The Fear of Flying


Last night, I had two revelations: 1) I am out of Stress Relief tea, and 2) I can’t stop thinking about the young girl on the plane.

She wore black chucks with low bright purple socks, hair in a high ponytail, glasses like the ones I wear before bed, and a shirt covered in flowers. We both had aisle seats (a hot commodity after the woman recently sucked out of her window).

The part that I can’t shake is how she did absolutely nothing on a three-hour flight. 

Did I mention that I bet she’s 15? No iPhone, no Teen Vogue, no pink and gold bulky noise cancellers, no Macbook, no iPad, no vampire love story, no homework. And no pretzels or peanuts.

It’s safe to assume what she did bring to keep her company was worry. She rocked back and forth, resting her head in her hands on the seat in front of her. Wringing her hands, again and again, glancing side to side, the freckles on her shoulder revealing an innocence, a “I want to be anywhere but alone on this plane headed to a new time zone.”

Flying these days is no joke. We’ve got engines falling off, windows cracking, and oxygen masks dangling. Planes diverted to new destinations. Believe me, the only reason I wasn’t right there in the wringing my hands club was because I came prepared with Girl, Wash Your Face and a tablet for free streaming of The Ellen Show.

I felt eyes over my shoulder, so I peeked to see her staring at Ellen. She couldn’t hear it without headphones, but I felt so relieved that she wanted a distraction from the wringing that I ever so slightly turned the tablet to angle towards her better. Maybe she noticed, maybe she didn’t.

When we finally touched down, I could visibly see the tension exit her body. An audible sigh of relief. The waiting was over. She bounced up, high ponytail swaying, and was one of the firsts to pull her blue rolling suitcase down from the overhead bin, waiting in the aisle with dancing feet for someone to start moving forward.

I don’t know how, but her mom greeted her right at the door as we entered the airport. Did they have a layover here, coming from different places? Or was she really young enough that they let her mom through security to get her daughter? Perhaps the details don’t matter. What matters is that I witnessed her mom give her the biggest hug.

She made it. She did it. She landed safely.

Aren’t we all this young girl in the aisle seat, wringing our hands as we wait? Aren’t we all rocking back and forth, falling into our tired hands, resting on anything steady, wondering when the unexpected turbulence will smooth out, when the fear will evaporate?

We have reached 10,000 feet, the captain says.

Haven’t we all felt this before, stuck and completely out of control as we learn to trust someone else who wants to soar us to new heights?

Do not worry about tomorrow.

Do not worry about tomorrow.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Haven’t we all felt like nothing could possibly make the endless conveyer belt of worrying stop, no sitcom or talk show, no NYT bestseller? Haven’t we all felt like we have no idea how we got here, where we’re going, and if we’ll ever reach the solid ground? If we’ll ever get to where we’re supposed to land?

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

(I will stop using question marks because the questions were always meant to be rhetorical. We all have the same answers, whether we own a pair of chucks or not.)

Don’t we all want the rocking and wringing to give us just one more hour, one more chance to walk our chucks on solid ground and fall into the arms of someone who loved us before she even knew us.

Don’t we all want to look back at that time when we said yes, we buckled in, we held on tightly, we sat with fear, we felt like three hours grew into eternity. And yet, somehow, we made it. We did it. We landed.

Oh, sweet girl, I’d love to sip Stress Relief tea with you while we contemplate our fear of flying, how they look different and the same at exactly the same time.

Do not forget that we did it.

Do not forget that we can do it.

Therefore, do not forget that we can fly, we can fly, we can fly.

One response to “The Fear of Flying”

  1. Ash, you’ve always had beautiful wings that help you fly. Like most of us, you just sometimes need a little push to bring them out. Please keep soaring through life! 💕

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