WEEKLY STRETCH 6-29-17 ~ FEAR OF FLYING

More travel coming tomorrow. I feel so lucky to be traveling more than ever, though this will be the last trip for a while.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was terrified of flying. My fear (like so many of our fears) was irrational and out of control. And yet, I desperately wanted to travel and see parts of the country and the world I had only dreamed about. I was being called to visit Sedona and I needed to face the fear unless we were going to drive the many days it would take to get there and back. I love the idea of a driving tour of America but when vacation days and funds are limited, flying is the way to go. Honestly, I don’t know how or why this fear developed. I had flown to Europe, the Caribbean, California, Columbus, and several other places earlier in my life. Fears are often nonsensical, and this one was the Queen of Nonsense. Somehow it became paralyzing and I knew I needed to conquer it.

Luckily, we have a very close friend who is a pilot. Michael knew of my fear and often tried to explain the science oF aerodynamics, trying to quell my anxiety with facts. His mantra at the end of his science lessons was, “it can’t NOT fly”. I listened attentively each time; grateful for his patience and desire to help and doing my best to take the facts in and let the fear go. I wanted to go to Sedona, dammit. In true Infinite Possibilities fashion, we took a step in the direction of our dreams and planned a trip to Arizona. One way or the other I was going to get on an airplane and fly west. Also, true to the Infinite Possibilities philosophy, I remembered that I have flown before, it was fine, I survived and even enjoyed the experience.

Michael proposed to take me up in a small plane. His theory was that after that flight a commercial airplane would feel like flying in my easy chair. I trust Michael completely and decided – fearfully I will add – that I would just do it. OK, picture this: A beautiful sunny day, a small airport in Princeton, New Jersey, an airplane that barely fit three people crammed in like sardines, me in back with my “cans” on shaking uncontrollably. We took off with me screeching and wondering if this was the day I would die. As we climbed higher I was certain that I’d left my brain and my stomach back on the ground. I was grabbing at the side of the plane as if it could save me! Pretty laughable now, but instinct said, “hold onto something”. That’s when I realized that the sky was just beyond the wall I was using to keep me safe-probably about 2 inches away from my trembling hand. Yikes! What was I thinking? Mike kept telling me it was OK, to keep breathing, feel myself in my seat and trust him. He, of course, was in his heaven since flying is his greatest joy. So, I got hold of my breath and slowly began to calm down. Long story short, after the initial trauma I began to relax and look out on the beauty before me. Michael calmly explained the effect of heat from the ground on the plane, how high we were, what we could see ahead and below and when I caught sight of the Jersey shore in the distance and got into the groove and rhythm of flying I started to love it. We landed and took off twice that day and the fear became more of a thrill. By the time I got home I was elated and filled with enthusiasm for our trip to Arizona. I felt like Rocky climbing the steps of the art museum. I had done it! And in a tiny airplane of all things.

Fast forward to our trip to Arizona, sitting on an airplane burgeoning with jet fuel and energy to burn it, the fear is at its peak, knuckles white as bone, breathing labored, eyes wide and “what the hell am I doing here?” blaring in my head – my husband petting my hand trying to reassure me. I was hyper-focused on everything. “What’s that noise?”, “Why are they doing that?”, “Where’s that life preserver?” (no water this trip, but I needed to know!). Poor Bob! And then the inevitable revving of the engines, only to get us rolling toward the runway! Every step was another step to freedom from the fear, but every step was sheer terror. We finally took off, my head exploding and my lips uttering every prayer I knew with very bank, every change in altitude as we climbed, every sound, every movement. What got me through it? “It can’t NOT fly!”. I heard Mike’s voice telling me that despite its huge size, loaded with luggage and passengers, it can’t not fly. And so, it flew with me and who knows how many others inside, and we arrived safely at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport four hours later. (I will spare you the landing drama, but you can imagine.)

Many flights later I can say that I still get some butterflies when the engines rev up, and there’s some anxiety when we start our approach to land. I have my little flying rituals. I always kiss my hand and pat the plane when I enter, with a tiny prayer of protection in my mind. I always fly with my sacred mala around my neck and fondle the beads and crystal as we take off and land. But all in all, I love to fly. I claim the window seat so I can watch everything happen. I look forward to that thrill feeling; you know, the one when you can feel the build of energy just before the plane starts to move forward toward take-off. There’s an amazing rush of excitement and expectation that can be addictive. And it means I’m going somewhere cool, somewhere I want to be, exploring the planet and living life a little differently for a bit. Michael was right, and I remind myself of the mantra he taught me from time to time when I feel a little uneasy up there.

The story is about facing yet another fear. It’s about saying “yes” and taking steps toward dreams and desires. It’s about making choices and taking chances. It’s about flying as high as possible and getting where we want to go. There are so many more places I want to go – geographically, internally, emotionally, spiritually and in so many other ways. When I get scared I use this airplane story to remind myself, as Dr. Seuss says, “Oh the places you will go.” I just need to say yes and take that step.

STRETCH: How high can you fly? Can you take one step toward a dream or desire you are holding? You are like that airplane – you can’t NOT fly. Try it. One step.

PS I will always be grateful to Mike Jackson for his skill, his patience and his love. I owe you Mikey.

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