The second the airplane tires hit the ground in Indianapolis we cheered, “We are home!”
Let’s do a recap of the bad first so that I can end on a high note. Turbulence coming into Salt Lake City (SLC) Airport fucking sucked. We were in a holding pattern and looped a few times with 50MPH wind gusts. The wings of the airplane (and our stomachs) were flapping around, some gasps from the other passengers.
I dug in, braced my body and meditated, thought about being on top of a rock. I dug my thigh into the aisle armrest and concentrated on the pain as a grounding point. I could feel my heart trying to jump out of my chest. I continued to hold it together, not vomit or panic (but thought on the edge of such). This went on for what seemed to be forever until we finally hit the ground, controlling my breathing and doing such from my diaphragm.
Amanda (who loves rollercoasters) was rather sick herself from the motion. She comments that we would rent a car and drive 12 hours home if she would have vomited.
Upon boarding the next airplane, I panicked and tried convincing myself, Amanda to rent a car for the rest of the journey. She was supportive and asked what she could do. Once we passed the threshold and boarded the plane, I relaxed and didn’t give myself a way out. I was doing this, the power to be miserable, or enjoy the flight was my choice, my perception.
Once we were in the air, I returned to my normal flight postures. We watched a movie, I spent some time gazing out the window (dusk 30,000 feet up is beautiful), and the air was perfectly smooth the rest of the way home.
Here’s the self-analysis and takeaways.
- Driving home would have sucked (and be more dangerous than just flying the last three-hour stretch). It would have been 12 hours overnight. I would have regretted driving.
- I suffer from motion sickness and would have benefited from medication for such. I had such medicine on me but did not take it as:
- I’ve never taken it before and don’t like taking medication unless I do so first in a controlled environment (like home).
- The turbulence started suddenly and ended within 15 minutes. The medication may not have begun working in time.
- It would be beneficial to try it first at home, then use it as a tool to manage such sensations as a preventive measure next time I fly.
- The anxiety was centered around the sensation of nausea, and my paranoia of vomiting. The same feelings are duplicated by the “Rocking ship” (everyday fair ride), and the centrifuge (space mountain, Disney).
- Exposure to further nausea stimulus would help normalize the experience for me, just as being a passenger in a motor vehicle has over the last few years. I’ve known pilots who sit and spin in a chair to reduce dizziness by becoming exposed, and comfortable to it.
I am proud of myself. I managed the anxiety well and used my tools such as deep breathing and meditation to center myself and not allow the physical sensations to become a recursive mechanism to a full-blown panic attack. I recovered quickly and prepared myself for the next flight; then didn’t give myself a way out past the point of no return.
And I think that overall, I’ve concentrated and led myself to believe that these experiences (over the past week) are seeds which will grow within me. That the more I do, the more I can do. That all experiences, all emotions can lead to growth, or at the least, we have the lenses to choose how we perceive them.
I can be better here; I can be more patient there. I can express kindness when feeling like this, or like that. I can show that I need some time alone now, or then. I can rally and push myself out into something unknown or uncomfortable then, or there. I can appreciate this experience, that one; I can be appreciative of all these experiences.
My body is doing this, or that. Here’s a new sensation, here’s one that’s usually scary, here’s one that is generally warm. Can we observe these sensations from a place of non-judgemental curiosity? What’s the root emotion here? Where does this come from?
Wanting nothing, and appreciating everything. Choosing to see the good aspects of humanity around us. Talking to someone in the airport which seems nervous; asking them their name and about their life. Smiling in the airport, while boarding and carrying love in your bones for others. Wishing people good weekends and giving your eye contact. These things are grounding.
I feel the whole experience away from home, across the country seeded much growth in me. Everytime that I’m anxious, I look back at all the things I’ve done in my life, all that I’ve overcome; and now I have this experience as the benchmark until the next one. You never quite know how strong you are, until being strong is the only option, and I keep looking forward to more opportunities.
And the next time someone asks me to fly with them? Certainly, if I can sit next to you and hold your hand.