Saturday, August 23, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Reflecting on my history of “flight fright,” there were several contributing factors, as other people have suggested. One, fear of heights. Two, claustrophobia. Three, fear of the unknown. And four, which I consider primary, has been the feeling of being out of control.

I figure I’m in control when I drive my own car. Even if Ed or my sister or one of my kids or friends drives me around, I trust their judgment and skills completely. It gets more tricky on mass transportation, but at least if it’s on the ground, it feels more secure. After all, I could have always exited a bus or train at the next stop if I had been uncomfortable.

In a plane, you’re pretty much stuck up there, totally dependent on other factors, the least likely of which is a terrorist being on board. Did the plane get inspected in a timely manner? Did the plane’s mechanic know what he was doing? How did the pilot sleep last night? Is the pilot healthy or suicidal? How are the air controllers feeling at the airports we will be using? How are their relationships - are they worried about something enough to be distracted? How is the weather? Any predicted storms or strong winds? All those questions went through my mind. Then, of course, one has to expand them. Assuming our pilot and plane are fit - what about other pilots and planes nearby?

My main problem, other than a tendency to chronic worry, is that I have a troubleshooting mindset. Whenever the hospital gives details of a new transcription platform or software purchase, or a new way of doing something, my mind immediately lands on everything that “could” go wrong. I have the gift/curse of being able to see both good and bad possibilities if we implement this new policy. So it is understandable that, going into any situation in my life, I apply the same logic.

What finally calmed me on the plane? Was it the fact that my head finally acknowledged that I had fewer risks than when I rode in a car? Was it the fact that my dear Matt and Sarah were by my side, encouraging me all the way? Was it the fact that I concentrated on the people I would get to see on each end of the journey? Was it the fact that I went into the whole thing with a good attitude? Yes, all those - but one more.

It was the fact that I surrendered. I have posted over and over about the Serenity Prayer being my guiding vision - To change the things I can, accept the things I can’t change, and have the wisdom to know the difference. Short on words, big on advice. I had to put my plane experience in the category, certainly, of “things I couldn’t change (control),” and surrender to acceptance. No matter how much I tensed my jaw, no matter how tight my muscles got, no matter how fast my heart was beating, I finally realized that up there in that plane, what would happen would happen, and there wasn’t a darn thing I could do about it. I might as well relax!

I have found that if I meet the “things I can’t change/control” with acceptance, that gives me a lot of energy left to deal with the things that I can change/control - like the fact we are (hopefully) getting cable installed this Wednesday, and we will be spending the ensuing weeks coming to terms with how we use it and how able we are to use it wisely on our journey to simplicity. That’s where I need to focus my thoughts.

Of course, like our determination to downsize and simplify, this is a challenge that will have to be met over and over again. It is not a one-time decision. Just as the high-speed Internet and TV will be there to challenge our choices every day, the next plane ride I take will again be another chance for me to either surrender to events or surrender to fear. In both situations, I hope my experiences have taught me enough about life to handle them wisely.

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