Welcome Aboard: You are now cleared for Pre-FlightAnxiety
When I was a kid, we lived in Texas and my Mom’s parents (my Grandma and grandpa that I’ve told you about before)lived in New Jersey. Even if you’re US geography isn’t too hot, you’ll probably remember that those two states aren’t exactly close together. Like, not at all. In fact, we lived about 1,563 miles apart and a current Google Map search suggests it would take 22 hours to drive there, but “25 hours in current traffic.” Mom wasn’t much excited about a 50-hour round trip by herself, much less with a baby/toddler/small child in tow so we flew instead 2 or 3 times a year to visit my grandparents (along with a large assortment of cousins, aunts, uncles and other various family members that lived near my grandparents). My first time on a plane I was only a few months old and from that time forward, I racked up frequent flier miles like a champ on airlines such as Delta, American and Braniff….and I have many sets of playing cards and plastic “wings” to prove it.
I loved flying as a kid. It seemed terribly exciting to take off and zoom across the sky and watch the world below shrink away into something from a fairy tale.
“Look Mommy! Those cars are little now like dogs. Like hot wheels. Like ANTS!”
Back then, airlines served a hot meal on almost every flight and your luggage always flew free. In the history of flight evolution, two things stick out in my mind: the day my one-flight-a-week type of commuter Dad came home complaining about how the airline had had the audacity to discontinue hot meals in the coach cabin and had instead handed him a sack lunch to eat (imagine! A free sack lunch being a bad thing! My flight today offers a box of chips, candy and string cheese for about $7). The other was a much better day….the day we boarded our first non-smoking flight. That’s right! Now it’s all about getting a window or an aisle and how far from the bathroom you’d like to be. But it used to be an issue of ensuring that your seat was in the non-smoking section at the front of the plane. And not only being in the non-smoking section, but being far enough up that you couldn’t smell the smoke from your seat. Which really, you could smell the smoke everywhere. While I’m not a fan of all the newly imposed baggage fees and and paying for premium seats in coach, that whole no-smoking thing was a good move for the airline industry. And goodness knows, they needed a good move.
Im not sure when the switch happened And I went from gleefully counting the number of swimming pools I could see out the window to worrying about being part of the next terrorist attack, but somewhere along the way, I became a nervous flyer. Not full-on, panic-attack, can’t-get-on-a-plane at all, nervous (although there was ONE episode involving a very tiny plane and only one pilot on a safari trip in Africa where I wasn’t sure I’d actually make it) but definitely loose-lots-of-sleep the night before and clench the arm of the seat next to me nervous. It’s a bit inconvenient as (if you’re keeping score) I travel a lot. I fly almost every weekend for work during the fall and spring seasons and my husband and I love to travel both for work and fun: overseas, domestic, whatever we have frequent flier points for. I feel like the older I get, the more of a battle my pre-flight anxiety becomes. To be honest, it’s not the flying that scares me (although my boss always throws me a sympathetic glance when things got really bumpy as she knows that doesn’t help matters much), its the takeoff and preflight stuff. It’s the conspiracy theory of it all. For example, is the pilot sitting behind me on his way to catch a connecting flight he is captain of REALLY a pilot on his way to catch a flight? Or is he impersonating a pilot to get on board? See? It’s totally irrational anxiety. Well, that and a touch of claustrophobia, because lets face it: if something goes down on your flight, theres no real way out. Once we take off and hit that glorious altitude of 10,000 feet, I’m fine it’s just the getting through the boarding process up through takeoff that freaks me out. Then I’m happy as a clam…typically curled up in a window seat with a good book, good tunes, my Bible and an appreciation for the fantastic symmetrical ways farmers think to plant their crops and mow their fields.
I love traveling and I will never let this thing stop me from going places and seeing the world and embracing life. And if any of you are wrestling with this same thing, let me share with you some tips.
*take deep breaths. This sounds basic, but it slows down your heart rate that’s pumping all that nervousness through your body.
*have a distraction. Talk to a friend. Read a book. Listen to calming music. Annoy the person sitting next to you. Wait. Don’t actually do that. No one likes a chatty stranger on a plane.
*pray. I pray like crazy on planes. I usually start asking God for safety and traveling mercies and then to remove my anxiety and then just keep on going until I realize that I’ve interceded for my entire family, most of my friends and what they are dealing with, and have moved in to just sort of telling God my thoughts and thanking Him for life and all that I have.
*find a seat where you feel comfortable (for me, a window seat at the front of the plane) and do what it takes to sit there. Most airlines allow you to choose your seats ahead of time or purchase an early boarding pass so you can board in time to pick a good one. Also some flight attendants and just other passengers are accommodating enough to help you out if you find yourself somewhere that you don’t think you can keep it together. No one wants to sit next to the person having a breakdown.
*find a way of thinking about it that doesn’t scare you. For example, I love boats and trains. Neither freak me out. So when the skies get bumpy, I just pretend I’m on a boat and then it becomes sort of fun!
*talk to someone about it. As with anything, if it impacts your life, the way you live or work, then you might benefit from just having a good conversation about what might be causing the fear or anxiety with someone who knows what they are talking about. You might find it s an easy fix!
And remember what my husband always says, “I love flying. It’s always a blue-sky day up here.”
I was blue, just as blue as I could be
Ev’ry day was a cloudy day for me
Then good luck came a-knocking at my door
Skies were gray but they’re not gray anymore
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see
Singing a song
Nothing but bluebirds
All day long
Never saw the sun shining so bright
Never saw things going so right
Noticing the days hurrying by
When you’re in love, my how they fly
All of them gone
Nothing but blue skies
From now on
I should care if the wind blows east or west
I should fret if the worst looks like the best
I should mind if they say it can’t be true
I should smile, that’s exactly what I do
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