I don’t fly.
I rattle this off as if it were a thing about me, ineluctable, like the color of my eyes. I’m short. I love scary movies. I don’t eat meat. I absolutely don’t fly.
It’s not true, though, not in the way that eye color is true. I can’t say that I don’t fly because – betrayed by verbs – I have flown: To Spain, Belgium, Australia, California, Philadelphia. I don’t mind international flights so much because of those big, glorious planes that aren’t bothered by minor turbulence. On international flights, I only cry for a few minutes at a time. The domestic flights, well. Let’s just agree that I mind those for hours.
When I got promoted at my last company, back in 2000, I knew I’d have to fly all over the country, so I got books with titles like Overcoming Your Fear of Flying and White Knuckles. I practiced my breathing while commuting on the train. I divided every flight into 15 minute chunks, each one to be counted and survived. And I did survive. Maybe plane travel was safe after all. It felt that way in August of 2001. Come September, however, it felt like certain death.
The first time I had to fly after 9/11, I had a full-blown panic attack, in front of a colleague, and I refused to get on the connecting flight. Re. Fused. That’s a real treat for everyone, by the way. If you’re ever traveling with someone you don’t like, I recommend it highly.
To avoid the air, as I have successfully for more than a decade now, I have driven all over the country. I have told myself I am seeing the country, really seeing it – America the beautiful – in ways that people don’t and can’t when they whoosh through the air. It’s true, but it’s not eye color true. It’s a thing I tell myself, a bedtime story for my ego. The truth is not that I don’t fly. The truth is that I’m scared. I define myself by a fear.
I hate that.
In a few days, there is a wedding in California that I want to attend. The prospect of getting out there has been flipping me out for months. To help me stay on the ground, my dear friend (and Wonderstrange co-founder) Sarah was going to road trip with me, all the way from her home in New York to the bride’s home in California, because she loves me – but also because I define myself, organize and reorganize myself, around fear. Yuck.
I won’t get into the whole crisis that dominated last weekend, but let’s agree that it was awful. And it’s resulted in my deciding to fly. Sarah and I are flying to California.
I don’t have any books this time. What I do have is a desire to be done with fear. I’m 41 years old, which is certainly old enough to know that life is just scary as hell. It just is. I can try to hide in a cave, which is pointless, because fear just waits outside in the grass, or I can go out onto the grass and meet fear as it comes, maybe give it a diet Coke. Or a kick in the nuts.
So anyway, hi. I’m Ann. I don’t know if I fly or I don’t fly, but I’m going to fly to California for a wedding.