As most of you know, I am not keen on taking a small capsule into thin air and being transported without my controlling hand on the wheel.
In order to prepare, I found a book a few months ago appropriately named, Flying, Without Fear. I found it at a used bookstore, remembered to bring it with me and didn’t crack it open till we sat down inside the airplane. I read chapters quickly that I thought would help with my personal demons and I learned so much.
It seems there are many anxious people with the same fear of flying. The author is a doctor whose wife had issues with it and in order to help her, he co-created the American Airlines Fear of Flying Program which no longer exists. What I gleaned from the little reading I actually did on the way to NYC helped me on the flight back. I needed to process it.
I am not alone. What I enjoyed about the book was the logic and explanations in response to my crazy thoughts. I realized many people are thinking what I am thinking and it’s not so unique. It took the reader to the actual REAL fear behind the fear. Lots of people either fear getting on board a tiny, enclosed space and feel trapped or they don’t like the loss of control or they hate the take off and landing or are afraid of heights or feel they can’t or might not be able to breathe or like me, they cannot handle the turbulence. And of course, you could have all these neurotic but perfectly allowed thoughts according to research. I felt like “well, at least that’s not my problem” as I read a few crazy quotes from actual subjects. Unfortunately, I also felt like “wow, I hadn’t thought of that” too and wondered if that would enter and add to my twisted psyche.
As we entered a bumpy stretch, I grabbed my daughter’s arm and I devoured the chapter on turbulence. Reading how to survive while emotionally/physically going through something is like finally reading the manual when your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.
I processed the explanation of why jets hit turbulence during my stay (on stable ground) and I was better able to handle the almost constant rocky road which awaited me on the one hour longer ride back. The pilot said we would have a smooth ride but he lied. Right over the Great Lakes (just like when we went East) we hit a rough patch and the pilot warned us, nonchalantly. Anytime the pilot gets on the speaker, I listen. When the light comes on to fasten your seat belts, I obey. When the stewards sit down and buckle up, I panic.
I prayed, I imagined people I love smiling at me, I remembered my friend telling me to envision angels holding the plane up and I did what the chapter on turbulence told me to do, I went with the flow and rocked with it, knowing intellectually it was just like bumps on a road except they felt more like side to side not up and down. All the statistics and intellectual reasoning in the world have never helped my primitive fear and abnormal reaction to turbulence. I also learned, like me, some people are embarrassed to be afraid and that adds to the whole mess.
After a total of three craggy moments: over the Great Lakes, over the Rockies and just right before descent, all forewarned by our soft spoken pilot and then reiterated by our “I will not look you in the eye and reassure you” front cabin steward, all was well at the end and once again, I made it back on terra firma.