Wednesday, September 2, 2015
The engines get louder as the plane takes a turn on the runway and straightens out. Everything hums, and the passengers quiet down, all except for a little girl behind me: "Mommy, we're going to go faster and faster!" A pang of regret hits me, and somewhere in the middle of my panic, a sad smile finds its way out. I remember that feeling of awe as a kid, and I miss it so much: my body leaning back as airplane's speed increases, the elation as I realize we're air-borne, the land dropping off below, the climb through the clouds until even they become the ground under us.
Now, as the plane gears up and builds speed down the runway, I experience a moment of terror as it sinks in that I can't get off this plane, that it's going to take off with me in it, and I have no choice but to go along. As we lift into the air, I imagine over and over the plane taking a sudden nose-dive and heading straight back down. Every little bump and change in sound sends my heart into my throat. Eventually I will calm down (unless, God forbid, there's turbulence), and as soon as we land, I'll block out the experience until the next time (or until a Malaysian Airlines flight disappears or crashes). My body will take a good day to recover from the anxiety.
I'm not sure when I became afraid of flying. It's pretty absurd, considering how much I have flown in my life. All over the U.S. and to roughly 15 countries, some multiple times. (And this, of course, does not begin to account for all the other forms of transportation, undoubtedly more risky, in even more places.) In the last year, I've flown to Hawaii, Minnesota (twice), and Alaska, plus a couple smaller flights. As a baby, I slept in a suitcase on the floor at my parents' feet. I played with other little kids under the seats. I've flown alone, even internationally. I've flown in 6-seater props in Africa. In questionable planes. In planes where they had to first fix technical issues that left us stranded at airports overnight. And I was always fine, until...I'm not sure what. Nothing traumatic has happened, but somewhere along the line, fear took hold of me.
Our last flight from Maui to Seattle was quite bumpy. During a bad bout of shaking (the plane and me), I started praying "God, make it smooth, make it smooth, make it smooth." My attempts to control the situation only made me feel more desperate and helpless, and before I knew it, the words in my head shifted to "God, make me brave, make me brave, make me brave."
In adulthood, I have lost the excited faith of a child, the trusting plunge into uncertain circumstances, and I have forgotten how to take risks with boldness. I often can't move forward unless I know the outcome will be what I want, which means I can't move forward at all.
I have the sense that a season of change is coming. I've been relatively comfortable for the last 4 years...same apartment, basically the same job, same community. I'm afraid of anything that will shake that up, but I'm living in a fake world if I think that I can or should try to keep things the same. If I'm not letting God make me brave, I'll miss out on so much.