Today Gabe is wearing a blue sweatshirt, khaki pants, brown boots, and green sunglasses.
“I don’t want to be here anymore.” I shook my head to try to shake this thought out of my mind, since, at the time I was thinking it, I was in an airplane 30,000 feet above Iowa.
I wasn’t always a nervous flyer, but once I started having to do the 3-flight trek between a small town in Washington to a small town in Illinois every holiday season when I was in college, I got the fear. Oooh yes I got the fear.
I started seeing signs in the days before my flight that I was convinced were warning that my plane was going to go down. Once on board, I’d jump at every little noise and bounce, even while the plane was still on the ground. I was really not a good flyer.
Then, a couple of years ago, I got it together. I learned about the trick where you just stare at the flight attendants, and watch how completely bored they are by every aspect of the flight. I started showing up at the airport imagining (seriously) that I was a serious business traveler who just couldn’t be bothered to care about “just another flight”.
Did my palms still sweat during turbulence? Sometimes. But I just forced the fear down, and it went away.
Well, it went away until earlier this week when I had the feeling that people who have *serious* fear of flying describe: the feeling like you absolutely have to get off the plane right now, this second. It was really the worst. I tried to tamp it down, but of course with this kind of thought, once you think it you can’t un-think it.
I was on my second flight of the day, and still had one more to go before I was at my final destination of my Illinois hometown. I was starting to feel like I wouldn’t make it.
So we circled above Chicago and I felt my palms start to sweat. I tried to remember my yoga. “Unclench your shoulders. Breathe a deep sigh. Close your eyes.”
My eyes popped open and my shoulders met my ears as we bumped down through the clouds.
I worried that I wouldn’t be able to do my third and final flight. After 8 hours of travel, I worried I might just cry for the whole 30 minutes of the third flight I had left. I worried I might never be able to leave once I actually made it there, since I have another 3 flights to do in order to get back home to Humboldt.
But on the third flight, I told myself to get it together. I closed my eyes, and turned on a podcast. I held a book in my lap, gripping it lightly with both hands. I focused on every single word the host of the podcast was saying. And if I ever got distracted and felt tempted to peek out the window or think about how amplified turbulence is in a tiny plane (which it happened to be that night) I took a huge, sighing breath and listened harder to the podcast.
And by the time we landed, 30 minutes later, I was over it. I was on the other side.
My mom fed me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and vegan cookies, and my dad let me rattle on about this new podcast Serial I had been listening to all day. It was good to be home.
A few photos of things enjoyed pre-flight: