The last time I flew in an airplane, I wrote my heart out for two hours straight. But when I failed to realize that my phone coverage didn’t extend beyond my home country, consequently, all was lost.
What I did realize, however, is that despite my loss, the benefit from the process still remained. The process, markedly, was the expoltion of my emotions in the way that best serves me; by writing them out.
When you are a writer, or any kind of creator, really, it’s like having an imaginary portal that bypasses the normal means of communication. Where as one may cry when upset or scream out when scared or verbally speak what’s on their mind, some of us need the portal of words to get our feelings out. Others may feel compelled to paint or draw or feverishly bang away on a piano. The pathway to emotional freedom is like that for me. The emotions stir within, churning and expanding, trapped without an escape route, until…the words come. But seemingly for me, the words must be written or typed to be best understood. Verbalization of words becomes an extra hurdle of which I always stumble over. Writing is the medium that makes the most sense to me; it has repeatedly proven to be the most authentic expression of myself.
So, seeing that I must rely on the writing process to efficiently shed my overflowing emotions, here I sit on the airport runway, heart pounding and breath seizing, fingers typing feverishly, my two precious babies beside me, preparing for take off. My nerves are raw and my mind grasps to steady itself.
Jack, being an overthinker much like myself, has been barraging us with questions for the past month.
Are the engines loud? How loud are they? How does the plane lift off? How high will we go?
He has flown before, but he was only 3 at the time. At 7, his ideas are big and the questions are bigger. He wants to know everything that’s going to happen before it happens. He yearns for control. He wants nothing to do with unpredictability. He is my child, no doubt.
Then there is my little Allie. This is her first flight. At age 4, and being the second, more fearless child, she is gung-ho and ready. She woke up exclaiming, I’m so excited! Ahhh…the adventurous spirit of a young, uninhibited mind.
We start down the runway, and Allie squeals with delight. I can sense Jack’s nervousness; he is watching the plane’s every move, internally analyzing. As for myself, I know too much. I am a mess of worry and fear and catastrophic thinking. I close my eyes and squeeze their soft little hands and say my most earnest prayer.
The wheels lift and we are propelled upwards with a rush of air. I am forced to raise the white flag of surrender as I begin to accept my current situation. Soon enough, fear and anticipation quickly turn into wonder and amazement as the world below us shrinks.
Look at the tiny trees! The tiny cars! Everything’s so tiny!
I love how children are little sponges for joy. How they focus in on the positive in an instant, like a dog that has suddenly picked up a scent, is brilliant. They hone in and live in the moment. It is an admirable trait.
I had been anxiously anticipating this day of travel for months. I do not like to fly (despite a love affair with flying in my pre-panic disorder life), and doing so with my two smallish children in tow had not been high on my list of upcoming fun activities. Talk about a recipe for a panic attack. But there I sat, in the moment, the normal fears tangled up and swollen with the mom fears, but through it I must go. Exposure therapy, here I come!
Okay. So it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it. My kids actually had a blast. They got to color, play their iPads, gaze out the window at the tiny houses and puffy white clouds, and they were so excited that they got mini cups of Sprite. Oh, AND they each got 3 bags of peanuts. I mean, how could one not be having fun?
We did get the dreaded buckle up for turbulance announcement. As soon as that seatbelt sign lights up and the ding!!! goes off, I prepare for the worst. My stomach sinks and my body goes numb in preparation for this event to occur. What is it about the turbulance??? Me no likey.
Allie, however, sees this moment as a huge adventure. As we are tossed about on invisible waves of air, she is flat-out laughing.
Wheeee!!!! This is like a roller coaster!
Oh, sweet Allie. To have your zest for life, your fearless zeal. I long for even a tiny taste.
Taking this flight was a huge hurdle for me. The first flight, EVER, with both of my children. Not only did I have my usual flying anxieties to deal with, but I would also have to manage the unpredictable nature of little ones. I also felt the crushing pressure to be strong for them, to keep it together. I was the adult here.
As I’ve mentioned before (especially in my previous post, Mama Bears (and Papa Issues)), as a mother, your deepest, purest desire is to keep your children safe. On the contrary, in the midst of a panic attack, you feel total endangerment and loss of control. Nothing could seem farther from feeling safe and secure. This is why the fear of fear is that much heavier; I feel like I cannot keep my children safe while I, myself, am a panicky mess. It is a helpless, depressing and extremely maddening feeling.
Of course, this is a distorted thought, causing unnecessary worry and doubt. I am able to recognize these fraudulent thoughts now. Still, their roots run deep; it will take time to dig them up and uncover their many crooked pathways. It is a slow process.
Thankfulky, we had an amazing Thanksgiving trip. Lots of quality time with family, beautiful scenery, and so many memories made. What a shame it would’ve been to miss it all because of fear. To think back on all the things I have already missed out on over the years is heartbreaking.
I’m declaring this trip a huge victory. The confidence gained just by checking off this box has been profound. Not to say there won’t be nerves and doubts the next time we have to fly the “friendly” skies, but the first time is always the hardest. It’s even opened up a whole new pathway of thinking. One that asks, Where shall we fly to next? What family adventures await?
It’s remarkably refreshing.
I can’t explain how good it feels to be able to even think simple thoughts like this, thoughts that didn’t exist a few weeks ago. Thankfully, the framework of the mind is not made of cement. It is flexible, malleable; like the birch tree that bends without breaking, the mind can always be persuaded to lean just a little bit more each time. We can stretch ourselves in ways we never thought possible. We can claim even the smallest victories when it comes to fear.
What will your little victory be today? Or perhaps you will decide to conquer one of your bigger fears? How can you bend your mind just a little bit more? What box do you need to check in your life?
Just do it.
You are stronger than you think.
We are the champions, my friend.
Whatever cliche sports metaphor you want to insert here, it’s better than telling yourself you are a failure. It’s better than not even trying. Even if you have to motivate yourself just to think about trying, it’s better than succumbing to the debilitating chains of fear.
Don’t listen to the naysayers in your head. Words can be beautiful and words can be downright destructive. You can choose which words will be heard the loudest; you can choose the conversation you want to have with yourself. When you hear words that praise you, that build you up and cheer you on, grab hold of them tight. Hold them steadfast to your heart and tattoo them on with the darkest of ink. Or maybe use a gold glitter sharpie. Whatever. But don’t let them go, those beautiful, life-saving words.
I can think of so many words, whether it be a single word, a phrase or a quote, that have carried me to where I am today. These words sing to me when my heart is lonely and afraid. Sometimes they are my own words and often they are the words of others, but the source doesn’t matter as much as the substance.
Wherever they come from, cherish them. Speak them to yourself with care and kindness. Words of praise will pull you forward and propel you upwards. They can carry you high above the dark depths of fear.
The next thing you know, you’ll look around and see the clouds below you.
And all at once, there you are.