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MY FEAR OF FLYING

Flying has always frightened me. Usually, I am a person who looks at life and risks from a logical point of view. Still, my rational inclinations fail to take a leadership role whenever I anticipate being enclosed in an airborne metal coffin.


Yes, I am aware that statistically, it is more dangerous to drive on the open highway or even cross the street as a pedestrian than to take commercial aviation.


“So what?” I would respond to anyone reminding me of my folly. “I think I’ll take my chances of recovering from a traffic accident over plunging 30,000 feet without a parachute.”


During my thirties, I traveled by air with my late husband to visit two Caribbean islands because I am also afraid of swimming. The combination of acrophobia (fear of heights), basiphobia (fear of falling), aerophobia (fear of flying), and aquaphobia (fear of drowning) is a critical mass of phobia overload. Although we survived the trips and thoroughly enjoyed the adventures, I dealt with no less anxiety on the return trips.


In my forties, I accompanied my daughter as she chose to attend college 2,000 miles away and was on my own on the return trip.


Every aviation event was traumatic for me. I would start worrying weeks before the scheduled departure and continue to worry until safely home again. Fortunately for my fellow travelers, I never made a scene. I just held the arms of my seat with white knuckles during each take-off and landing. The remainder of the flight was spent praying to the “powers that be,” promising to be a better person if I were spared one more time.


Various jobs required occasional trips by air to visit clients or attend workshops during my career. I fulfilled my obligations and used multiple mind tricks to conceal my concerns from co-workers and managers.


“When I retire,” I told myself, “I will never again travel by air unless it is a medical emergency.”


Then, in my seventies, I met a companion who would become my husband. We are well-matched in all the critical areas. We share philosophical views on most things. Unlike me, though, he has a bit of wanderlust and has lured me into several enjoyable trips that I would have never undertaken alone.


We traveled by private auto to several destinations while he was gradually eroding my resistance to leaving the terra firma. Since I managed to survive the first short flights in many years, he accepted a more significant challenge confidently.


Relying on his many years of successful persuasion as a top Salesman, he finally convinced me, or more accurately, wore down my resistance. I agreed to travel across the ocean in 2019 by air to Paris, followed by a Seine River cruise. His cheerleading included, “We only live once.” He speaks the truth; however, I hoped to hang on a bit longer.


The Seine River cruise was scheduled eighteen months in advance, which provided me with more than ample time to think of every possible disaster. The details involved in planning helped distract me from my obsessions; nevertheless, my blood pressure rose, and my heart quickened each time I thought of the nine-hour international flight.


As a precaution, I sought advice from my physician, who prescribed a mild sedative to help me relax during the flight.


Five days before the beginning of our greatly anticipated trip of a lifetime, I was excited.

I walked into the office to find him seriously engaged in something of obvious importance. I finally broke the silence to ask, “What are you doing?”


He looked up at me, grinned, and said calmly, “I’m writing my Eulogy.”

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