Fly, or you’ll turn to stone…

God protect us and keep us safe.

This is what I say to myself over and over and over from the minute I get on a plane, through takeoff, until I feel comfortable (or, as comfortable as I can get) at cruising altitude. God protect us and keep us safe. It’s adapted from what an old friend’s lovely southern mom used to say at night. “Good night, God protect ya and keep ya safe.”

I’m terrified of flying. I’ve said that before. I genuinely feel that people as afraid of flying as I am simply do not fly. I used to be proud of that fact; my fear a badge of honour, my conquering it a showing of strength. The older I get, the less I am able to see it that way. I just see it as subjecting myself to hours of fear, at best, and a frivolous risk at worst.

The last time I flew was to Dallas in 2016. The first flight went quite well, leaving me unprepared for the next one. It was the most turbulent flight I’ve ever been on, and the longest I’d taken in 10 years. The man beside me actually saw me shaking and crying. I can usually hide it better.

He spoke to me about his experience; said he used to be like me til he took a job that required flying several days a week. He just got used to it. I said I didn’t think I could be that brave. He told me the old trick of look to the flight attendants, if they’re acting normal then everything is fine. Unfortunately, I know, and I’d already noticed that the flight attendants had taken seats wherever they happened to be in the cabin because it was no longer safe for them to stand. He explained turbulence and air currents; we were flying over major thunderstorms below. My grandpa was a WWII pilot and an avid lifelong traveller, says I; my dad loves planes, understands the physics of this big tube in the sky, and could easily have been a pilot himself. He also knows weather inside and out. I know all the reasons we are safe up here. I know it’s an irrational fear. But here it is, irrationally fear-ing away.

I’m currently taxiing out to the runway, headed to Detroit then transferring, en route to Columbus, Ohio.

I told you there was very little chance of me talking myself out of going to the Eagles show tomorrow!

I’m afraid of everything about this. The sounds, the sights, the feelings. I don’t dislike flying itself, oddly enough. I don’t feel right saying “I hate flying.” It just scares me. And it doesn’t help that after that turbulent flight came another, and another. I don’t have good recent memories to look back on here. Takeoff is my least favourite part, bar none. I cry during every takeoff.

But for whatever reason I am always inspired to write on planes, so here we are.

God protect us and keep us safe.

So why do I do it? When it causes me so much fear, so much pain (I’m wearing my Fitbit to watch my heart rate, out of curiosity; it thinks I’m doing a cardio workout right now)? I really can’t answer that. All I know is this is me. Since 2004 I’ve gone to every show I can, near and far, by any means necessary including overnight Greyhounds and airplanes.

God protect us and keep us safe.

The other day I was listening to music at work to make myself more productive, and Lindsey Buckingham’s “Surrender the Rain” came on. One of my favourite lyrics in that song, and ever, is “Fly, fly away home, Fly, or you’ll turn to stone.”

And that’s just it. I can’t stop. I can’t take away that part of who I am.

God protect us and keep us safe.

I’m also learning to forgive myself for my fear, and realize that it’s okay to have limits. I won’t do direct flights. I know that sounds stupid since I hate takeoff and I obviously have to do it more often, but I understand that I can’t be in this environment for very long at a time. And that’s okay. I have rituals. I grab the armrest. I listen to music. I flip through a magazine, never read a book, because I can’t concentrate. I only choose window seats, so I can shut the window cover if I don’t feel up to looking outside and open it if I feel I need to see what’s going on; some semblance of control. I chew gum and pray, and I check the time every few minutes and I count down how much longer I have to be in this place. And that is okay, because it helps me do this. Strength isn’t lack of fear, it’s fighting through it by whatever means necessary.

God protect us and keep us safe.

It’s been 14 years. I can’t say, I can’t handle it anymore. I mean I say that every time, but I can’t abide by it. I can’t stop or I’ll lose such a huge part of myself. If I can’t drive to a show, I have to be able to fly. I just do.

God protect us and keep us safe it’s takeoff time, I hear the engines roaring above my music, we’re gonna speed up soon…




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