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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fear of Flying

When I was young I considered flying an air-sucking adventure to anticipate, sort of like Christmas but with jet engines involved. Of course back then I was in my invincible mode. My thoughts were rarely cautionary, but full-throttle daredevils compelling life to move faster. I was instant and active, my forehead straining against the plexiglas window, eager for a rivet-rattling launch, and then the steep climb through shadowy cloudscapes, where episodic flashbacks of Twilight Zone faces heightened the experience.

As an adult I prefer to leave the thrill of flying to the birds. As a matter of fact on my last trip to MA I became so thrilled (insert sarcastic tone) with the prospect of flying that I had what some might call a mini panic attack. Okay, so it wasn’t so mini. Anyway, I had just cleared security, and was putting my clothes back on, when I was overtaken with the feeling of being trapped inside the belly of the terminal much like Pinocchio being swallowed up by Monstro.

Fighting the sensation of suffocation, I put on my best independent traveler’s face and merged into the masses, the wheels of my oversized carry-on thump thumping across the tile floor, while internally lecturing myself: “You are not allowed to freak out in this airport! You’re fine. You can breathe. They pipe plenty of air into these places. Besides, how are you going to handle being trapped on a plane if you can’t even walk through this terminal?”

Of course mentioning being trapped on an airplane to myself was a gigantic mistake, although it did make the air in the terminal seem much more plentiful. My breathing had stabilized, but I became obsessed with the thought of suffocating on a crowded airplane. I located my gate, and tried distracting myself with IPhone games, but found it impossible to concentrate due to the vast crowd of people filling up the seats around me. Not just regular people, but beefy people bearing bulky bags of burdensome belongings, increasing the odds that our flight would relegate to a cruise due to the weight of the excessive cargo.

I could feel the fight or flight beneath my shirt…the onset of another attack, so I proceeded with more inner dialog: “Leah, no one has ever died from being on a crowded airplane. When everyone else starts to freak out then you have permission to freak out right along with them, but until then—GET A GRIP!

This one-sided pep talk made me feel a little bit better, but it was sitting at the gate better; I needed sitting on the airplane better. I needed something tangible to take my fear down another notch or two. I was contemplating the options of liquor, drugs, or phoning a friend, when the ticketing agent announced over the PA the availability of seats in business class being offered at a discounted rate. I had never flown business class before, and imagining the segregated spaciousness of it all; I bounded up to the ticket counter and paid the extra cash for the upgrade.

Enjoying early boarding privileges, I found my seat and hunkered down like Buddha in a bucket seat. My heart rate was undetectable and my breathing easy; traveling first class was a good choice. Hearing a bit of commotion I glanced over the top of my e-reader at a rumpled herd of pack-mules single filing past me toward the cheap-seat section. I was feeling grateful for my new station in life—I could get used to this kind of special treatment. Craning my neck to snag a guilty peek at the difference in seat size between the haves and have nots, I noticed a thin Gulag-grey curtain hanging between us, looking no better than a tired frock on laundry day. I was expecting a more substantial barrier between them and us…something solid and swanky. Big disappointment.

About an hour into the flight I began to fidget and lost interest in reading, so I turned my attention to the view. I observed a band of chubby little clouds passing over the green landscape, transforming the scene into a pastoral canvas of fleecy white sheep grazing in undisturbed serenity. This sight inspired a warm rush of security—a spiritual kept-ness, which could have only originated from the heart of love. In that instant I knew that I was totally safe—that nothing could ever truly harm me.

“Thou restorest my soul.”

At eight miles above the earth love found me and taught me that fear of flying was synonymous with fear of living, and that I was as safe on that airplane as I was on my own front porch. I also learned that there are many ways of taking care of myself— things that I might do to assist myself as I transition to a place where I’m calm enough to lean back and accept the daring confidence of the deeply loved.

So, here I am now with two happy feet on the ground and a fond memory of flying. I have no trips scheduled any time soon, but when I do, I intend to print this little ditty out and read it prior to boarding the airplane. Sure, there is always the minute chance that the plane could go down—lightening could strike, an aneurism could burst, but somehow love places these threats in the hazy distance, encouraging us to be bold and to move forward. And when our time does indeed come, love will be present to faithfully escort us to our succeeding destination (in first class of course).




35 comments:

sulekkha said...

I agree with your philosophy, Leah. We are as safe on the plane as we are sitting on our porches.The secret of happy living is to to just positively conquer our fears.

Cheryl said...

Good for you, Leah. It sounds like you have conquered a fear. I can totally relate to what you are saying. While I have never had a fear of flying, this is exactly how I feel on an Interstate Highway when I am being crowded by a semi. The feeling of being hemmed in a situation of which you have no control. I wish there was a business class "lane". Ya know...one that is roomier and gives me some kind of perks. Perhaps there could be booths (made like toll booths but without the tolls) that would hand me diet cokes.

