Saturday, March 6, 2010

Soldiers, God and the Fear of Flying

Anyone who knows me knows that I HATE to fly. I am not a good flyer at all. I have always hated the whole deal, closed tight spaces--claustrophobia sets in; the whole take off thing--I am deathly afraid of heights; and don't even get me started about the turbulence, air rage, tiny seats and uppity stewardesses (sorry, flight attendants). The whole thing sucks! Now normally, I need to have a few drinks to get me through a flight, and even then, I am jumpy and nervous through the whole affair.
So, on Wednesday, I had to visit a client in Charlotte NC. I flew out of Bangor to Philadelphia then Philly to Charlotte. Since I was flying out of Bangor, that meant a very small plane (20 seats)....ugh! When I got to Bangor Airport to check in, I found out that the flight was delayed by about an hour due to "weather" nice. Faced with the prospect of 3 hours in the airport, I headed for the cocktail lounge to have a libation to take the edge off. While sitting there, I ran into some old pals from my days at MBNA and as luck would have it, they were also on my flight so now I had company for my 3 hour wait. We chatted and laughed and had a few glasses of wine, it was a great way to pass the time.
Did I mention the airport was filled with US Army soldiers. Apparently, Bangor Airport is a huge thoroughfare for soldiers deploying or returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. So, while we were there, a planeload of Kids (19- 21 yr olds) coming back from an 18 month tour in Iraq arrived. It was an amazing experience to be standing there when they got off the plane. Some kissed the ground, happy to be back on American soil. Some immediately called their families, some ran outside for a cigarette. I talked to some girls in the bathroom who said they had been on a plane for almost 24 hours and that they were so glad to be home so they could wash their hair with hot water. This to them was a luxury. The Troop Greeter team was there too....delivering messages to the kids from their family and helping others reach their loved ones. What a neat experience.

OK, so what does one have to do with the other? Well, after this experience (and a couple glasses of wine) I had an epiphany. I said to myself, "Jill, your such a wimp. Your life is so easy yet you get all jammed up by flight delays, and your stupid self absorbed fear of flying---SUCK IT UP" (what can I say, my inner voice is a bit bitchy) I got on the plane a short time later and for the first time in my life, I looked out the window during takeoff. Instead of freaking out, I thought about how blessed I am and how beautiful the world below is. I gave my fear to god and thanked him for blessing me with the wisdom to know that I am a total jackass about flying. I wasn't nervous. I wasn't scared...I was just at peace. During the next 2 days, I had 3 more flights and the peace remained. No fear, just the realization that God will call me home when he's ready for me and if it happens to be while I am on an airplane, so be it. I flew back into Bangor on Thursday night on the same small plane in extremely windy conditions. It was a bumpy approach to say the least. But I was cool as a cucumber....chatting with the "flight attendant" Robert (we're on a first name basis now) not even thinking about the horrible turbulence. I let the fear go....and flying was a hell of a lot more fun.

I am heading to Vegas on Monday night. Flying out of Boston on jet blue. And I will be calm, cool and collected. And if not, there's always the "in flight beverage service."

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