I wish that I could fly
Into the sky
So very high
Just like a dragonfly
I’d fly above the trees
Over the seas in all degrees
To anywhere I please
Oh I want to get away
I want to fly away – Lenny Kravitz
I started writing this in the air about about four and a half hours into a flight to Phoenix which was the first half of our trip to Hawaii. I pulled out paper and pen and wrote like a mad woman because that is exactly what I was. I think I made it clear that I don’t fly well and I was so screwed up in my head that the idea of pulling my laptop out of my bag felt like it would take Herculean effort…so I went old school.
I forgot how much I love to write by hand.
I had been up since 3:00 a.m. to get everyone ready to catch a 7:00 a.m. flight. Although exhausted and medicated sleep on a plane is next to impossible for me so this seemed like a good way to pass the time.
Preparing for this trip, seven days and five thousand miles away from home, had been a nightmare. More accurately, I had been a nightmare. The whole process seemed to be comedy of errors right down to the email opened at 11:00 p.m. to check in and get our boarding passes, five hours before we left for the airport, only to find the word in panic inducing bold…NOT BOOKED.
It was the wrong email.
Leaving our home, I inevitably believed I forgot to pack something vital or left another something plugged in or switched on that should most decidedly be unplugged or switched off. I made my husband stop at a shady convenience store at 4:45 a.m. so I could break every rule that I have about public restrooms and be sick.
Since the gods of travel apparently have me marked as public enemy number one, my twelve year old daughter set off the alarm for an apparent random inspection which required the TSA agent to shout, “There! That’s her mother!” and pull me aside to search me and wipe down every single electronic device in my carry on. (I would have this happen twice more in two different airports on this trip but by the third time I was prepared to just strip down and fly home naked.)
For a bit my anxiety seemed to have fled. Until we sat down at the gate. I became aware of the cold drops of sweat forming on my upper lip and the steady increase of my heart rate. My stomach began to churn as the six of us took our place in line to walk what I had come to view as my own personal Green Mile.
I told my husband to board the plane with the kids and I turned and literally ran for the bathroom. I locked myself in a stall, my entire mind and body involved in the throes of intense and unrelenting panic. I knew without a shred of uncertainty that there was absolutely, positively no way I was getting on that airplane.
Rewind to a few days before when my husband and I were looking up the locations of the activities we wanted to plan. We pulled up Google Earth, the wondrous tool that shows where all the places are. Curious, I wanted to zoom out and see just how far Hawaii actually is from Florida. How, after years of schooling and a fair amount of intelligence, I didn’t realize the Hawaiian Islands are extraordinarily tiny spots of land in a very, very large expanse of the Pacific I will never know.
The thought of being on an airplane with nothing, nothing, nothing but water, water everywhere terrified me.
I had never been to Hawaii and it was on my bucket list. An opportunity arose and we decided to pull the kids out of school, even our college freshman, and make what is usually a getaway for Jeff and me a family vacation. It was a first for all of us and who knew if the chance would come around again? Our kids are still young enough to experience wonder that is simply magical…hell, so am I!
We planned free range horseback riding and a helicopter tour over an active volcano, waterfalls, and other botanical sites. Jeff was taking the older kids zip-lining over some of the waterfalls and a rainforest. We were really looking forward to snorkeling with spinner dolphins in their natural habitat, not a man made site with trained animals. (The unexpected bonus was that it was whale season and while we were underwater we could hear the whales singing and even caught sight of a few breaches from the boat. I’ve never seen anything so breathtaking.)
I told myself many things while locked in that bathroom stall, willing my heart to slow and my breathing to return to normal. I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans, stood up and opened the stall door. I went to the sink and washed my hands. Not minding anyone else in the room I took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror and said out loud, “You have done brave and amazing things, some far more frightening than getting on an airplane and flying to paradise. Your family is waiting for you. Get your ass on that fucking plane.”
I went to the gate and walked the gangway, taking every step and every breath with intention. I was the last person to board and as I made my way down the aisle I caught sight of my family, watching for me, their relief evident. I swallowed my fear, got on that plane and the one after that…..
and I flew over the deep blue sea.
Photo credit: Ryan Jacques/Unsplash.com