Thursday, March 9, 2017

learning to surrender at 30,000 feet

A few years ago, seemingly out of nowhere, I became an easily panicked airplane passenger. I'm not sure what specifically brought it on, but one spring day in 2013, on a 50 minute flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles -- one I'd taken dozens, if not hundreds, of times before, without ever having a problem -- I found myself hyperventilating during takeoff, then gripping my armrests through the light bumps of turbulence, utterly convinced we were going to crash. The smiling flight attendants and very standard pilot announcements from the cockpit, letting us know it was just some normal air pockets, nothing to worry about, but we should keep our seat belts fastened, did nothing to soothe my catastrophizing mind.

Overhearing the whimpers I was attempting to stifle, the woman sitting in front of me turned around and gently offered her hand to squeeze, and a Xanax. I accepted both, and felt slightly better as the drug took affect, but I was embarrassed, and the chemically-induced fog stayed with me for longer than I liked. I knew I needed to find a better solution.

On subsequent flights, I tried box breathing, meditation, valerian root, and an app with a recording that is supposed to calm you down, all without success. Not only was it upsetting to feel so afraid of plummeting to my death for the duration of my flight, it was also humiliating to lose it in front of strangers with the misfortune of sitting next to me. Every time I booked a flight, no matter how happy I was to be heading to the destination, the days leading up to my departure were filled with dread.

Then, on an early morning flight to New York last winter, I took my seat next to an older woman in a bright orange skirt suit, full makeup, her nails jewel-toned talons.

"Good morning! Are you headed to New York for work or pleasure? Me, I'm going to see my daughter and her family. They live in Brooklyn."

"Work," I responded, as it became clear to me that this woman was going to want to talk. She pulled out her iPhone, and showed me photos of her daughter and grandchildren. I did my best to appear calm as it hit me that I was going to have to handle her chatter in addition to my usual fear of flying. I tried to simultaneously breathe and nod at her blather about her daughter's job, what their plans for the week were, and how the weather back east would be.

As the plane took off and hit a few air pockets, I felt the usual drop in my stomach and feelings of unease. The woman paused her story when she noticed I was clenching the ends of the armrests, and holding my breath.

"Oh sweetie, are you scared?"

"Sorry, I just have a hard time with flying," I whispered. I just wanted to get through this--the last thing I wanted was to have a conversation with this stranger about it.

"Listen, the way I see it," she told me, "if this plane is going down, holding onto your armrests isn't going to save you. There's literally nothing you can do about it. Besides, when it's your time, it's your time. "

As she went back to talking about her plans with daughter, I played her words back in my head. As callous as her advice had sounded, she hit on something I had somehow missed: there was, in fact nothing I could do. Because, as crazy as it sounds, I realized in that moment that, on some level, I had believed my fretting about crashing to be way of taking action and control. Just as I believed the worrying I did back on the ground was. Holding my breath, gripping the seat, curling into myself -- part of me believed it was actually making me safer.

As she continued talking, I made the choice to unclench my body and relax in my seat, leaning into the bumps of the plane turbulence, repeating to myself, there is nothing I can do. And the most amazing thing happened: I actually started to feel better. My breathing steadied, my pounding heart slowed. Suddenly the self-imposed burden of keeping the plane in the air with my mind was lifted.

The woman kept up her chatter until I found a moment during a brief pause to politely tell her I was going to listen to some music on my phone. She nodded, and I slipped my headphones in my ears, and turned on Sam Cooke. The plane continued to shake with turbulence, but still, I felt myself surrender. Because even though i was hurtling above the earth in what was basically a very aerodynamic canoe with wings, I wasn't in charge of any of it.


Unknown said...


John Wick said...

Really it could be dangerous when you are unable to find your deleted files back. would be more helpful for you.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting its a nice post.
Best IT Training in Bangalore

Anonymous said...

I become very scared after reaching the height. I wonder how people are able to manage themselves at height of around 30,000 feet, I really solute them.

Kaspersky Customer Support

Sophie Grace said...

Thanks for sharing so significative article with us. I agree with your idea completely.I am looking forward to another great article from you. facebook video

Business said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I really appreciate your work. Keep it up. Great work!Best software training company with placement in Hyderabad

Karthick Ganesan said...

Hey, would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thank you.
Top Software IT Training Institutes in Chennai
Contact SLAJobs in Chennai | Top Software Training Center in Chennai
Top Placements Training Institutes in Chennai | Apptitude Softskills Training Institutes in Chennai

Ali Ahsan said...

If you are searching for Minecraft usernames then your search ends here. If you want a catchy, attractive and good minecraft username then you can find many Cool Minecraft Username here.

Anonymous said...

Nice Post! thanks for sharing this information.
Career Counselling in Mumbai

Aalia said...

It is amazing and wonderful to visit your site.Thanks for sharing this information,this is useful to me...

AWS Online Training
AWS Certification Training
AWS Certification Course Online
AWS Training
AWS Online Course

Laura Bush said...

Ich bewundere diesen Artikel für den gut recherchierten Inhalt und die hervorragende Formulierung. Wir bieten den besten DJ für Hochzeiten zu erschwinglichen Preisen. Weitere Informationen finden Sie auf unserer Website hochzeits dj dresden

Shermila Ram said...

Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write.I like the post

fssc 22000 certification

IT said...

Great Article
IoT Projects for CSE

Python Training in Chennai

Project Centers in Chennai

Python Training in Chennai

deepali said...

Thank you for posting its a nice post.
look at this site
click here

Nit said...

Amazing very useful information. keep posting buddy.
My Response

Musicislife said...

this is so good posting this Informative here !!!

Ornaldo Depp said...

Hello there, You have done an incredible job. I’ll certainly Digg it and personally suggest to my friends.
I am confident they will be benefited from this website.
Best Offset Smokers

Misha said...

Very interesting, good job and thanks for sharing such a good blog. Your article is so convincing that I never stop myself to say something about it. You’re doing a great job. Keep it up.
Actually I Thought About This

Your blog is very impressive Check These guys out keep posting such useful information. I Am Also A Blogger At This Site Why Not Try This Out I Am Damn Sure You Will Really Love This Blog.

Tanika Co Valda said...

Great Article
Artificial Intelligence Projects

Project Center in Chennai

JavaScript Training in Chennai

JavaScript Training in Chennai

Misha said...

Very interesting, good job and thanks for sharing such a good blog. Your article is so convincing that I never stop myself to say something about it. You’re doing a great job. Keep it up.
Actually I Thought About this

Kiya said...

such great information for a blogger I am a professional blogger At This Site

Aastha said...

Excellent read, Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? A Fantastic Read I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for give me this information really this product is very effective.

iso lead auditor training in bangalore

Saisha said...

Good day. I was impressed with your article. Keep it up . You can also visit my site if you have time. Thank you and Bless you always.

iso 22000 certification

Musicislife said...

thank you for blog
makeup product
click here
read more
find more

artist said...

very useful
Strange chairs
Wooden chair
Comde chair

artist said...

thank you
cleaning your juice
assmbely juice
juicing your veggiee

James Paul said...

This post is really nice and informative. The explanation given is really comprehensive and informative..

haccp certification online

aivivubooking1 said...

Aivivu đại lý vé máy bay, tham khảo

săn vé máy bay giá rẻ đi Mỹ

giá vé máy bay hải phòng hồ chí minh

chuyến bay chu lai hà nội

đà nẵng đi nha trang

vé máy bay giá rẻ đi quy nhơn

taxi sân bay

combo du lịch phú quốc vinpearl