I have spent a good deal of time over the years getting very stressed about getting on a plane, so I have decided that this post will be about my most recent flying experience. Actually, the words “stress” and “worry” don’t really cover it….it’s more like a crazy, terror-filled obsession with all the possible outcomes of what could go wrong during take-off, up in the air and upon landing. My family, my friends, my neighbors I know, are all glad when the day of my departure finally arrives. At least there will be no interrogations for a while! You see I incessantly ask them,
“Do you think my flight will be safe?”
“But how do you know?”
“But are you sure?”
“You really think so?”
I am very fortunate though to always be sitting next to someone very nice on the plane! They are very patient with me, even when I grab them during turbulence. Once I have actually landed and my feet are on the ground it all doesn’t seem so bad…the trauma leading up to the flight and the stress I feel during the flight fades away and I feel “normal” once again. I am so grateful and relieved to be safe!
I flew to England about a month ago. Weeks prior to my flight leaving I am consumed with thoughts and possible scenarios of the plane crashing. And I really do imagine every possible scenario. The thought of being 39,000 feet up in the air and encountering turbulence is terrifying to me. There is no way out is there? ! What if the plane takes a dive into the ocean? Yes, I know it’s safer to fly than drive a car, but that does not make it any better! At least I can stop driving and get out of my car when I want to…well that is the illusion of control I know. But being in a car is not the same for me as being in a big metal flying object above the clouds for 10 hours!
So….to continue….when that day finally arrives where I have to get into the car and go to the airport – I am a nervous wreck. I ask myself is it worth it? Yes, yes, yes it is I tell myself. I will see my family at the other end and I will be so happy! Ok, ok, ok…I can do this! I feel quite ridiculous I admit, but the feeling is so strong. I need proof, I need a guarantee that we will be safe! For it is “we” now. I have Noakai of course and that makes it even worse for I feel that I am putting him in danger by taking him on a plane. Crazy, yes it is. Absolute craziness I have been told. I know this, for we have no guarantees in life do we? Who can give me a guarantee? 10 psychics? My mother? My brother? My friend? God? No..the truth is that no-one can. I just need to trust that all will work out for the best. If my time is up it is up, right? I know this…yet it still does not make flying any easier.
At the airport, I eye everyone up and down…I guess undercover agents do this…analyze people. I feel everyone looks “safe” and I feel a little better. (You see I also worry about the possibility of a bomb going off). The lady at the check-in is mean though. Doesn’t smile and tells me my luggage is overweight and I have to move it around or pay extra. And I have to pay extra anyway for Noakai’s travel crib. We are also at the back of the plane – I do not like this. Is this a sign I think? I do what is asked of me and move on. On into the departure gate and Noakai is having a whale of a time. Running around like the roadrunner, laughing and playing and entertaining everybody. Oh how I wish I could be so oblivious to where I am. Everyone seems to be in good spirits and I take this to be a good sign. We are flying at night though which I do not like at all. Not seeing makes it worse. I prefer to be able to look outside…even if it is just clouds. But here we are…and so I breathe. No-one else looks worried…and this is good, right?!
As we step onto the plane I immediately inform the stewardess (and anyone else who will listen) that I am terrified of flying and if they can tell me what the weather is like en route and if the captain has told them anything? And where exactly do they think the bad weather (if any) will occur? They look at me for a second, shocked at the question I bet hardly anyone asks them…and tell me that the captain has not informed them of anything bad yet. So what does that mean I wonder? Some give me a compassionate look…can feel the fear and desperation oozing out of me I am sure. But I am on a mission. I need to know what the weather will be like! Oh, and I make sure that I really emphasize how scared I am. This pretty much always encourages them to call the captain who comes down to “have a word with me.” Let the captain deal with me they are thinking!
“What seems to be the problem young lady?” he asks me.
“I am so scared of flying, what’s the weather going to be like?”
He looks at me chuckling and says, (can you believe it), “Just have a few drinks and you will be fine!”
“Oh ok” I say! “Are you sure?!”
“Yes, he says, there is nothing to worry about. The wings on this plane can actually bend to touch each other.”
Not sure I want to see that, but thanks! Well, if the captain tells me this it must all be good, right? ! I relax and breathe. Noakai is busy laughing hysterically and playing peek-a-boo with the people behind me.
We are in the air. I look at the stewardess…who looks rather serious. Is everything ok I wonder? Why is she so serious? The plane turns and the sound of the engines becomes quieter. I panic. Are the engines going to cut out? OMG…what’s going on? I am reassured that all is well. I breathe – again. We are up and cruising along….I feel ok! Then the turbulence begins and does not stop for a while. I start to pray. Noakai is asleep and I focus on his sweet face far away in dreamland. I keep breathing. I can see across the aisle through the window the lights below in the towns we are flying over and it makes me feel better. Not sure why. Then someone comes through the plane pulling down the shades on the windows, which again makes me panic. I like to see! Even if it is the black night. The turbulence continues. I look at the flight map every 2 minutes to see how much longer we have left to go, how fast we are flying, where we are flying over and how much time has elapsed. Time passes so slowly when you stare at it. Funny, I look at the people around me, who look so relaxed, chatting to their neighbour, sleeping (?!) and I laugh at myself! Silly me. When I ask the air stewardess if what we just experienced was bad turbulence, they laugh at me and describe a horrific incident to me where they were thrown around the plane. I pray that we will never experience that.
When I tell my mother how scared I am of getting on that plane to England she always says to me,
“Well just lock yourself up in your apartment then, and don’t go anywhere!”
How ridiculous I say, but she is right! I want to go home and I want to travel to new places, so I need to deal with this! I know. Well, at least I do end up getting on the plane! You wouldn’t believe it, but I have traveled my whole life on planes – since I was 1 year old. It’s only been since I was twenty-something that I became so scared of flying.
As Noakai gets older he will pick up on my fear more and more, and I do not want that. So what am I prepared to do to make it better? Meditate, trust, let go…and just know that the highest and best will happen, whatever that might be. So next time I am up in the air, I have made a committment to really enjoy that glass of wine (or 2 or 3) and focus on a movie and my boy having fun, and how truly lucky I am to be flying home to see my family.