This is the third in my trilogy of posts on getting over my phobia of flying. Thank you all for indulging me as I calm myself at airports and on planes by writing these blogs.
Today we fly home from our great conference in Michigan. You would think that after having completed Monday’s flight with little drama that today would be an easier trip. Unfortunately, today’s flight is the one that I have stressed most over all along.
You see, sometimes the information age can be a blessing. We can find answers to questions in seconds with only a few taps of our fingers. But sometimes too much information can also be a curse. Take my constant trolling over the weather channel this week fretting over the forecasted rain and thunderstorms for lovely Grand Rapids the night that I am to fly from there to Atlanta.
Each time I checked the weather and saw the forecast for storms, I rehearsed over and over in my head what would happen if indeed the dreaded t-storms would hit when we were due to fly out (yeah, I realize this is pretty much the definition of anticipatory anxiety, thank you).
I think one of the reasons this happened was my memory of plane rides in thunderstorms past.
Almost twenty years ago my husband and I took a trip to Norway to visit family living there. We were to fly out of Richmond late one afternoon and connect with a flight from Newark to Oslo. We got to Richmond’s airport rather early, just in time to watch the summer thunderstorms roll in. As the storms built in intensity, the words delayed began to flash at our gate. Pretty soon other diverted flights began to land at our airport to escape the storms. An hour went by. The clock was ticking for us to make our international connection. At some point our flight was cancelled.
This whole time I had been a nervous wreck. If we missed our connection at Newark we would miss a whole day of our week long trip to Norway, which already felt short for an international trip. When we heard the news of the cancelled flight, I broke down into tears. It had been a year since I’d seen my niece and nephew and my 23 years old self didn’t think I could stand waiting another day to see their sweet faces again.
Instead of rolling with the disappointment or going with the flow, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
Around the time our flight was cancelled, the diverted flight decided try and finish its route to Newark (no one had intended to come to Richmond after all). I tearfully pleaded my situation with the airline rep and begged to be boarded on the plane to Newark. In a post 911 world I can hardly believe that my husband and I were allowed to hitch a ride on the second half of a flight we were never meant to be on.
But there we went up, up, and up into the midst of thunderstorms on our way to Newark. About half way there I began to question the wisdom of boarding this storm bound flight. But once you are on a plane, all you can do is ride it out. And ride it out we did. Even after we reached the airspace of Newark we circled and circled the airport for almost an hour until we were cleared to land.
Once on the ground, my husband and I raced through the airport to get to our next flight. As we reached the international terminal, we found it desolate. Our flight was long gone.
All that grasping and striving for control in a messy situation had gotten me nowhere in the end.
Well, that’s not entirely true. It got me 24 hours in the
vacation hot spot Newark, New Jersey. Needless to say after an exhausted night in an airport hotel and 8 hours the next day wandering Newark Liberty International airport, I have never desired to visit Newark again.
I was reminded of the great Newark debacle today as I stressed and stressed over this evening’s flight. When checking the weather report upon awakening, I again began to fret about the forecasted afternoon/evening rain. I worried over it all through breakfast, then proceeded to try and switch to an earlier flight in the day, even though it would mean I would miss the end of the conference that I was so enjoying. But lo, my luck with the airline agents ran out years ago. The noon flight from Grand Rapids was all sold out.
I would have to either be delayed in flying until Friday and be stuck away from home another night, or take my chances flying through weather.
After trying to insert my grabby, controlling little mitts to handle this situation completely, I had to acknowledge that some things are just out of my hands.
Like the weather.
And the flying of airplanes.
And travel schedules when others are paying for my fare.
And so many other things that I would like to be in control of, but am just not.
So as we descend with some bumps on what has been a flight that was so much better than I thought it would be, I remember the words a friend gave to me Sunday night before I left.
Just let go.
Relinquish that control over to someone else for a while.
For in the end we are never really as in control of our fate as we would like to believe.
In some ways life is all kind of a roll of the dice. But even still it either turns out okay or we find a way to persevere anyway.
So I leave you with this image of skies from my flight that are much more beautiful than those stormy clouds I saw 20 years ago. It doesn’t always turn out this nice, but when it does.
Enjoy the ride.
Dena’s 1 Flight Tip
** For those of you who also struggle to fly, I will share that the tip from Capt Tom Bunn that helped me most was boarding early so I could talk with flight attendants and possibly even pilots about my fear of flying. In a situation where my lack of control was elevating my fear (“If I could only fly the plane, I think I would be okay), it really helped to develop some trust in those people who were actually in control of my flight. It surprised me how kind and accommodating everyone was when I shared that I was a nervous flyer (and how much their reassurances helped me).