Fear was controlling my life. I had always had a standard response to fears: avoidance. Choices I had made kept me from having to face them, but they had also kept me from realizing my dreams.
I had been claustrophobic for as far back as I could remember, and then I developed a fear of flying. When I was eight I almost drowned. Fear of the water led to fear of bridges, which led to fear of heights.
My loving wife decided she would help me take baby steps toward conquering my many phobias and managed to find a short cruise. Let’s see, that covers fear of flying, claustrophobia, water issues…yup, she had just about gotten them all in one trip! I cringed as she explained her gift to commemorate ten years of marriage was to kill me on a doomed flight or drown me at sea if that failed.
We got through security rather quickly which allowed plenty of time to sit and visualize multiple ways of dying. I anticipated crashing on takeoff, hitting another plane in mid air, having birds blow out an engine, and being caught in a major storm. Every imaginable crash was calculated and weighed to determine which was the most likely to occur.
I sat praying that our plane would not be one of those Buddy Holly crop duster planes, and it must have worked because it was even bigger than I imagined. How in the world would this beast get off the ground? I knew what our fate was, crashing on takeoff.
Feeling wave after wave of the fear of flying and claustrophobia, I actually could not buckle my seatbelt! Jeez! You have got to be kidding me! For a few moments, I thought I was going to black out. Sweating profusely and scared to death, I scanned my options. Should I take the flight or run for my life before they seal us in the tube of death?
As we started taxing to the runway, I paid attention to every single word of the safety features as if there was going to be a pop quiz during the flight. I actually wanted to ask a question but chose not to for fear of embarrassment. Since I knew there was a very good possibility of the plane crashing, I wanted to be prepared. As the attendant talked to the people in the exit rows about their responsibility in case of a crash, I was ready to scream. No one was paying attention. We are DOOMED and when we crash, these idiots won’t know how to even open the door. I decided to pay very close attention and read the entire safety manual just in case.
The time had come. We were about to hit the thrusters and head down the runway of death. All I could do at that time was close my eyes and pray that the plane would not crash before it got off the ground. Within minutes, we were off the ground and leveled off.
We were in the air for about an hour and a half and were scheduled to fly to Atlanta to switch planes. Wait, switch planes? Somehow I missed that memo! Take off, land, take off, and land again? This was going to be a very long day.
When we got close to Atlanta, we hit turbulence. The turbulence made me feel like I was sitting in one of those jump houses. I looked at my wife and said, “What the heck was that?” I had never experienced turbulence before, but I knew it was not good to be “bouncing” around in the sky. She told me what it was and gave me a physics lesson on turbulence trying to convince me it was a natural thing. “It’s going to be alright, honey,” she said softly. I thought, “No way, we are about to die!” It turns out the turbulence was caused by a powerful thunderstorm that was passing through Atlanta. Over the intercom, the pilot stated that we were going to have to circle until we were given clearance to land.
Trying to distract myself, I put headphones on to listen to some in-flight music. Maybe this would get my mind off the intense turbulence and lighting show going on below us. Bad, bad, bad idea! I will tell you this but you will probably not believe me. As I plugged in, the song that was playing was “…drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry,…this will be the day that I die.” Yes, “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie.” Realizing immediately it was about Buddy Holly’s plane crash, I quickly changed channels. On the next channel the song blared “…Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue….” A song by none other than BUDDY HOLLY! Yes, Buddy freaking Holly! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Ok, it is fate; we are crashing. I quickly unplugged the headphones and awaited my impending death.
Finally, the pilot came over the intercom and said, “We have just received clearance to land. It is going to be a bumpy ride so please stay seated with your seatbelt on. When the oxygen masks drop, be sure to put it on yourself before you try to put it on anyone else. In the event of a water landing, the bottom of your seat may be used as a floatation device.” Say WHAT? DID HE JUST SAY THAT? Well, actually, no. He did say something about clearance to land but somehow my mind switched to recalling the safety guidelines. Which way do I pull the door handle? Left? Right? Turn and push or turn and pull? Jeez, we’re doomed!
We finally landed and everything was all right. Well, that was until we were trapped in a tropical storm the next day for our cruise. You think there was a message in there for me somewhere?
It is easy to look back now and see how fears exaggerated my reality. Over the next several years I faced many situations just like this. When I started looking within for the answers to my fears, I discovered that by simply changing my thoughts, I changed my life and eliminated the fears almost instantly. The more I was aware of what I was thinking and changing the negatives to positives, my life shot off like a rocket! If you have any fears, face them, change what you are thinking about, then visualize a positive outcome. It is that easy. I tried it and wiped out everyone one of my many fears.