Let’s Fly Away

Isn’t it funny, how you can be so tightly wound and stressed-out that doing something you fear the most sounds like the best idea ever. That was me, a few weeks ago – stressed to the max, when a friend asked if I was interested in a girls weekend in Sydney. “I’M IN!” I texted back. Then I thought, “Fuck. I have to get on a plane. By myself.” For a while I considered all kinds of reasons to get out of it. But the truth was, I was so desperate for a break, to get away from life, and I joked that, “I may not ever come back!” Partly because I really thought I wanted to run away forever, partly because I thought “I’m flying, that’s it, I’m going to die!”

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I will admit, I needed anti-anxiety pills to help me get through both flights, but I did it. On my own, with only minor freak out at the end where we were landing and everything underneath us was black – water – until the last minute when THANK GOD THERE WAS LAND! And my mind wondered, “Who the fuck builds runways out into the ocean anyways?”

A friend of mine said, “You sure do fly a lot for someone who is terrified of flying.” Well, I have two answers to that. Firstly, I don’t think flying three times (six including the return trip) in 18 months is “a lot” and secondly, I don’t want my irrational fear to keep me from doing things, seeing places and visiting people I love. As a bonus to having a girls weekend, I also got to meet my new baby nephew and see my 22 month old niece on this trip! I got 4 nights away from reality. It was exactly what I needed.

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So what if I needed a small dosage of Xanax to get there and back. So what if I was terrified for 20 seconds that we were going to land in the water? The 5 days away made it worth it. Funnily enough, when I dropped my son at school Friday before going to the airport, I cried the whole way back to my car. Mostly because I was really going to miss him, a little bit because I thought, “If my plane crashes, this will be the last time I see him.” I have a flare for the dramatic. I wanted a break so badly, but when it actually came time to leaving, I didn’t want to go. I was coming home Tuesday night, by Monday night I missed home so terribly a part of me wished I was going home that night. Two nights away wouldn’t have been enough, but four was one too many. A little tip for any of you considering a break from reality.

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I may not ever really get over my fear of flying, but I will find ways around it, ways to manage it. Otherwise I will miss out on so much.

What fear do you feel and do it anyway? What don’t you want to miss out on?

Linking up with Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays 

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New Zealand, Part 1.

Do you have a fear? I don’t mean something that makes you turn up your nose. I mean a real, paralysing, panic-inducing, honest-to-god F.E.A.R. I do, it’s flying*. So going to NZ last week had me in all kinds of anxiety modes. A doctor had given me valium to help with the flights. I wasn’t too bad on the way over as the flight was fairly smooth. A few bumps here and there. And the landing was quite bumpy. I must have looked a bit pale as one of the flight attendants asked if I was ok, and assured me it would “all be over before you know it.”**

Once the flying was out of the way, I hit the ground running. Literally. I couldn’t get away from the plane fast enough! We picked up our rental car and headed west for Lake Tekapo.

On the road, headed for the mountains

I was amazed at how windy it was (no wonder that landing was bumpy!), but more so at how beautiful the snow-capped mountains in the far off distanced looked. We arrived in Lake Tekapo to less-than pleasant weather. The freezing wind was blowing a gale and we decided to stay in for the night. I woke at 6 am (3 am Aussie time!) and saw out the window that dawn was breaking. How many more chances would I get to see the Church of the Good Shepherd at sunrise? In the car we got and The Mechanic and I went down to the lake. It was worth every freezing bit of wind to capture it.

Sun coming up behind mountains

Church of The Good Shepherd

After breakfast we soldiered on to Queenstown. Not a day too late, either, as that night, Lake Tekapo got 6 inches of snow! In QT we met up with American friends of mine who now live in Auckland. They were the reason this trip came to be in the first place, after they posted pics of their 5 day Milford Sound trek on facebook last year. After a yummy pizza lunch at The Cow we decided to head up the gondola to the luge. Nick LOVED it. I enjoyed the infamous view (from the top – in the gondola I sat with my back towards the view. Fear, again!).

View from the top of the Skyline Gondola

Nicklas loved the luge ride

And throwing snowballs for our friend’s dog

That night we had a delicious dinner in town at Rata and followed it by money shots*** at two different bars and shuffleboard and beer at a good old American joint, Cowboy. Where else would 3 Americans and an Aussie go in QT? We were home by midnight though, which made us all feel rather old. That and the fact that we all “dressed for the weather” not “to look hot”.

