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Day 4 – V Formation

The V formation greatly boosts the efficiency and range of flying birds, particularly over long migratory routes. All the birds except the first fly in the upwash from the wingtip vortices of the bird ahead. The upwash assists each bird in supporting its own weight in flight, in the same way a glider can climb or maintain height indefinitely in rising air. In a V formation of 25 members, each bird can achieve a reduction of induced drag by up to 65% and as a result increase their range by 71%.[1] The birds flying at the tips and at the front are rotated in a timely cyclical fashion to spread flight fatigue equally among the flock members. The formation also makes communication easier and allows the birds to maintain visual contact with each other“
– Wikipedia, V Formation

I was out watching the ducks on the Pecos River early this morning. I watched as one duck would, seemingly without effort, float ahead leaving a “V” shaped ripple in his wake, very much like the “V” formation in which ducks fly. It brought to mind the similarities between my journey and the journey of this creature who, like me,  is constantly winging the world in search of a safe place to land.

The duck in the water reminded me of me when I was trying to change my drinking on my own. There I was floating on the surface, trying to look like nothing was wrong, I was in control and I knew where I was going. All the while, I was paddling furiously just trying to stay afloat and paying no mind to the turbulence I was churning up for the other ducks bobbing along beside me. I didn’t care, and I didn’t need their help, I could do this on my own. I’d flap and flap and flap and cause quite a ruckus but I’d finally break free of the water and launch myself skyward. Unfortunately, I did not know where I was going, I didn’t know what was up ahead of me and I didn’t have anyone to lead me so I would soon tire out and dive back into the water to start my furious paddling again.

After quite some time and quite a few failed attempts at prolonged flight, I looked up and I saw flocks of other ducks winging overhead in a “V” formation. I watched them until they were out of sight, way further than I’d ever gone. I was so tired of paddling and I just didn’t have the strength to try another flight on my own. I started thinking it would be easier to just let myself sink down and let the ocean of booze envelope me. But, just about then, way off in the distance up in the sky, I spotted a tiny speck. Then another.  Then another.  Slowly but steadily, the specks grew close enough for me to see the V formation of another flock flying together toward a single destination-that safe place I’d been trying so hard and so long to reach on my own.

Maybe I could catch up with them, I thought, maybe I should give it one more try.

I started flap-flap-flapping and suddenly I was up above the water and winging my way toward the “V.” As I approached, the other ducks moved over a bit to make room for me. They seemed to know where they were heading and the flying was so much easier than it had been when I was trying to do it on my own. I tried to keep up, to stay at the front of the flock, however, I soon found myself tiring again and I knew I couldn’t make it all the way, so I veered out of the formation and dove back to the water.

Back to my paddling.

“Yeah, but,” I said to myself. “I made it so much farther than I’ve ever made it before on my own. Maybe next time I’ll make it to where I’m supposed to go.”

When I saw the next faint “V” in the sky, I launched myself out of the water again and hurried to find my place in the formation. Again, the other ducks made room for me without any questions. Again, I weakened before I got to where they were going-where I wanted to be-and, once again, I cartwheeled through the air into the ocean.

I didn’t give up though, I kept trying,  and, each time, the other ducks made room for me. Each time I got a little further. Finally, I realized I didn’t need to fall out of the formation and dive back into the water every time I got tired, all I had to do was drift back and let the wings of the other ducks carry me until I was strong enough to move forward again.

And, in this way, I finally made it all the way to where I wanted to go.

We are like ducks, few of us can get to our destination flying solo. It is early in this Dryuary journey of ours and we’ve just taken flight. Each of us will grow tired at some point, this is when we should pull to the back and coast on the upwash of the other ducks. Rest, eat, pamper ourselves, skip a day or two at the gym. Read the Dryuary Forum posts written by the “ducks” at the front of the flock so we can see what they’re seeing on the horizon.  Take good care of ourselves until we’re ready to take our places at the front of the V again while others fall back.

Some of us might cartwheel back into the ocean. That’s okay. When you get your wings back, we’ll move over for you.

Post Submitted by: Kary May, Author Of:
Neighbor Kary May’s Handbook to Happily Drinking Less, or Not Drinking At All-Quite Happily: With the help of the online recovery community.