Last time I flew, I wrote down how I felt. The reality is that in the middle of the turmoil, I always feel like this could be the end. What I am learning in my class for anxiety ridden people is that feelings are just feelings and they are not necessarily true. What? Yup. They are just feelings. And what may be crazy scary to me – might not be the same for you – but it’s still valid in our own heads. Fear + Worry = Anxiety. Something I didn’t realize. I had anxiety about going to the anxiety class. The first tool we are given is to breathe. That’s the first instruction. I have tons of fear and worry. I am an anxious person. I thought maybe I could write through my fear, understand it better. So when I started to feel scared, I drew out my notebook and pen and started to scribble like crazy. I breathed in and out, long and slow, deliberate breaths and my written words were:
“OMG! TURBULENCE! going through clouds. (Inject the Serenity Prayer here). Blessed be the day for me and mine. For someone who dislikes travel, I have certainly done a lot of it. Amazingly. I’m in God’s hands. No one can take away from me what God wants me to have. (Three pages reflecting on writing). Geez NOT bumpy like this. Perhaps I should have brought more writing paper. Starting our descent. Maybe my best defense to my own fear, my healing comes in the form of expressing myself in words-love, love, love to delve and edit and refine.”
“I drive up to the mountains all the time. Going through these clouds is horrible. I remember arriving in Tahoe and the plane was all over the place and finally dipped all of a sudden, just dropped into the basin of the airport. Cabo San Lucas too. I hear/feel the wheels – oy vey (yiddish for OMG) – another time flying into the storm in NY with lightening. OMG! This is shaking – God help me! I hear my family – all is well. Blessed be the day. Smile. All will be well. I need to remember to have faith. God wants me well. All will be well. I have so much work left to do? don’t I? I imagine. Watch. Live. Write. Share. Give joy. I am here to give and share in joyful moments with J & M (I was on my way to Seattle).”
” Why didn’t I get something spiritual to read not this dumb National Enquirer? The crypto-quote was fun anyways. I can write my way through this. My arm is SHAKING! No wonder my shoulder hurts. Geez. We have been flying completely in a cloud now for half and hour. Really? Remember the Andes? Flying through snow and between peaks? And I survived that. OMG. Pure cloud and grey and darkish. No wonder we live in sunny OC. 73% of the time it is sunny. Granted I get tired of it – but this not perceptible darkness is scary. The cabin has darkness. We are descending and I still don’t see any land or lights.”
“Ah, finally, the Pacific – cold, dreary Seattle. I see it now – trees look like they have color – why are we tipping to the right? Yes, the trees are very colorful. Snow. I swear snow. Drops off my window, yes, snowflakes on my window. Geez. May God bless us all. My family. Everyone I encounter – an awakening, so beautiful – parks – cone shaped trees – snowflakes – wet – lots of pine trees and colors, yellow brown…….we are about to land……and……touchdown and then the G-FORCE BRAKING!!!!! The sensation that I will fall out of my seat! It’s so dark and it’s 10:50am. Cloudy. Rainy. Dark. Wet.”
“Thank you G. Thank you. I have tons of relief and anticipation to see my family. I didn’t start fearing flying till I was four months pregnant with M – the man I am now going to see today, in his element.”
The return trip was slightly easier but the Serenity Prayer was employed nonetheless – frequently. I recall my late friend Leticia. Her fear was driving on bridges and overpasses. Like me, she knew she still had to do it. But her fear was real to her. She loved to fly. She didn’t die driving on a bridge or in a plane. She battled and lost to cancer, even though I don’t know anyone who was more positive, ate healthy every day of her life and had amazing coping skills. So, you never know.
My friend, P always says, we live between our ears. It’s a bad neighborhood sometimes. And it is up to me to etch a sketch it clean, shake it all up, and think good, positive thoughts. Imagine my happy place, breathe. Substitute scary with life-affirming beliefs. Breathe.