Fear of Flying

I have what they call in polite company "control issues."

So I suppose the publication of The Weird Sisters was the universe's way of telling me I needed to learn to let go. There are lots of ways in which that lesson was presented to me last year, but one of the biggest ways was flying.

I've never been one of those people who loves to fly, but during a period of the book tour where I was flying every day, I had a flight with a takeoff that scared me. After that, I developed a fairly crippling fear of flying.

In my mind, I knew that the issue was not really flying. It was exhaustion, and stress, and pressure, and a lack of control over too many things, and as much as I loved the events I was traveling to, getting there was hard for me.

I was recently at dinner with some other authors, two of whom also have difficulty flying, so I promised I would give them some of the resources that have worked for me, and I thought I'd share them here, in case any of you are suffering from something similar.

What worked for me:

1. Pharmaceuticals.

Think less of me if you must, but I take a Xanax before I get on a plane. I don't tend to run for medication when I can manage things another way, but in this case, my fear was getting in the way of my life, and I needed to fix it. However, I found last year that the sedative alone didn't work. I needed coping strategies, too.

2. Fly Without Fear: Guided Meditations for a Relaxing Flight.

I listened to the entire thing a few times before I had to fly again. Then I listened to it in the airport, and while on the plane, and I plan to do so again. Super-helpful.

3. Fear of Flying Help.

Knowledge is power, and this is AMAZING. It's a website created by an American Airlines pilot, set up as a free course you can go through (though I did make a donation).  He walks you through every part of air travel, from maintenance to turbulence, with video and audio. At the end, he gives you a list of statements you can print out and take on the plane with you (I wrote mine on an index card to help memorize them).

4. Distractions and comfort objects.

I have learned what makes me comfortable on a flight, and I come prepared. I bring snacks, gossip magazines, a pillow and eye mask, books, video games, and music and tv shows on my iPod. I want to be sure I will be occupied no matter what mood I'm in - basically I come with a week's worth of entertainment for a two-hour flight. I also have a little gift from my sweetie that I hold during takeoff and landing that makes me feel calm and centered.

So have I learned my lesson? Resolved my "control issues"? Honestly, no. I think this is going to be a long battle for me. But I do feel better about flying, which is a good metaphor for relenquishing control.

One of the statements in Fly Without Fear is this: "Your fear does not keep this plane in the air." This is an excellent reminder for those armrest clutchers among us.

My fear also does not help me write my next novel, or give me strength and endurance at the gym, or help me be a better friend. So I'm working on learning not to fear what I cannot control, and to let go.