I like to think of myself as a pretty strong woman. Needles? No problem. Exotic animals? Bring them on. Crowds, heights, bugs? I can handle myself.
But when it comes to planes, trains, and automobiles, you’re going to have to stop at “planes.” I have a huge – and, some would argue, irrational – fear of flying.
I’d like to say it started when I was a kid. I didn’t fly much – well, ever. My dad was huge on the “scenic route,” one of those guys who just loved to pack up the car and go. (Even having four young kids in the back seat couldn’t dull his relaxation behind the wheel.) On our family vacations, we drove the coasts – up to Maine for lobster, down to Florida for Disney land. After days upon days in the car with my family, I became accustomed to ground transportation.
Then, we had to fly out to California. If my dad had his way, we’d probably take a week and drive, but my mom – the sensible woman she is – didn’t want to pull us out of our activities for so long. Plus, she didn’t want to go insane. I was seven, and my Game Boy only had a limited number of hours of battery life.
Turbulence is a traumatic experience for a seven-year-old. Nobody knows what dying’s like until you get there, but I was convinced I was close. I was clutching my family members, making a ruckus, and praying that the Good Lord would save me.
He did, of course, but not before I developed my fear of flying. In fact, the flight was delayed several hours on the way home – a groan-worthy weather pattern that immediately caused parents’ hair to frazzle – and I was so happy. I did not want to go up in the scary death-box again.
Since then, I’ve flown a few times – probably enough to count on one hand. I hate airports. I hate airplane seats. I hate the lines at airport coffee shops. But, most of all, I hate flying.
Fast-forward to two weeks from now when I should be gallivanting around Ireland, kissing the Blarney Stone, and enjoying a pint from a Dublin pub. I’m going to have to fly to get there, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t petrified.
It’s time to face my fears yet again.
While I haven’t learned any official, psychologist-approved tips to ease the fear, whenever I fly, I remember a couple of basic things.
First, I think about the destination. Luckily, I’ve only ever flown for good things – vacations, weddings, reunions, you get the idea. I’ve never flown for business travel; I’ve never flown to a middle-of-nowhere airport. Thinking about all the fun I’m going to have when I get from Point A to Point B usually gives me the motivation to step on the plane – even if I’m a mess during takeoff and landing.
And, I think about the people I’m with. I never fly alone – I don’t think my poor, stranger seatmate could handle the screaming and clutching. I give myself a good support system whenever I’m in the air. Next week, I’ll be sitting next to my husband – who, by now, is used to my crazy in-plane antics. (He usually buys me a flight-approved distraction, too, like a book or magazine. It helps for a few minutes, at least.)
So, it looks like it’s time to face my fears – at least I’ll be doing it in Ireland, right?
‘Til next week,
Photo by steve p2008 on flickr.