Tag Archives: fear of flying

Post 171. Lowing as I went

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The thing I hated most about flying was leaving our children behind.  I cried when I said goodbye, on and off on the way to the airport, at the airport and on the plane.  We always left them with good, reliable friends, but that didn’t make it easier.   They were small, but braver than I was. 

During a panicky moment, thousands of feet up in the air, I asked Tony what would happen to the children if we died.   That began a series of thoughts more turbulent than turbulence.  Rig and Sue had verbally agreed to take care of them if we both died.  I didn’t particularly like the idea that they would be taken to live in South Africa.  Mussoorie was their home and that was where their family was.  They hadn’t spent much time with my mom or my family and Betty would not have been able to keep them in New Zealand. 

I got so worked up.  Who would love them?  Who would really understand them?  Would they be taken away by the child welfare until Rig and Sue could prove their guardianship?  What if they were split up and not ever allowed to see each other again?   The thoughts and fears kept coming like waves; wave upon wave.   No matter where we were on the journey, I just wanted to get home.

The craziest, most illogical thing was that I felt better when they were flying with us.  If the plane crashed, at least they wouldn’t have to go through the pain of losing us.   At least we would all go together.  There was no thought of their individual destinies.  No thought of God’s great plan for their lives.  Every single thought was selfish, narrow and fear-filled.

At one point, every time we went away something bad happened.  It was inevitable.  The worst was when one of the kids got sick the day before we had to leave.  It was never anything too serious and we knew they would be better in a day or two.   Our tickets had been booked and we couldn’t cancel them.  Leaving them with even the slightest fever was awful.  Seeing their watery eyed, half-baked smiles when we kissed them goodbye was too much for me even though they were always strong and never begged us to stay.

When we were thousands of miles away we got calls telling us Jordan was up a ladder, refusing to climb down, had fractured his arm when he was catapulted off a jumping castle and the list went on.  When we got home, the child-minders and children looked exhausted and frazzled, but alive.  Jordan had a wild “spinster-phobia” look in his eyes.  He couldn’t take one more minute of lots of females telling him what to do.  Asha and Zoë always took his side, which got them in trouble with whoever was looking after them.  

Dudley Daniel invited us to join his team at the peak of my flying paranoia.  It was the hardest thing for me.  Knowing we would have to leave the kids, sometimes three times a year, wasn’t my idea of fun.  But, I did it, lowing as I went.  

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Post 169. Please be quiet, I’m trying to fly this plane (Part 2)

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Our pilot friend, John Sinclair handed us upgraded tickets at the airport.    He said we could sit with him in business class.  He also had a first class ticket, which one of us could have.  I was too scared to sit by myself so I declined.  I couldn’t fly without holding Tony’s hand, so we all sat together.  I burnt John’s ear off the entire trip with my silly questions.  Every time there was a change in the sound of the engine, I asked him what was happening.  I asked him about the pilots and why I should trust them to get such a huge, heavy piece of machinery into the sky and keep it there.   What if one of them had a heart attack?  What if both did?  He answered patiently.

During some mild turbulence, I stopped talking and started sweating.  I wanted absolute silence.  I needed to listen for anything that would indicate we were going to crash.  John talked to the air steward who asked me to follow him.  He took me into the cockpit and left me with the captain and co-pilot.   They were happy for the company.  I was amazed to see them facing each other and chatting over cups of coffee.  It was still turbulent and I expected them to have their hands on the wheel or at least watching where we were going.   I mean, there were all kinds of things to crash into, right?  I asked them lots of questions and they didn’t laugh.  That was helpful.  My last question was, “So, why aren’t there any parachutes on these planes?”   They looked at each other and decided to tell me the truth.  “Lady, if we fell from this height, no-one would survive.”  He was so relaxed about it.  No sign of panic, just really matter-of-fact.  Then and there, in that little cockpit, I accepted the fact that if the plane crashed, I would die.  Instantly; and a weird way, I felt better.   It suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t afraid of dying.  That was settled when I was thirteen years old.  I was just very afraid of the “how.”

I had seen too many plane crash movies.  The most recent one was “Survival.”  The plane crashed into snow-covered mountains.  There were a handful of survivors who resorted to eating those who were less fortunate.  The other movie was about a plane crashing into the ocean.  The survivors spent the night in the deep with sharks circling underneath them.  Most of them ended up as shark bait.  I hated that idea.  I didn’t want to eat Tony or be eaten by him and I definitely didn’t want to be eaten by a shark.

Once, on our way to Australia, we did a transit stop in Malaysia.  It was a rough ride.  I got off the plane shaking and crying.  I told Tony that I wasn’t going to get on the next plane.  I wanted him to leave me there and pick me up on the way home.  I wasn’t hysterical or loud about it.  I was just totally prepared to stay all by myself for however long it took.  He patiently explained to me that wasn’t going to happen.  I would need to get on a plane to get home to our kids anyway.  No matter how scared I was, I had to get back on the plane.

As we were flying, I heard God gently but firmly say,” If you give in to this fear,  you will affect your destiny and the destiny of your whole family.”  I fought with fear and turbulence like they were the enemy.  There was no way I wanted to give in to fear.  I knew we were called to nations beyond India.  The only way to get to those places was to fly.  I needed to win the battle.

I had to nail one issue at a time.  I had to get right down to why I was so afraid.  Only then would I be able to board a plane without being convinced that the plane I was on, was the one that was going to crash that year.

It was illogical.  It was base-less and limiting.  It was to do with self-preservation.  It was going to affect my destiny.  i just couldn’t allow that to happen.

Post 168. Please be quiet, I’m trying to fly this plane (Part 1)

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Somehow, somewhere, I developed a chronic fear of flying.  I was fine when I was single and childless.  Being married and having children seemed to set it all off.  

