In a few days I will be flying to the US for the first time in two years, and to Wisconsin for the first time in three. The occasion is my son's college graduation, and I am looking forward to seeing my kids and parents, some of the rest of the family, and friends.
I am not, however, looking forward to the flight, to say the very least.
|I'm glad I don't fly Delta anymore, because I really hate landing in Atlanta|
and being screamed at by personnel speaking Suth'rn.
It's mainly the fact that I never took physics class and simply do not believe that tin can of a deathtrap with wings should be able to do what it does. I do not assume I am going to make it to the other side alive. I'm glad every time I do, and I'm not kidding when I say that the first thing I do after I pry my claws from the arm rests after landing and feel the plane begin to slow down (the first sign to me, after a multi-hour flight, that we might make it) is to whisper "Thank you" - to the pilot, God, mother nature...whomever I think might be listening.
I was not always afraid to fly. My dad had his pilot's license when I was a teen, and he took me on several flights in a 4-seater over our town, and on one flight over Lake Michigan to a wedding. I flew to Germany for the first time at age 17 and thought the feeling of taking off was really cool. I have flown back and forth between Europe and Chicago 31 times before this, a few times from Wisconsin to Florida in my earlier years, and since moving to Germany I've flown to Scotland and Berlin twice, Vienna, and Rome. So it's not like I'm an inexperienced flyer.
The above photo was taken during one of those death-defying turns when I do not understand why the plane doesn't keep flipping and just fall out of the sky.
Flying is a necessary evil for someone who lives six time zones and an ocean away from her family. And evil it is. If God had meant us to fly, He would have made us birds.
I don't know when the fear started, but it was definitely after I had kids. From that point on I had two someones who needed me, and I started to take mortality a bit more seriously. By now I'm just enjoying life so completely that I'm not ready for it to be done. I know I have no control over that moment. But I have far less control in a frickin' airplane! Frankly, I prefer the illusion of having at least a little control.
|This is where I like planes - on the ground.|
Flying to and from Scotland with M is generally less problematic. The flights are short, and he's with me. "If we go, at least we go together, Luv!" as his English grandmother used to say to her husband.
Statistics only help when my loved ones are flying. I track their flights and am not afraid they won't make it. I get it that flying is statistically safer than driving - perhaps especially in our area, where I swear there is a fatal or near-fatal automobile, truck, or motorcycle accident nearly every week.
Plane crash dreams hardly even freak me out anymore because they're so common. Usually I'm watching the plane that crashes, but in the latest one from a few weeks ago, I was on the plane. I remember thinking, as the plane tipped like at the top of a rollar coaster drop, "Well, that's it then. I'm surprised I feel so calm."
Don't worry if you ever have to sit next to me on an overseas flight. Except for the barrage of profanity during turbulence and the shimmies and shakes of take-off and landing, I generally try to pretend I'm not terrified.
A few years ago I booked a flight for my dad and M with a pilot in the Wisconsin town where I then lived. The pilot was a former student of mine and the son of a good friend! The flight was over that town and then 45 miles east to fly over my hometown. I was not able to decide until the moment of boarding whether I would accompany them or not. My mom, who stayed on the ground because there was only room for four, captured my moment of indecision after peeking into the tiny box I'd be sitting in:
|I believe my thought at that moment was,|
"Are you f-ing kidding me?!"
|Sheboygan, Wisconsin from above|
So for the three people I'll see who are still reading my blog, know that my restrained enthusiasm isn't because I don't want to come to the States or see you. It's because I am terrified to fly. The only thought that has ever helped me calm down a little during turbulence was, "At the moment, we're not crashing. So everything right now is actually ok."
I thought perhaps writing this blog post would help "get it out" and untie the knot in my stomach, but it didn't. Darn.