I can't remember the first time I flew on a plane. I think I was older, maybe five or so. Flying back then was expensive and extremely exciting. Getting on a plane meant finding adventure upon landing. Plane rides were an empowering experience. I would walk forward with a purpose, leading my family to the appropriate terminal with my backpack firmly strapped to my back and my mind focused on the goal ahead. Finding my seat and listening to the flight attendant describe what to do during an emergency was thrilling. I loved flying.
At some point in my life I stopped enjoying the experience. Flying became a scary experience where my fear of small spaces and dying threatened to prevent me from flying. I now sleep poorly the night before a flight. I enter the plane with a knot in my throat and my stomach clenched. Every time I get on a plane I have to remind myself that I can escape, that the walls are not closing in on me and I am not going to die.
Three years ago I was flying into Denver, the flight was almost over. Logan sat to my right. The perfectly smooth flight was interrupted by bad weather that caused to plane to start shaking and shifting erratically. I held back my screams. I looked to my left and the woman sitting across the aisle looked at me and calmly told me that this was normal for Denver and to stay calm. I stayed calm and the plane landed and I forgot about the flight.
Several weeks ago I took a flight from San Francisco to San Diego. The taxi driver warned me that there were serious winds coming into SF and I would be lucky to catch a flight home. When checking in I requested to transfer to an earlier flight. Sadie and I waited at the gate excited to go home and relax. Sadie noticed a vendor selling sweets and persuaded me to buy her some chocolates for the flight. She ended up finishing a bag of m'n'ms before we even boarded. Once on the plane we were able to score an entire row - the plane was only a third full. We were in luck. With smiles on our faces we prepared ourselves to fly home.
About thirty minutes into the flight the plane started to dip. Then it started to shake vigorously left to right. I felt my stomach drop as the plane jerked erratically. The plane's silence was terrifying. Not a word was said. And then the plane moved more violently. The passengers in the plane started to scream. I thought we were going to die. The plane felt like someone was throwing it around and shaking it - we were powerless. The wind blew us around mercilessly. I started to sob in fear. Sadie was with me. I did not want her to die.
My death, although unfair, concerned me only from the perspective of Sadie. I did not want to die because I did not want Sadie to die with me. My daughter needed to live. As I sobbed hysterically, tears rolling down my cheeks, I started to say the shema again and again. I did not know what else I could do. The total feeling of powerlessness overwhelmed me. I have spent Sadie's entire life protecting her from hazards in the world. There was nothing I could do if the plane broke. As the winds blew louder and the plane shook harder my shema became louder and faster. I held Sadie tight, cried into her hair and pleaded with God to spare our lives.
I remembered on Yom Kippur the belief that Prayer, Charity and Repentance will change your fate. As I repeated the shema again and again, loudly and without shame, I meditated on this idea. I pledged a donation and the plane calmed for a moment. It then shook violently again. I doubled my pledge and reminded God I could not give that donation if I didn't land safely that night. I don't know how long our flight felt like it was in the hands of God. When the pilot finally spoke on the intercom and apologized for the bumpy ride the energy in the plane calmed down. I didn't feel completely safe but hearing the pilot access the situation gave me more confidence. A lady sitting across from me offered me a tissue. We wiped the tears off our faces and chatted. Every time the plane shook we looked at each other with widened eyes continuing our conversation, doing our best to mask our fear. When we finally landed I couldn't find the energy to leave my seat. I was the last person to leave the plane. I thanked the pilot as I passed him and I saw the relief in his eyes echoed mine. It had been a close call for all of us.
By the time I got my luggage I realized I had some aspects of myself I wanted to change. I decided to stop holding grudges. Old friendships that went sour can restart - we don't need to be best friends again but I can stop holding all the anger inside me. Several weeks later and I continue to desire peace in my life. I have no idea how long I have in this world and I prefer to spend the rest of my years in a state of happiness and peace. I am realistic and accept that I will have bad days. I am also realistic that there will be people that anger me. I am not willing to let anyone take advantage of me or hurt me; in fact, it's the opposite. By releasing my grudges I am accepting their mistakes and permitting myself to find balance despite what happened. Indeed, one of the first people I have to stop being angry with is myself. By forgiving myself I can find peace and grow.
Despite this wonderful realization, I continue to be terrified of flying. Next week I have fly to Arizona to attend my friend's wedding. I'm scared out of my mind that the plane will crash with all of us in it. If I am meant to die on a plane, I don't want them on it as well. Even more so, I don't want to die. I want to continue raising Sadie and to give her siblings. No one will love my child the way I will.
I know the concept that everything is in God's hands. I also know the concept that bad things happen to good people. Even more so that we cannot possibly understand God's plans. I get it. Doesn't mean I am not terrified of the uncertainty of this game we call life.
Meet the Blogger!
I'm a mom. A writer. A lover of good fantasy. A proponent of nursing when possible. A birth advocate. I am absolutely horrible at keeping my house clean or the dishes washed or the laundry done. I strongly believe in women having a positive birth. When we start to respect women's rights to birth the way they want, we can start to treat women as equal people in this world.
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