if those aboard the Phoenix Lights craft had the lyrics of Garth Brooks’s song, The Dance, running through their alien heads, but it certainly came to my mind: “I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance. I could’ve missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.” So, there I was suspended above the Valley of the Sun, peering down at my much younger self, wanting to shout, “Don’t pick that guy! Stay in the military! Don’t move back home yet,” but even more, “Just be happy and stop worrying about everything. You are doing fine. Enjoy where and who you are right now because you may never see it or you again. You are headed for some pretty dark days in the distant future and I honestly don’t know how long they’re going to last, so enjoy what you have right now — the hope and excitement of a whole life ahead of you. It’s better not to know,” but instead I said, “Hello there, Earthling. Nice to see you. Goodbye.”


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