They say the only way to get over a fear is to face it. I don’t know who actually said that, but whoever it was, has obviously never been on a plane with me.
I’ve been flying since I was a tiny tot because we had grandparents that lived very far away. So most summers, I was on a plane or two.
Back then, I didn’t realize there was anything to be scared of. But given a little age and awareness, at some point, I figured out that I was flying 10,000 feet above the ground, in a metal tube, filled with gasoline.
My parents didn’t take my new found knowledge of the death trap we were traveling in seriously, and so the travels continued.
The more I flew, the more scared I became.
For a while, (basically when my parents were no longer my legal guardians) I stopped flying.
Problem solved. No flying. No fear. Worked much better than that mumbo jumbo about facing your fears.
I then married, and once again, I was saddled with someone who thought flying was no big deal. So back to flying I went.
Along the way, I concocted my own personal method of facing fear. Much like the psychological books advise, I pretend it doesn’t exist, I bottle up the fear way down in my psyche, and when it rears its ugly head right before I enter the plane, I let it eat me alive. And I pray. A lot!
I’ve also established a few coping exercises that I’ve picked up along the way. They seem to help.
- Every flight starts with instructions from the flight attendant about how to survive should we crash. I know them by heart but that isn’t the reason I no longer listen to them. When the attendant starts talking, that is my cue to put in my earphones and listen to music. Because if I actually listened, I’d focus on the “in case of an emergency” part and how the life jacket under my seat was not going to save me as we are flying over the Appalachian mountains. If there is a fire and the plane is engulfed in smoke, I’m not going to be able to count in the dark how many rows I am away from the Exit doors. The instructions are quite unnecessary, and if I ever hear the words “brace, brace,” I will simply lose my mind and can only hope that we all die so no one can ever tell the rest of the world how I acted in those final moments.
- The music I listen to is my 80s playlist. Nothing calms me down like a little Spandau Ballet or Rick Astley. I don’t know why it works, but give me a little “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and I’m instantly calmed.
- I wear the same clothes on the flight there and back. Again, I don’t know why, but it works. You can scoff, but considering I’ve been on 100s of flights, worn the same clothes and am not dead — well enough said.
- I don’t sit by my husband. Well, let me rephrase. He doesn’t sit by me. While not afraid to fly himself, he says I freak him out because I look so terrified.
- So instead he sits me, several rows back, with our kids. I’ve explained that is a mistake because, unlike the instructions, should the oxygen masks come down, I am not going to be able to assist our children. Instead, I’m going to start screaming and crying. He says that is a chance he will have to take. Seriously? What bad parenting.
- If I’m sitting by an Exit door, I’m not going to be able to open the door and assist the other passengers deplane. No way. No how. But I’m not going to raise my hand like they ask and tell them that. Instead, I try making eye contact with my husband who, at this point, is chatting up his seat mate trying to pretend he isn’t married.
- I’m not going to the bathroom. Seriously? I can’t understand why anyone does. Can you not hold it? Why would I unbuckle myself and then lock myself in a tiny room 10,000 feet above the earth and begin to undress? Not happening.
- If you get up to use the restroom, to stretch your legs, to get something out of your bag, I’m going to assume you are ISIS. I don’t care if you are a five-year old blonde child playing with a Barbie, if you are up and make a sudden move, I’m immediately trying to make eye contact with my husband.
- He’s the one by now drinking a Coke, enjoying his pretzels and laughing with the people next to him from Utah. No amount of throat clearing and my shouting out “Brody” gets him to turn around.
- If we hit turbulence, since by now I know not to count on my hubs, I start to look for the steward. If they continue to serve drinks, then I feel better, If they sit down and buckle themselves up, I think they should be fired. Panic sets in and I raise the volume in hopes that Rick can work his magic.
- Finally the plane lands, I gather my belongings and walk off the plane, I profusely thank the pilot (probably a little too much) and then search for my husband who miraculously remembers he is married again.
We then continue on our trip like all the other normal families, none the wiser except for the poor soul next to me who continually listened to me sing “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, Never gonna run around and desert you……