It is weird that am starting my NaBloPoMo with my fear. To make matters worse, it is a “paradoxical” fear. Does such a term exist? Maybe not. But then, I just made it up. So yup, it does exist. Atleast in my head and really that is as real as it gets. The thoughts in your head, I mean.
Have you ever told someone you are scared of something and then they say, “Oh! But it is all in your head! Don’t worry.” I cannot roll my eyes enough and one of these days, my eyeballs will pop out. Because, dudette/dude! That is what fear is. It exists in your head and that is as close and real as it gets. It is with you and within you. It becomes a part of you. And it never exists without a reason. The reason maybe known or unknown, can be worded or not. But it is there. The intensity may vary. But it is very much there and next time you want to tell me that it is all in my head. think twice and don’t say it. Because, I sort of know that and it doesn’t help me.
I fear flying. It is sort of weird because I don’t know when I developed this. My first flight (to Singapore) 5 years ago was one where I didn’t even know that one could be scared of flights or flying or altitude. I remember, when I was on the plane, it was so still that I wondered if we were even moving. Now in hindsight, I know that it was perfect weather. The occasional movements I felt were what I looked forward to and could actually feel that we were moving. Again, in hindsight, this was turbulence and something that scares the hell out of me now. I have travelled so much alone and with K but I seem to have this fear of flights more s0 especially for the last one year. What makes it weird is that I love travelling and I love love going on long distance trips. My PhD brings with it good opportunities to travel for conferences. Somehow it doesn’t scare me when I am booking the flight (as much as it does when am checking-in). The result: I never can enjoy a flight journey and some of my happiest moments from the trip are when we land and our seat belts come off.
I am not writing this to make someone who fears flying, more anxious. Neither am I going to describe how I panic. I am writing this to say you are not alone. Also, I don’t talk about this all the time (hardly except with a few close friends) because talking too much about it makes me sort of anxious about it. And really, I don’t want any more anxiety with flights. But I have been trying different ways to feel more calm on flights. No, I don’t take melatonin. I never take any sort of medicines/ relaxants. I sit through the flight praying, reading and just really wide-awake and maybe sleep for wee bits if it is a long haul.
What I have started doing more is educating myself. Learning more facts about how a pilot undergoes a lot of training, how flights now are way better than flights say a couple of decades back -interms of design, reduced scope for error and so on. I also read statistics and try to tell myself, look, there are a million people flying safely in and out and that works in my favour.
But damn, the human mind is clever. It knows that statistics and all this education may only talk about the majority. What if am a part of the smaller unfortunate faction? What if the odds are against me this time? I don’t know. But I know this. The moments of heightened pleasure that follow the landing is worth every bit of my attempt to overcome my fear. I have walked through some shrines in Bangkok, stood atop a cliff temple in Bali, walked through the snowy scenic streets of Luca during Christmas, shared childhood stories along the Seine and then gotten so overwhelmed, that I told myself how dumb I could have been to not do this just because I feared the travel. Standing in front of the Palace of Versailles, the Colosseum in Rome and getting lost in streets of Venice, I have been so moved that I still can remember these emotions. And they are enough to push me to travel more, see more and learn more.
And most importantly, K tells me, “What has to happen will happen”. And this, has been my biggest source of comfort somehow. There is so much unpredictability in this but it still tells me that I have to go on, no matter what because what has to happen will happen. This for me is somehow powerful knowledge and it comforts me a lot. There is no science I can offer because this perhaps even sounds lame to you. But just knowing that fear doesn’t stop something from happening makes it feel pointless. And sometimes (those rare times), my emotions do listen to this advice. There are things under your control (somewhat) and some not. Being positive and having good thoughts definitely goes a long way in making these journeys a little less daunting for me.
I have a long way to go, I don’t know when I will get over them. Perhaps one day I will wake up and it will be gone. Or maybe, I will travel so much that it becomes a part of me and I won’t even feel it. Or maybe, I will continue to feel anxious but continue to travel because once am there, everything will be worth it. For now, I want to try. For I know that when we drive along the mountains, amidst the clouds lost in the music playing in our heads or when we fall right into the sea on a banana boat ride and then float back up victoriously without knowing how to swim or when we meet that chatty native on a bus ride who tells us secrets we never imagined, it will all be worth it. And with that, I book my flights to Tasmania.