On Friday morning, I boarded my flight to Chicago. Right foot first. Always. It was a big plane. And far from full. Clutching a vast coffee and a stack of tabloids and an orange for later, I made my way to the back. I waited and waited. But no one came. I had my own row. I was thrilled to be alone. To stretch out.
I watched the safety demonstration on the little television that popped out from the ceiling. And when it was our turn, we took off. I put my feet up. I looked out the window. The captain told us facts I didn't absorb; about the flying conditions, the miles we would travel, the weather at our destination. Politely, he thanked us in advance for our business.
And there, all alone in seat 25C, I felt foolish for having been so worried. About leaving home. About flying. About everything. I told myself it was so silly to worry. That, patently, all would be fine.
But then. The plane started to shake. Hard. And it didn't stop. When the plane started to tumble around, my mind went rogue, darting straight to the things that mattered. I thought of family. Of the people I love. And need.
And I thought of writing. I thought of that too.
Family. Writing. This is my life.
But mostly, I thought about how scared I was. Truly scared. That those moments might have been my last. And so. Not knowing how to handle my fear, I reached for my laptop. I pried it open. And I began to write, fingers flying, palms sweaty, mind racing, body quaking.
And this is what I wrote. Word for word. I feel strongly about not editing these words.
I think I am having an epiphany. Right here. Right now.
I am in the sky. Enveloped in thick, white clouds. They look pretty. They seem friendly. But they are not so. They are dense and drifting.
They are making me question everything.
A man, the same man, keeps coming on the loudspeaker. The pilot. I have never met this man. And yet I trust him. With my life. With our landing. His voice is gruff. His words, like the clouds, are cruel and choppy. He does not fool around. He makes no promises. He tells us to fasten our seat belts.
A chorus of clicks. People do as told. As if inserting metal into metal will really make a difference.
I sit here. All alone. Impossibly surrounded. A young man across the aisle snores. A little girl in pink dances and waves a croissant. People sip drinks and read books.
But I just sit here. Shaking.
Now that little girl screams. Her mother wrestles with her. Reasons with her. And maybe her ears hurt. And maybe she is scared. Her screams dont bother me. They make sense to me.
Once upon a time, we were allowed to be scared.
Its just turbulence, I tell myself as the engine hums because no one else is here to tell me this. Its just turbulence.
I chide myself for being so scared. This is normal. It will pass. There will be smooth skies. This shaking will stop.
But right now? This doesnt feel normal. This doesnt feel okay. Reason and statistics mean nothing. Right here. Right now. I am scared to death.
That means something.
Life is a flight. We are on it together. We are in it alone.
We do not know when we will land. Or how.
We should allow ourselves to be scared when lifes skies shake us and stir us. We should allow ourselves to be scared when the blue fades and whiteness washes over us. When everything seems to be giving way to nothing.
We should allow ourselves to be scared when we feel scared.
I am going to start now.
Wow. Reading this now, these words seem so, well, dramatic. And they are. Reading this now, it is hard for me to remember, to grasp, the fear that gripped me just a few days ago. But it did grip me.
The good news is that the vast vast majority of the time, I am not scared. Not like this at least.
But some of the time, I am.
I am scared of change. I am scared of standing still. I am scared of cancer. I am scared of death. I am scared of failure. I am scared of success. I am scared of aging. I am scared of being a bad parent. I am scared of closing doors. I am scared of rough skies. I am scared of being forgotten. I am scared of being scared.
I am scared of the unknown. I am scared of the known.
I am scared of many things.
It is okay to be scared. It is human to be scared.
I might have been all alone in Row 25 of that one plane, but I am not alone in this. We are all scared. (Yes, even you.)
But living in this world, I often get the sense that it is not okay to be scared. In this world, we are taught from a young age to banish our fears, to put up a front, to hold it together, to stifle our screams.
I just realized something. Just now. Something I've been doing (or not doing) without really realizing it. When Toddler cries and tells me she is scared of something, I don't tell her that there is nothing to be scared of. No. Instead, I say something a bit different. I tell her that I understand that she is scared, that I know what it feels like, and that she is okay. It's a small change to the parental script from which so many of us unconsciously read. A nuance I'm sure she doesn't notice, but one I do. Now.
Ultimately, it might not be okay to be scared in this big, bad world. But here? In this odd little corner? On this odd little blog? Here, it is okay for me to be scared. Here, it is okay for me to explore the landscape of my fear. And so I will. Here, I will not apologize for being scared of the dark. And of the light. Of little things. And big. Of a hovering and happy past, of the inscrutable skies of present moment. Of my bright and beckoning future.
Here's what I think: Life is turbulent. And I will ride it out because I, like you, have no choice. Because, at bottom, it's a privilege to take this flight. But I refuse to pretend that the rough spots dont exist.
Because they do.
What are you scared of? Do you find yourself stifling your own fears or denying they exist? Do you think women are permitted to display their fears more than men are? Do you think that we bloggers blog (and we writers write, etc) because in so doing we forge a safe space in which we can explore - and affirm - our own fears, and flaws, and hopes, and dreams? How do you handle literal and metaphorical turbulence?