I occasionally travel for my day job. I hop on planes for quick jaunts to spots around the country to observe, train, and professionally develop. Said travel almost always involves flying. I hate flying.
I didn’t mind flying before my entire family was in a car accident. We were headed south on I-95, on our way to my sister’s wedding in South Carolina. We had opted to drive overnight in hopes that the kids would sleep for most of the eight-hour drive. About three hours into our trip, a tractor trailer crossed into our lane and took us out. Our little tiny compact car rolled several times before coming to a stop.
We were fine. My husband, my two-year-old, my eighteen-month-old twins, me. Physically, we had nothing more than a few cuts and bruises. After a night in the hospital that included x-rays and MRIs, we were allowed to go.
Physically, we were fine.
Flying alone now terrifies me. It’s not the actual flight that’s scary. It’s the fact that I’m separated from my family and that I’m putting myself in a situation that is considerably dangerous should anything go wrong. I know the statistics; I know that driving down a freeway is statistically far more dangerous that flying halfway around the world. It’s not rational, it’s not logical. It’s fear.
To distract myself, particularly during takeoffs and landings, I write. I find myself writing about god and death and heaven. I don’t prescribe to any one particular religion, and I don’t believe in a god that listens to daily prayers and provides a definite yes-or-no answer. And yet, when fear pulls at my stomach and wraps its fist around my heart, I find myself praying. Not long-winded, desperate prayers, but simple ones that ask the universe to give me the one thing I want more than any other in this life: to be with my family for a good long time.
It doesn’t make me less afraid, these silent, simple prayers. But it gives me the comfort of mind to know that I’ve asked for what I want. I’ve very bluntly stated my needs and put it out there for whoever or whatever to acknowledge or ignore. The pull in my stomach lessens, the fist in my chest squeezes less forcibly. It doesn’t all go away, but it makes those takeoffs and landings more bearable. It makes the space in between more relaxed. As the plane touches down in whatever city I’ve landed, I find myself muttering a “thank you.” It is always followed by a “God, I hate flying.” Prayers and blasphemy in the same breath as my feet touch solid ground again.