The next day mum and Nick went on the steamboat to Walter Peak High Country Farm. A major disappointment (long story). Nick had a blast though. Wouldn’t it be great to have kids’ expectations of things? Everything is awesome and you’d never be disappointed. We took the opportunity to go with our friends to Arrowtown and Amisfield Winery. It was so great to get to spend some time with them.

Cute little laneway in Arrowtown

On the way out of town the next morning, I told my husband to go jump off a bridge. So he did. The AJ Hackett bungy bridge that is. He made it look so easy and not at all scary. Watching his video back, I almost wonder if I could have done it myself. Easy to say that while I’m 2000 kms away and in no danger of being forced off the bridge.

*Picture purchased from AJ Hackett Bungy

I was a bit sad to leave QT and would have liked one more day. But we had to make our way to Te Anau for our overnight stay prior to driving out to Milford Sound. Te Anau was small, peaceful and beautiful. And it’s also in danger of being wiped off the map because there is talk of building a tunnel from QT to Milford Sound, completely bypassing Te Anau for all tourists. I’ve seen enough of Disney Pixar’s Cars to know that would be devastating for the people of Te Anau. I signed the petition to stop it.

Down by Lake Te Anau

To say I was apprehensive about the drive to Milford Sound is an understatement. I’d read all kinds of things and a lot of recommendations to take the bus. I was glad we didn’t. The road wasn’t THAT bad. A little hairy in places maybe, but we took our time and stopped often – when and where we wanted, because we had our own car. My husband, bless him, did all the driving. Unfortunately that meant he missed most of the scenery.

Just one of the views on the way into Milford Sound

Once to the sound, we had a few hours to kill before boarding the Milford Mariner, our accommodation for the night. Due to a storm, we didn’t actually moore in the sound, we went back to the wharf. That was fine by me, no rocking motion to make me sick! The weather was rotten and there was thunder and lightning throughout dinner. We had rain overnight. The good thing about that was that the waterfalls were flowing! The next morning, the cloud had lifted enough that we could see much more of the peaks that create this gorgeous fiord. At one stage the boat cruised close to the rocks, the engines went silent, and so did the 30 people on board, soaking it all. It was truly a magical place, topped off by dolphins swimming along beside the boat on our way back into port. Nick was absolutely thrilled! We all were!

The Milford Mariner, moored in a bay while people went on the Tender and kayaking. This was not a small boat, gives you some idea of the size of the rocks.

 

Mitre Peak, peaking out from the clouds

As we left Milford Sound I was overwhelmed by the natural beauty. It’s a place I’d love to visit often, but expenses, flying, holidays etc. won’t allow that obviously. It’s a place that photos just don’t do any justice for. It is something you have to see with your own eyes, hear with your own ears, and feel with your own soul.

A rainbow on the sound

Stay tuned for the second half of our trip. Will anything ever compare to Milford Sound? (Probably not!).

* Still unsure why it is of flying. I’ve flown all over the world. It’s never been this bad. Not sure if it’s more an afraid of “dying” thing or lack of control, lack of knowledge, but I’d like to get to the bottom of it.

** That’s what I’m worried about – LIFE being over before I know it!

*** A money shot is made up of a few different liqueurs  tequila (?), banana and cinnamon  It probably varies slightly from bar to bar, but it tastes like heaven in your mouth. I had 3 and could have done another 3 (at least!).

All photographs mine except one from AJ Hackett of The Mechanic’s bungy.

Linking up for #IBOT with Jess at Diary of a Stay at Home Mum

Dealing With Irrational Fears

Months ago The Mechanic and I sat down and put 4 holiday locations in a hat and picked one to do. You can read about it here. At the time it seemed like a great idea, to have a child-free weekend and head off to explore Melbourne.

The weekend finally came, and last Wednesday afternoon ranks right up there as one of the most difficult times in my life. I left Nick at my mum’s and went home to pack to have 3 nights away from him. Not only were we having 3 nights away from him but we were getting on a plane the next day to fly 2 and a bit hours away. The furthest/longest we had previously been away from him was 2 nights up to the Sunshine Coast. Then, it was nerve-wracking knowing if something happened it would take us at least 2 hours to get to him. The thought of being at least 4 hours (and part of that being on a plane) was excruciating. I have never been a fantastic flyer. I didn’t realise just how bad I had gotten.

