superwoman hang gliding

I am on a “bumpy ride.” Almost home. The flight to Denver was a turbulent one.
I almost did not get on this plane to Colorado Springs.
I almost got off after the pilot announced it would be a bumpy ride.
I think of all the friends in Denver who could give me a ride home.
I recall my envy at friends’ relief by using Xanax, how they wouldn’t make it through the day without it.

And then, my thoughts do this:
I wish I could dull my senses to happy.
I suck at taking pills, so no Xanax. Sigh.
I am hung over from last night’s wine and hot tub-soaked goodbye party, so more alcohol won’t work. Sigh.

And then, I look at the bored faces of those seated around me, seemingly unbothered by the pilot’s announcement. And my thoughts do this:
What if I had to fly to get to a book signing?
What if all my dreams came true and my writing actually got popular and thousands of people waited on me, wrapping themselves around a city block to get my signature on their copy of my book?
Do I care more about my fear…or their love?
And then, one of my favorite Dune quotes taps me on the shoulder: “Face your fears, or they will crawl over your back.”
Would I allow my fear to defeat my dream and the expectations of those waiting on me?
No. No, I would not.

I feel the pilot revving the engines to test for flight. And then, my thoughts do this:
Neither Xanax or alcohol would change these circumstances.
Neither would make the plane safer or the flight smoother.
They would only change my brain chemistry.
And I can do that myself.
The fear is my own to manage.
I decide which way my mind will go.
If I don’t manage it, my fears will ALWAYS crawl over my back in constant, chronic defeat.

I recall a hang gliding flight, strapped in over a tandem pilot at 2000+ feet above the ground. The wind, some straps and metal and nylon, one man, and me, far above the earth. I expected it to be quiet and peaceful, floating on the wind. Instead, it was shuddering loud. We cut through the air.
Flying is cutting through air.
Thus, turbulence is normal and expected, and a “bumpy ride” is not necessarily unusual or unsafe. I look out of the plane’s window, watching the jet prop hum. I fill my mind with the memory of soaring up into the spiral of a thermal, like a bird.

Then I recall Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, one of my favorite Miyazaki movies. The heroine flies her own wing with the same everyday blasé with which we ride bicycles.
I flood my mind with my longing to be like her, with the sensation I always get watching her ride the wind.
Then more images from my other Miyazaki movies flow through my mind as the plane taxis down the runway.
The sky is where I long to go. It’s my favorite part of Miyazaki movies: Castle in the Sky, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Nausicaa.
I fill my mind with my own imagined sensation of riding the wind.

It is memory.
I remember, and breathe.
And my panic calms and floats away.
And we take off.
And I breathe.
And I write these words. For me. For you.

Fifteen bumpy minutes later, we land. I am home.

p.s. The day after I experienced this, I was trying to recover from the trip, sore and exhausted, when suddenly my body kicked into its hypersensitive tingling panic in customary head-to-toe waves. Darkness began to overwhelm my mind as usual…and then I remembered the flight and what I did with the fear. So I decided that my body’s panic was instead the hypercharging energy I need to do what I want to do, to finish my book, to keep writing, to manage single-mom life, to just be. And my mind calmed and the darkness receded. I shall fly.

p.p.s. This is my “F” day entry for the A to Z April Blogging Challenge. I’m posting 6 days a week for the entire month of April, one post for every letter of the alphabet! This one is late, because traveling messed up my schedule. So stay tuned for the other catch-up blogs today and here on out, and check out some of the other 2000+ writers participating.

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