In just a few days I am going to fly in an airplane for the first time in seven years. This lack of time in the friendly skies is no accident.
I admit to you, dear reader, that I am afraid to fly.
This hasn’t always been true. I flew several times during my twenties and at first I loved it. I flew solo to Norway when I was 18 to visit my brother and his family for a week. Great flights there and back.
In fact, now that I think of it, most of my air travel has consisted of long, international flights. Actually, this may be part of the problem. When you have a bad flight from GA to DC or NYC, at least it is over pretty quickly. When you are trapped under the heavy head your seatmate has uninvitedly leaned on your shoulders for the long, stuffy eight hour flight to Amsterdam . . . . Lets just say no amount of in flight movies can make up for that discomfort.
None of my bad flight experiences are horrible. Most of them have to do with long delays, missed connections, and turbulent skies. Some of them are hilarious in hindsight.
Like the time I had a few shots of Baileys to calm my nerves before we flew from Dublin to London on evening. It turns out the alcohol did nothing to calm my fears, but instead made me scared and uninhibited. As we bumped over the Irish sea, I clung to my husband on one side and my random stranger seatmate on the other as I cried out, “Sweet Jesus, Save Us!” too loud for the small plane. I often wish I had gotten the name and address of the unlucky chap who sat next to me so that I could send him an apology later.
Other flight experiences are just pitiful. Returning from Greece one fall we got stuck at 10,000 flying over England due to air traffic. As there were storms over all of Great Britain that day (curse you England and your stormy weather) we spent 20 minutes flying like a roller coaster through the unstable air. When the flight leveled out and the stewardesses got up from their seats, I burst into sobs for at least another 10 minutes from the stress of it all. We actually requested a seat change to the front of the plane so that the ride would be a bit smoother, though truthfully it was because I was embarrassed to spend the next 7 hours facing my aisle mates after having such a dramatic meltdown.
After that flight, I now ask my doc for a few tranquilizers whenever I have to fly.
So after a break of many years I am now facing another, albeit it shorter ride through the air. As my mind drifts to the upcoming takeoff and trip through the clouds, my feet are telling me they would prefer to stay rooted on the ground, thank you very much.
And so I ask myself, how much would it cost me not to fly?
In this particular instance, it would prevent me from attending a conference that I not only need to, but want to attend. I would miss out on knowledge gained, relationships built, and a general development of my vocational self.
But it is more than that, isn’t it?
When I was telling this story to a wise counselor recently, she started asking me if I was afraid to fly in a larger way.
How many other ways am I dragging my feet instead of taking the leaps I need to make?
Man, was she spot on. Several weeks from now I am scheduled to attend the She Speaks Conference where I will learn loads from seminars, network with fellow bloggers/writers, and have a meeting with a few publishers to pitch the book I wrote with my husband on managing anxiety using both faith and clinical tools.
This is a big step that takes me in exactly the direction I want to go in.
But even as I am excited about the opportunity, I can feel a certain weight in my feet about this. And when I take the time to think about why, there is only one answer.
Fear of change. Fear of failure. Fear of succeeding. Fear. Fear. Fear.
And though fear may be normal in a moment like this, it is not an acceptable motivator for the choices I make. Not at all.
For what is a life that is lived based on fear?
I don’t want to look back in ten years and feel sadness and regret about how boring and limited my life has been. I don’t want to wonder what I could have done if I could just have mustered up the courage to do it.
So in a few days I will step into that airplane with my little container of Xanax in hand. I will do my deep breathing, pray my breath prayers, and recite my Scripture. I will do whatever it takes to get through the flight. Even if it involves holding the hand of a stranger or crying a few tears.
And when it is all over (for it will end one way or the other), I will walk off that plane into possibilities that weren’t available to me if I had stayed rooted to my spot on the ground.
And I will bottle that courage and take it with me to North Carolina when I got to She Speaks. (via car ride, thank you very much)
Those of you who are standing on your own scary precipice, take heart. You are not alone. I am scared too. In fact, I think we all are. Just decide if where you want to be requires the courage to jump off that point and fly a little.
I know, I believe I’m just going to drop like a rock too. But entertain the possibility that after we take our leap, we might just be able to stretch out our wings and soar.