Thursday, January 8, 2009
On Fear and Flying
Is anything more counterintuitive than boarding a metal tube with 300 strangers and shooting yourself 30,000 feet in the air at 800 mph? Maybe sailing around the world in a single mast sailboat, or climbing to the top of Mt. Everest with only an apple, but not much else. I'm preparing to go to Kripalu this weekend to teach for a week on Writing Begins with the Breath. Kripalu is located in Lennox, Massachusetts. There will be snow (see pictures above of Kripalu in winter). There will be cold. Really cold. Last week it was cold in Prescott. It was 45. The folks at Kripalu have not been really helpful when it comes to winter fears. "Dress warmly!" they said. Whatever. What does that mean to a person who has spent her entire 40 years in a warm climate? It means wear socks. Did you know there are different kinds of socks that do different things? Gloves too. Did you know the cute ones (socks or gloves) don't really do anything? Yeah. Sigh. But I digress.
I am afraid to fly. I don't know when this started. I used to be excited to fly, but sometime in the last decade, I've gotten really skeptical about our ability to do this. Math is likely involved in the success of air travel. I want to be at Kripalu, but I don't want to fly to get there. All week I've been going through all the possible disaster scenarios. Chuckling bitterly at the ridiculousness of putting on a seatbelt only to die in flames upon impact. Wondering just what that little oxygen mask is capable of doing. I know flying is the safest way to travel (but I don't understand why.) Keith keeps saying to me, "NBA. Think about how often the NBA travels." I think about how much Barack traveled during the campaign. How much Clinton and Stacy travel for What Not to Wear. How many pilots and flight attendants have long careers flying five days a week. Doesn't matter. My teacher, Cain, says no one can die before their time. I'm still on the fence with that one.
In yoga tonight, I thought about (besides the fear of a fiery death) why I don't like to fly. The first thing that popped in my head was the lack of control over the aircraft. We were doing hip openers when I laughed at myself. Yes, I have no control over the aircraft. But I also have no control over my car (which feels so much safer to me, though I know the odds of an accident on the drive to Phoenix are greater than falling out of the sky). I have no control over anything. What I have when I drive is the illusion of control, and that illusion, at least for me, is stripped when I board an airplane. Flying makes me stare into that abyss while collectively agreeing that it is possible to travel in a tube safely at 30,000 feet. Of course, if I follow this thread, I have to recognize that the pilot has no control either, which is less than comforting, so I'll stop now and say that I am getting on the plane Saturday morning and I am flying into the great white north where apparently it's OK to put big flat snowshoes on your feet and go walking for fun. My contact at Kripalu told me cheerfully, "Make sure you make time for snowshoe hiking!" Ah, she doesn't know me. I don't make time for hiking on flat surfaces when it's 68-72 degrees. But she meant well, and I'll take pictures of people having "fun".
But, since I am getting on this plane, and it does run counter to my intuition, I thought I'd post a list of the things I will miss when I die (which hopefully will not be on an airplane in the next ten days).
Note to Cain: If I die this weekend and it is NOT my time, I'm coming back to haunt you something fierce.
When you think about what you'll miss, you naturally move into a place of gratitude for what you've experienced and what you have. I think that's a pretty fine place to be in when you board the metal tube. Here, in no particular order, is my list.
- Carolina pulled pork BBQ
- sleeping with cats
- watching a student have a breakthrough (or a breakdown, which usually leads to a breakthrough)
- listening to my characters
- kick ass really beautiful sentences
- the way my mother looks when she's asleep in front of the TV
- the sound of an acoustic guitar
- old-time gospel music sung by African-American soloists
- the blues
- the smell of Keith's neck
- crying at the end of a novel
- discovering something new
- the full moon rise
- Wrightsville Beach
- the MUNI in San Francisco
- office supplies (especially pens and notebooks)
- Warrior 2 pose
- putting together awesome outfits!
- the way my teeth feel under my tongue
- pine cones
- my Mac computer
- the New York Times Book Review
- touching -- human skin to human skin