There is little that unhinges and can frighten me more than riding in an airplane when turbulence strikes. In most situations, I remain calm and reasonable, considering odds, conducting internal dialogue about what can or cannot be done about the challenge at hand, talking myself ably off the ledge of panic. But turbulence at 36,000 feet thrusts me on the precipice of that ledge of crazy in no time flat.An irreligious person, I nonetheless find myself immediately making deals with whomever might be out there, considering writing down the notes of love and goodbye to those I treasure that whir through my mind, crossing my fingers as if to ward off the wrong current of air or freak mechanical failure that might make me nightmare a reality. It's terribly morbid and often feels quite silly; those crossed fingers remain under a blanket or my legs at all times, the notes never actually written (and yes, I've considered that to be in part because I assume that if I didn't survive, nor would they). I try to invoke the spirit of the ravens about which Pema Chodron has written: they let themselves be carried and tossed about by the wild winds that race across Nova Scotia's relatively untamed coast, seemingly aglow with a spirit of joyful abandon, thrilled by the ride. They give in, worry not, let go, and then finally grab hold of a current on which they can safely head home. This kind of abandon is antithetical to my innate core. As a child, I was fearful of many new experiences involving physical risk (my parents had to literally force me to learn to ride a bike, swim and skate) and tended towards an anxious rather than carefree perspective. My glass was not unconsciously half full until college, a time I consider one of my life's most important, sacred and altering. It was as if I were living a choose-your-own-ending book and managed to grab hold of the options that although lacking in clarity were surely different enough to ensure at least a detour; perhaps much more. In college, I did let go, and it was thrilling, scary and wise. For a while, I was a raven, and I remain grateful for all I learned by taking advantage of the opportunities flying towards me.
Since then, I've both lost and purposefully shed some of that youthful whimsy: the birth into adulthood that jobs, marriage, financial independence and parenthood urge rather suggest you do. And I find comfort in much of the attendant routinization inherent in these roles and responsibilities. Yet the sensation of being tossed about like an insignificant speck of dust reminds me that control isn't ever as certain and foolproof as anyone might like to imagine. To think it is is to delude ourselves. And perhaps if I can let go in even the most minute of ways, I'll find anew a space dedicated to being present. A space in which I can encourage a raven-like ability to be in the moment and to enjoy it, even when it's uncomfortable, scary or unintended.
In the meantime, I'll keep trying and remain thankful for both the smoothest of flights and the workings of Xanax when they're anything but.