Houston there is no problem- how to be ground control AND the astronaut

Space launchBeneath the noise of the coffee shop David Bowie sings.

He thinks his spaceship knows which way to go.

As I stand in line for my English Breakfast tea the barista admits that he front loads the playlist with his own choices and I see him in silent song daring Major Tom to leave the capsule.  I think about the amount of faith that is required for bravery. Major Tom needs to step outside his tin can to see the difference in the stars. He needs to trust ground control, himself and the entire universe.

Back at my sticky table I try to imagine 100,000 miles. It is unfathomable. And at the same time it is absolutely within reach. When I stop focusing on the literal fear of heights and vast space I thing about traveling to figurative heights. On any given day we are all both the ground control and the astronaut. Ground control focuses on protein pills, ignition, and circuits.  But it is the astronaut who floats in the most peculiar way.

When I read my boys “A Wrinkle in Time” I watch this transition happening. For the first few minutes they are ground control. Oliver stops my reading to try to make sense of the multi dimensions.  Leo offers his predications about what will come next. Eventually they give themselves over to the story. Instead of tracking facts and trends they are unmoored, left to fly away into the story.

This weekend we finally got them bikes that fit. As they check their helmets and practice their handsignals before they leave our driveway they are focused on safety. I hope that careful riding remains their focus, but somehow when they return I see the flush in their faces and I know that they achieved launch. I have mixed feelings about their mixed ride. I want them safe. I want them alive. Yet I also want them to live.

Despite the name ground control is never actually in control. Just look far above the moon at Major Tom floating in his tin can. Yet somehow, with nothing left to do, we can feel very still. Watching the barista turn dials and push buttons on his fancy coffee machine I see that at the same time he is lost in his music. He is both in control and floating above it all.Sometimes it is good be the astronaut. Sometimes it is good to be ground control. It is wonderful for us that we don’t need to choose.

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
Ground Control to Major Tom (ten, nine, eight, seven, six)
Commencing countdown, engines on (five, four, three)
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (two, one, liftoff)

This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You’ve really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare
“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do

Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much she knows
Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you “Here am I floating ’round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do”

-David Bowie


Published by

Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

18 thoughts on “Houston there is no problem- how to be ground control AND the astronaut”

  1. I’m going to get to blame you for putting that song in my head today—and it’ll be there all day!
    I always wonder about the significance of the words. Did David think of these while he was writing it—or do we make up stuff to fit them in the now??
    But being a parent could be considered ground control—hmmmmm.

  2. Great post with one of my all time favourite songs by my favourite male singer as an incentive. Yes, I’m a great David Bowie fan and I’m sure that Bowie himself would approve of the post too.

  3. I love the way you took the song and applied to the safety and riskiness of life. I like the concept of ‘floating above it all,’ something I feel when I’m focused and at one with an activity.

  4. I love your thoughts and the way that you express them. That is one of my all time favorite songs and for me it’s always been symbolic of how different that I feel from everyone else. I often feel as though I’m floating off in my own world, trying desperately to reach someone that is more earthbound.

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