It all started with our trip to see Nana in New Zealand.  Ash was 9 months old.  We got cheap round the world tickets with Alitalia.  When we booked our tickets, a friend told us what he thought was a funny joke.

Q: Why does the Pope kiss the ground when he gets off the plane?

A: He always flies with Alitalia.” 

There were many take offs and landings; some were amazing, some were just plain awful.  One was both. 

It was an incredibly smooth take-off and everyone was smiling.  We were all commenting about how amazing it was.  Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the pilot slammed on brakes and decided to drop 1000’s of feet.  Everyone screamed and turned grey-green.  Tony said I was greeny-white.  It didn’t enter my mind to ask the lady next to me about where she was going to spend eternity.  I just didn’t want to die.

The plane evened out and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.  We were still in the air.  We were shaking but alive.  I sat there waiting for the captain to say something.  I felt he owed us all an explanation and a massive apology.  Maybe even tell us that drinks were on him.  We could at least have knocked ourselves out for the landing.

On another flight, we were just about to take off, when a little red light started flashing near the exit door where we were sitting.  The plane screeched to a halt and one of the stewards came to check.  The door wasn’t closed properly.  I sat there wondering if all the other doors were closed.  What if that little red light hadn’t worked?  I was in a hot sweat that whole flight.

Sometime during that trip, I became the captain, the co-pilot and part of in-flight services.  I didn’t trust any of them.  I doubted the technicians and the planes. I even started doubting God’s ability to protect my family and me.   When I boarded a plane I would look around for anything that looked unsafe.  I scrutinized the hostesses’ faces for any sign of anxiety.   I panicked when smoke came out of the air-con vents.  When we went through turbulence I would watch the wings to make sure they weren’t breaking and kept sniffing for signs of burning.  I got irritated when Tony talked to me during take offs and landings.  I wanted to be left alone to process everything that was happening and of course I was making plans to escape.  I couldn’t talk to him and fly the plane at the same time, so I chose to fly the plane.

People told me it was safer to fly than to be on the road.  I didn’t believe them.  They threw statistics at me that didn’t make sense.   The minute I stepped into a Delhi taxi, I breathed a sigh of relief.  There was no way being in the air was safer than THAT.

Post 67. Around the world

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Asha was 6 months old and Betty was desperate to see her.  She sent us money to buy tickets to New Zealand.  We found “around the world tickets” which were the same price as going straight there.   We were on a very low budget but we had so many friends all over the world.  The plan was to stop and visit them on the way.

The cheapest tickets we could find were with Alitalia.  Our first stop was Rome.  We stayed with someone who knew someone.  They wanted to take us to see the wonders of the city but we chose to potter around the local markets so see how they lived.

The trip was long and we had a few bad flying experiences that led to 5 years of aerophobia for me.   As we were taking off from Rome, the plane screeched to a halt on the runway.  The airhostess came running to the exit right near me and found that the door wasn’t closed properly.  I spent the entire flight worrying about all the other doors.

We met our dear friend Robin Glass and his lovely Brazilian wife Tati in London.  We stayed with them for few days.  Tony and Robin made lots of music and sang all their old songs from their Doulos days.  Our take off from London was amazing; straight up into the air and so smooth.  Everyone was smiling and commenting on how good it was when suddenly it was as if we had hit a wall in the sky.  The plane dropped and everyone screamed.  There was no explanation or apology from the captain and I sat in “stiff position” the whole way to Auckland.

Being with Betty and Tony’s family was amazing.  Ben was the one who had prayed for Tony during his hippy, India, searching days.   I had heard so much about him and it was nice to finally meet him.  Tony’s sister Jan and her husband, Allan had two gorgeous little girls, Hayley and Libby.  They loved their new little cousin, Asha.  Betty had found life in South Africa and it was so lovely to see how much she had changed.

Betty babysat one night while we went to see the movie “Cry Freedom.”  I cried from beginning to end.  Watching how black South Africans lived while I was climbing trees and swinging in the park was too much for me.   So many husbands and wives were separated from each other.  Children lived on farms with their grandparents while their parents tried to make a living in the cities.  Kids grew up not knowing their fathers.  Husbands found new wives in the cities and no longer felt at home in their villages.  I knew it was happening but had never seen a movie on it.  I was beside my self by the time we got home.  Before I went to bed I wrote some words, which I titled “African Woman.”   I imagined her singing something like this to her estranged husband.

African Woman* 

Haven’t seen you in a while

And the firelight in your eyes

Can’t melt the coldness I find growing there

It’s been so long and things have changed

No longer do you love the sun

On your naked skin

Or the rough ground under your feet

My fire can’t warm you anymore

You’ve found more and I’m losing you

Things have changed

See the wide eyes in the dark

Small hearts beating strong

Wondering where you’ve been so long

Growing fear it’s been so long

And things have changed

It rained for weeks in Auckland. We didn’t have much money to travel around but we spent lots of time with Tony’s family.  There were lots of tears when we left.

Our next stop was California.  Some of our Doulos friends had planned a reunion in Lake Arrowhead.  Brock Grigsby’s friend gave us the use of their huge house right on the lake.  There were twenty of us and we had so much fun.  We sat around the fireplace at night and sang old songs and shared memories that made us laugh and cry.

From there we flew to New York and visited Mike and Debbie.  There was a lot to catch up on and it was fun hearing about how things had worked out for us all.

Ash was such a good traveller.  She slept in suitcases and drawers and wherever else she was put.  As long as she was with us, she was happy.  When we got home, she had no idea we had been in the sky or circumvented the earth.

* Tony put music to this-  also on our Colours  album/cassette