Sunday, April 30, 2006

Afraid of Flying?

When I was a teenager I used to scoff at people who were afraid to fly, because as a young traveler I found it to be quite convenient. I'd board, fall asleep, and wake up at my destination.

Later, as a college student, I transformed into a nervous flyer after hearing several air disaster stories in the news. Two in particular were caused by stupid mistakes and were really traumatic. One involved the collision of a commercial jet and a student pilot who forgot to check in with air traffic control, and the local schools had a lockdown so that children wouldn't walk home and see body parts that rained down from the sky and lay scattered on the ground. It was gross and made me think twice every time I boarded a plane.

Then I had an interesting experience on a business trip with my husband more than a decade ago. On a flight from Los Angeles to Houston, our anticipated "on-time" landing was delayed for an hour due to heavy storms that closed the airport in Houston. The problem was the delivery of this news by the pilot: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have good news and bad news." It was a little scary.

Another time, during a short flight from Oklahoma City to Dallas, the passengers near the window suddenly started pointing to the window, saying something about seeing lots of smoke and fire. I was in an aisle seat, so I had no clue what they were seeing. The window seat guy in my row must have seen my eyes get really big, because he leaned over and explained that there was a large brush fire on the ground, and the view from the airplane window was the source of all the excitement.

Because of the string of "mini-traumas", and because I would sometimes have nightmares about seeing planes crash (which reminds me of the movie, La Bamba), I routinely flew with a knot in my stomach and sweaty palms. It didn't keep me from flying when it made sense to fly, but it was still an uncomfortable thing to do. I knew it was an irrational thing. I know all the stuff about air travel being so much safer than road travel. Irrational fears are exactly that - irrational.

Enter a deadly, menacing form of cancer. As our family recently boarded the plane together for our trip to Disneyworld, I had no fear - no sweaty palms - no knot. In fact, I almost - ALMOST - had a flicker of disappointed surprise when we landed safely on our return trip. (Talk about irrational!) Granted, I think we should all live long, healthy, and productive lives. I don't want to cheat my children out of the opportunity to grow up, and I also don't want them to become orphans. But the idea of a plane plummeting from the sky with our family intact on board was less scary than the idea of cancer taking me alone and leaving them behind.

It's so silly. Bird flu, terrorist attack, natural disaster - things that are truly undesirable and worrisome - don't worry me at all for that same reason. The Second Coming and all the turmoil that will supposedly precede that event - small potatoes on the Worry Meter. Stacked next to brain cancer, they seem pretty tame. It's the classic case of thinking other problems would be easier to handle (grass is greener). Or maybe it's my cancer-riddled mind's way of searching for an easy "out". Whatever it is, it makes me shake my head and laugh at myself for having such loony thoughts. (Maybe the tumor triggered a loony thoughts button???) Each one of us has a time to be born and a time to die. It's okay (even now, I can say this) to let the Lord be in charge of that stuff.

Even so, I sure did like flying with dry palms!


Selwyn said...

Glad you're back on home ground, and you've had a great time! I was starting to worry - glad it was such an awesome reason to be away!

Older red carma said...


It is interesting how "perspective" changes feelings about things. When my daughter, who you know well, was 16 years old she fell off the hood of a car, ended up in a coma for four days in the hospital with a skull fracture and a subdural hematoma. The second morning that I walked into the ICU room and looked at my daughter all hooked up to tubes, monitors, etc, the thought went through my mind: THIS is the worst thing that could happen to a teenager daughter! Not an unplanned pregnancy, not a car scraped and bent from an accident, etc. After that day, other things that happen in our lives just seemed to be "Normal", rather than the "worst thing." Perspective has an amazing power in our minds and memories.

Thanks for the great words on Sunday in our building. Carma

Becka said...

Dear Krista I am so sorry that it has been so long since I have been in contact with you all. I feel guilty that I let myself get all caught up in my life and don't reach out more. Your famiy is in our thoughts and we are hoping for the best.
You , Jared and the kids look so happy in the pic from Disney. I'm glad that you were able to go and that you had the energy to enjoy it.
With all my love,