There is something peaceful about looking out the window and being in the clouds, though. That is something you can't replicate in too many other ways.

Debra said...

Leah, you are so funny, your descriptions, your voice, a glimpse of humor even in the scary stuff. No telling how many times I’ve seen that Twilight Zone episode of the phantom creature looking through the window, until he finally drove the guy over the edge. Like your friend Cheryl, my phobia is the freeway. I wrote about that not too long ago. Being squeezed in by those monster trucks zooming past… and so I quit driving on the interstate. Love is telling me to stay put ;-)

Rimly Bezbarua said...

I liked the last line that when the time comes we will be escorted by love to a better place in first class. I believe that too. When the time comes it can be anywhere, up in the air or very much grounded. But why worry and fear? Loved reading as always, Leah.

http://rimlybezbaruah.blogspot.in/2012/11/sometimes-i-wish.html

Chris said...

1. You use the word "rumpled" often, and I love it. It is so... plastic and fun :)

2. "but beefy people bearing bulky bags of burdensome belongings"??? This is not your only use of alliteration in this post, but I applaud you for it :) I am reading too much Melville at the moment, and he does it all the time.

3. Now that you're safely on the ground, I can also confess that I get claustrophobic on planes sometimes. I love flying and am cautious but not unreasonably afraid. There is that bumpy linearity to it, especially on longer flights, that reminds one of riding on a train sometimes. But after six or more hours on a plane I also sometimes get that feeling of "damnit, I can't get off of this thing! You can jump off a boat or even out of a car [um, yes, that would be very wise!], but you can't even open the door to this thing! Pant pant pant"

4. I love what you did. Such a simple strategy, which I recently learned in a meditation class, of facing something that bothers you: give it space. Give it room to present itself and have its case heard, and it will soon become more manageable.

Have a great day! Hugs from across the ocean :)

Dangerous Linda said...

leah, love, love, LOVE this post! i love the authenticity of your experience and the surprise twists and turns and the lessons! love YOU!!! xoxoxo

sharing at:
https://www.facebook.com/DangerousLinda

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Congratulations on conquering your fears, Leah. There is something great about being up there in the heavens among the clouds. Glad you saw it too.

jahid said...

Interesting and quite funny. I liked the words "As an adult I prefer to leave the thrill of flying to the birds" LOL :) :)

The Loerzels said...

I love how you decided to fly first class. And you're right fear of flying is a fear of life. Shouldn't we all treat ourselves like we're in first class?

Leah Griffith said...

Sulekkha, I have so many places I want to go. I would hate to have fear stand in my way. One must push through their fears;) Sending hugs!

Leah Griffith said...

Cheryl, you crack me up! I love the idea of a business class lane with a booth handing out diet cokes! You need to copyright that idea! I don't like the interstate either, but I find that if I'm driving I do better than if someone else is driving. I like to have control. Big surprise huh? LOL!

Leah Griffith said...

Debra, don't you love Cheryl's idea for a business class lane! LOL! I have to force myself to take the interstate. Once I'm on it I do okay. The worse thing is to be in a car with someone who tailgates. I use my imaginary breaks the entire time. Taking the scenic route is a much better option sometimes. I believe that a crazy interstate is much scarier than an airplane ride... with Twilight Zone faces included;)

Leah Griffith said...

Rimly, we can never go wrong if we let love lead the way. Peace and love walk together. Thank you for your thoughtful words beautiful lady.
Hugs!

Leah Griffith said...

Chris, rumpled is fabulous word. It has a comedic tone to it and presents really fun visuals. I often feel my life is rumpled. LOL!!

Sometimes when I'm writing the alliterations flow. I think it's the Dr. Seuss in me. Perhaps I should write limericks or jingles;)

I love how I always manage to find a way to take care of myself. Flying business class distracted me from my fears. I was fine for the rest of the trip up there and then the trip back. I still had little nudges of claustrophobia, but not to the point of panic.

Well, I'm going to get back in the water. We're do for a skype session.
Big Hugs,
Leah

Leah Griffith said...

Hi Linda! I love you too girl. I had fun revisiting my plane ride—watching myself from afar as I worked through my fear. It 's always funnier after the fact. LOL! Sending hugs sweet Linda!!

Leah Griffith said...

Karen, I've been flying all my life but for some reason I've become more cautious with age. It's like suddenly being allergic to something you've been eating your entire life. I can't imagine missing out on exciting travel simply because of fear. Nope!

Leah Griffith said...

Hi Jahid! Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed my little adventure!

Leah Griffith said...

Hi Marie. Yes indeed, we should treat ourselves like we're in first class. I'm sure you have some travel stories to tell, what with traveling back and forth to Morocco with four kids! LOL!! I remember one flight from St. Croix, a hurricane had just destroyed our island home, so we carried what little belongings we had left with us, along with our 2 kids, another little girl someone handed off to us at the airport (people were desperate to get off the island) and our two cats. What a freak show! LOL!

