Taking risks can make you airsick. I wonder if there will be barf bags in hell?
My family and I are on vacation as I write this. We are visiting Disneyland. It’s a blast. But getting here, well that was a much different story.
I will spare you the gory details, but our connecting flight was the WORST flight experience of my life. It sounds humorous right now, but for 30 minutes, the turbulence was hell. It felt like we were strapped into a 700 mile an hour roller coaster with no way out but down.
The turbulence was so bad that one member of my family threw up and another had a barf bag attached to his face for 30 minutes. And me? Fortunately, my stomach was okay, but my anxiety went crazy for a while. Maybe it was the comedy of holding kleenex for my barfing seatmate, or the absurdness of the plane lurching up and down, with my fingers bouncing on and off of the keyboard. Somehow, writing this helped me to remain in the moment rather than becoming overwhelmed.
So what follows is… raw. It’s just as I wrote it minus a little grammatical editing. I like to think of this as a postcard from the edge of risk and faith. The photos look peaceful. But inside, we were in turmoil. This is often how recovery feels. You know you are headed in the right direction, even though you are tossed around and only manage to touch the ground half of the time.
March 20, 2017
Flying over Alberta. 10000 feet above land that appears as quilted squared off shards of earth and snow. Mountainous clouds peak all around us. Gods, tinged with gold. Possessed by strength to fly. No, more: They stand watch. Slipping by. Ignoring the toils that go on far below.
Nervous quaking twin engine airplane shakes beneath me. Navigating invisible streams of streaking air. Sun staring at us, curious.
Sailing jet atop jets of air. Lit from tip to silver tip with calling light.
Battered. Here I sit, strapped into a seat of metal, plastic, and leather. These offer thin protection from infinite skies and elemental sun. Trojans in my mind, these thoughts are they.
I distract myself with music and words on the screen. But the Trojans slam into me with every dip and flex of the wings outside my window. Fear kicks me in the face.
I imagine I am already in Disney. On one long ass roller coaster. Sky is sun lit all around me in contrast to the raw panic sweat white gripped blood-free fists that sit at the end of my stickly arms.
Fear doesn’t whisper. We are way past that. Fear and I are in the middle of an unwelcomed home base romance.
Fear screams in my face, spit washed and bleached white. The trojans blare, fangs bared. Laughing, no cackling. Cursed shouts of rage and mouth of foaming venom. Fear grips me. Fear wants to own me.
Trojans. Emissaries of fear that cage and shuts the eyes of its victims. When we give into fear, we lose our sight for fright. Nothing moves, dry ice in brittle veins.
Flying. I hate it. But it’s not much different than annual employment reviews, job interviews, tax season, or trying to face down the demons that tell me I will never amount to much, or that I will not overcome my mental illness.
Sweaty ghosts stream past me. Pale grey, bleached bone colored. Determined to find their mark, but sickened by their journey. Reaching past me, they lunge. Grasping. Stumbling. And falling off the edge into an abyss of blue.
I’m flying and all that I can do is sit and distract myself from the turbulence. I can’t get up and walk around. The most I can do right now is think.
Life is not much different than this. Sure you can move, you can accomplish, and you can talk. But the best you can do is think. It’s rare these days to stop and think because it’s just so easy to stop and drink.
But when I think in the here and now, I am planted in this moment. I surpass and I surmount and I stand. On fierce tips of clouded mountains. On pitted hills and valleys of clouds. In thinking, I close my eyes and slow my mind. I push my feet to the ground and anchor, right here.
Then I notice the barf bags. Why do we fly with vomit bags? As if they can contain a stomach full of fear? Is a mouth of waste and hell a worthy price to pay for the promise of a little vacation sized joy?
If flying were a metaphor of life, I don’t know what the hell the barf bags mean. Do they have barf bags in hell? I hope so.
One thing I learned is that when you take a risk, it doesn’t take away your fear. You still feel afraid. What risk does is it makes the next risk seem a little more reasonable. Risk becomes more normal, but you still feel scared. That’s just how risk is. If you want to recover who you are, you have to find a way to embrace the healthy risks.
So I took what I learned and I rode every roller coaster that I could find. And I hate roller coasters. Sometimes you just have to embrace your fear. My experience has taught me that when you are in the middle of your turbulence, it seems like the worst thing in the world. But when you are on the other side of it, usually you will laugh about it. If you can find a way to survive it, you will realize that you can do a great deal more than you give yourself credit!
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Keep it Real
Photos by smswaby