I grew up where throwing rocks in canyons is not allowed
I grew up where growing up makes me awkward and proud
I grew up where it was a difficult drive to the airport
And I hope you have a good ride
‘Cause my mother, you know, she doesn’t like to fly
I’ve been on airplanes since I was a baby. The Southeast states had been checked off my bucket list since before I could formulate sentences.
See, my grandfather on my dad’s side was a meteorologist for American Airplanes, so for my entire childhood, flying was not a deep drain on my parents’ finances, because we got insanely cheap tickets, so long as we were cool with flying standby. Also, my dad always said, and I agreed with him: why get an expensive car or a fancy house, if you could put that money into travel?
So I spent my childhood exploring 43 of the 50 states, and it was amazing. But my point today is about the flight aspect. I loved flying, when I was little. One of my favorite memories is the time I was on a particularly empty and big plane, and “Two of a Kind” was the movie du jour. I was eight, crawling all around the plane, getting to know the different spaces. It felt magical.
Most times as a kid, there wasn’t the option to crawl around the plane, but my parents always gave me the window seat when they could. I loved watching the ground get more distant and the cars turn into ants, as we went up into the clouds, until even the clouds were a distant memory, because now everything was simply blue.
I’m not sure when I developed an extreme fear of flying, the experience I loved so much as a kid, but it happened in my twenties. It would make sense if it happened after the long flight home from Rome after my family’s cruise in 2001, two weeks before September 11th, but that wasn’t it, either. Because on said cruise, you know how you sit with random people every night for dinner? One awesome guy at our table talked about how he flew for business all the time, and hated it.
So do I, awesome man, I thought at the time.
He said that he’d take a Benadryl and sip a glass of red wine until he passed out.
Solid plan, awesome man, I thought. And I followed it, on the long plane ride home from Rome.
So it wasn’t that trip that instilled my fear of flying. It wasn’t “LOST,” because that was years later. “Cast Away” may or may not have fed into the fear, but I don’t think that’s it either.
I think my fear of flying simply tied into my fear of life. My fear of post-highschool, post-college, post-track that’s supposed to take you where you’re meant to be.
And then, there were the nightmares of ’08. After 9/11, after “LOST” or at least the first, plane-crash-heavy season. There was nary a night that passed where I didn’t feel my body exploding on a plane. Every time, I was filled with regret, because I’d known better than to get on a plane to begin with.
And fear feeds on itself. My fear of flying developed into a full-on phobia. Xanax helped me on my flight back home after visiting my family in Colorado in ’09 because Xanax makes everything better, but then Xanax made me crazy because everything should not be better, all the time, and the withdrawal from it made me borderline suicidal. <<< Insert Big Pharma versus weed rant here.
For a year, I knew that my cousin was getting married in upstate New York. I got a beautiful Save the Date, and I wanted to – save that date. I’ve been applying to work in my field since I moved to Colorado, and since I’d lined up two interviews within the month, I neglected mailing back the RSVP to the official invitation, because I knew I wouldn’t have the money, without a solid desk job.
Then I was on the phone with my mother, and she mentioned going to Sammy’s wedding.
“You’re going? I’m SO JEALOUS!” I said, and then my mother offered to fly me out there and be my date to the wedding.
Fly me out there.
I’d been so consumed by monetary issues, that the plane aspect didn’t hit me till then. Still, I wanted to go to my cousin’s wedding – see her get married, see my family. See my friends. The plane to New York meant seeing most of the people that I’ve ever loved in my life, because my mother planned to stay on Long Island a night or two, as well.
But man, was I skurred to the extreme. I hadn’t been on a plane for years, yet I still had the nightmares. By that time, not every night. But recurringly, and it was never not-terrifying.
I honestly don’t even really remember the first couple of flights with my mother, during that trip. Up to the day before, I had panic attacks and told Josh: “I can’t do it. I can’t go. Something terrible is going to happen to my plane. I just know this, in my gut.”
“Paranoia will destroy ya.” ~ Rupert
So I went anyway. Mostly, I passed myself out with Nyquil. There was the flight to JFK – passed out. There was, after an amazing whirlwind of New York days, a flight to Baltimore.
At which point, we had a bit of time, and after walking up and down the food area of the pretty-awesome airport, my mother was totally psyched to get wine, so we returned to the nicest place in the airport. It had a beautiful view; Moms and I got Chardonnay – things were nice. I even ate some crab cake, which I never eat anymore. It just felt right, in that moment. My mother and I had had a bitchy fight earlier that day, and both of us regretted it pretty instantly, and what better way to exude that sentiment than over white wine and crab cakes during a layover?
It was awesome. I only had a glass, so was not drunk, just nice.
I didn’t take Nyquil before that flight. When my mother and I boarded that plane, I felt okay.
“When I’m with you, I feel like I could die, and that would be all right.” ~ Third Eye Blind
I felt like that. Psyched to get back home to Josh, Manitou, and Colorado overall, but okay. I’d had the day with my mother like I’d been missing since she moved away in 2008.
Which makes sense, timewise.
That day, there was no jumbo-jet gracing me with Olivia Newton-John’s presence. There wasn’t even my dad and brother on that plane. Just my mom.
Who still gave me the window seat. And unlike the past couple of flights, I watched this time. As the world moved up, up, and away. My heart didn’t run into a panic attack, this time. I just watched. As the cars turned into ants as we went up into the clouds, until even the clouds were a distant memory, because now everything was simply blue.
“And that’s how I choose to remember it.” ~ Jenny