Thursday morning when the alarm went off I awoke with dread. No excitement about a child-free weekend away to a city neither of us had ever been before, just flat out, anxiety–filled dread. The whole way to the airport I was trying to think of an excuse good enough to stop me from going, to figure out how I could convince hubby to go on his own so we hadn’t wasted $1000! The whole flight down I went between tears, hot flushes, shaking and nothing could keep me distracted enough to calm down. I felt like I was losing my mind. It didn’t help that the pilot told us there were strong winds in Melbourne and only one runway was open for landing and we were expecting “a few bumps”. I prepared for the worst, barf bag in lap, and waited for the bumpy descent/landing. Thankfully, it never got too bad*, and finally my feet were back on the ground, though not before I felt like I was completely insane.

I have never been this bad of a flyer before. I have not been great, but the certainty I felt that something bad was going to happen was just so overwhelming. I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to make Nick an orphan 2 weeks before his 4th birthday. I just wanted to be at home, cuddled up on the couch with my little man.

“People do this every day, people do this every day.” I kept saying it over and over in my head. I tried to read, I couldn’t see the words. I tried listening to music, I didn’t hear it. When we landed it was like every muscle in my body relaxed and I was exhausted. I most certainly need to go back to therapy. Surely it is not rational to be so freaked out?

I tried rationalizing my fear, tried to figure out why I felt so paralyzed, so convinced something terrible would happen. I have never had anything completely terrifying or disastrous happen on a plane. The worst thing that happened was 16 years ago when I split my head open when we hit turbulence and I flew out of my seat. I still think had I not had to get straight back on another plane in LA (after having my head stitched at a local medical centre) I may never have got on another plane again. Last year we flew to Sydney and on our return trip, our landing scared the crap out of me. I felt like we were coming in way too fast and once we hit, I thought we were never going to stop in time. Perhaps that had something to do with it. Perhaps it was more a fear of separation from Nick, from being so far away from him, from worrying about him should something happen to us. Perhaps I just watch too much TV and read too much news.

People say, “Everything will be fine” or “Flying is safer than driving, you’re more likely to crash on the way there than during the flight.” These things do not help. People were probably told that before September 11 or any other flight that didn’t make its destination. No one can say for absolute 100% certain that your flight will be fine. Shit happens, and you don’t know when it’s going to happen, or how!

Even though I know my fear is irrational, I can’t stop my mind from taking over. I think about Air Crash Investigation, and how one small mistake or small malfunction can be so disastrous. I think about the people on the planes on September 11, who crashed into buildings, and empty fields. I wonder if any of them were afraid to fly, and were told they would be ok. Or were told they were safer up there than driving a car. Because they weren’t safer up there. I think about my son and how he’d cope growing up without parents, because they were selfish and went on a weekend away without him. I think about how I have absolutely zero control over any part of the situation at all. And even though I know** I’m safer in the air than in the bus from the airport to Melbourne CBD, the bus ride doesn’t terrify me and render me paralyzed like the plane flight does. Why is that?

I think about NOT being afraid of flying, and worry that the second I get over my fear is the very second that something disastrous will happen, a la Alanis Morrisett and Isn’t It Ironic.

Part of me so very desperately wants to cancel our trip to New Zealand in October. All we’d lose is a few hundred bucks. But part of me knows that my fear is 99.99999% irrational, that if I don’t fly, I’ll never see anything outside a 3-4 hour radius of my home. And that is not how I want to live my life, in fear and never doing anything because of that fear.

So for now I try to not think about flying to NZ. And I start thinking about how I can manage this fear while on the plane. I thought about getting drunk, but didn’t want to throw up. I thought about pills, but I don’t want to be loopy. I tried breathing and rescue remedy but it wasn’t enough.

Do you have a fear of flying? Or another debilitating fear? How do you cope with it?

*It didn’t get bad at ALL. Both flights were actually pretty smooth, barely any turbulence at all. What would I be like on a rough flight? I don’t want to find out!

** By “know” I mean I have been told over and over and over and over.

Linking up with Jess for IBOT!