Jayne said...

There was a time, many years ago, when I would have hopped on a plane to Anywhere. But now I'm firmly rooted in the belief that flying is, indeed, for the birds. (What is it about us humans that makes us want to do something we weren't meant to do? Not at all, no. Wings, if they ever showed up for the tryout, didn't make the evolutionary cut.) Of course, if I must, I will take to the skies. I recognize that this is a fear born of irrational worries. Though any travel comes with its risks, and if I am to explore the world, really explore, I mustn't fear the unknown, must give myself thoroughly, soberly, to life, to flight. (Um, well, maybe one bloody Mary on the air bus wouldn't hurt?) ;)

May I call you for support, Leah, the next time I have to board a plane?!

sandra tyler said...

lol great post. And to feel "invincible" again...can't imagine as I edge on 50! I travel so infrequently that I too would have a panic attack. Glad I don't have to fly! You're a good writer: would love to have you join my FB writing group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/Sandraswritingworkshop/

Healing Morning said...

I haven't ever traveled in anything other than Economy class seating, so I'm glad you treated yourself! Now, I have to share that my sense of the absurd literally busted out with an inelegant snort-larf at "hunkered down like Buddha in a bucket seat". That was a thing of literary beauty to me admittedly strange sense of humor! Life experiences are all about our perceptions, yes? Theory of Relativity is one of my abiding companions that I trot out when the world threatens to not make sense. (Oooo, I liked that last comment so much that it's going to become the Genesis of a new article!)

I'm glad your conversation w/ yourself created enough calm to get you through the flight. Plus, cute toes and sandals, chickadee! :)

Much love,

- Dawnie

Leah Griffith said...

LOL!! Dawnie, that's Bubba in a bucket seat, but I like yours much much more! And as far as riding in first class...well, a girl's got to do....
Can't wait for your post on relativity.
Love!
Leah

Leah Griffith said...

Jayne, I agree...flying is not natural. But, it's a must for me lately. Feel free to phone me anytime you have a flight scheduled...I will talk you down...I mean up. LOL! You'll probably want to invest in a bloody Mary just to be safe.
xoxo

Leah Griffith said...

Sandra, thanks for your visit. I really don't like flying but I do it out of necessity. 50 sounds young to me LOL!! I'm glad I'm not the only panic stricken flyer;)

Martha J. M. Orlando said...

Once again, dear Leah, your words weave magically together and your humor punctuates your post in all the right places.
You mirrored my own anxiety the last time I flew on a plane after not being on one for 23 years. If Danny hadn't been with me, I probably would have had a full-blown panic attack. Ashamed to admit it, but I did cry silently when the plane took off . . . one the bright side, though, by the time I boarded the return flight, I had reached the same conclusion which you voiced above. And, felt that quiet assurance that He is always in control.
Blessings and love, dear friend!

Healing Morning said...

Ha!!! Falling OUT at my blonde moment!! I could've sworn it read "Buddha in a bucket seat". And even if it didn't, that's how it read in my noggin, and I feel it needs to be emblazoned on a t-shirt. Yes. :)

- Dawnie

Shreya said...

A good read, Leah. Good to be back to your post(s) after a long time. :)

Jessica M said...

A great post. I love your writing style. While I find flying actually really relaxing for some reason I know my daughter could definitely relate to this post...and so many others!

Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

I'm not afraid of flying, but I certainly could live without it. Love your alliteration: "beefy people bearing bulky bags of burdensome belongings"!

~Debbie

Tameka said...

Leah, you are such a gentle soul. To admit that you have this fear and then to share your experience of facing and defeating it, so generous. As a lover of alliteration myself, I must commend you on its usage as well. I love reading your words dear heart! :-)

Leah Griffith said...

Martha, never be ashamed of your fears; that only perpetuates them. I like to expose them to the light. Ask for help. Scream in public! LOL! Okay, not the last one. I'm sure you are ready for a solo flight somewhere. You've got to get in practice for all those public appearances you're going to be making.
Sending big hugs!

Leah Griffith said...

Hello lovely Shreya! It's good to see you. I've been buried this summer with life and haven't kept up with my social media friends. I'm working my way back into this wonderful world.
Hugs!

Leah Griffith said...

I wish I were like you in that aspect Jessica. The thing is, if too much time goes by in between flights I'll probably go through the same thing all over again. LOL!!

Leah Griffith said...

Debbie, I could definitely live without it. I take trains a lot. I like trains much more than airplanes. LOL! . Thanks for your comment!

melissa said...

You're so funny... but I know that you weren't putting me on. It's a fear I couldn't understand myself...maybe because I don't have it. I'm glad 'love' found you in the heights...

lots of love!

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