It’s that uneasy feeling in my core that momentarily makes me shudder. I try not to sit over the wing, but this time I must have gotten too close. It’s grey outside LAX – an uncommonly rainy day in southern Californa, to be sure.
As the plane gathers altitude and begins to shake, my head swerves from left to right as if I’m stuck on a spinning teacup ride.
I will not get dizzy. I will not panic.
For someone who loves to travel, I despise flying. Each time I enter the stifling cocoon of an aircraft my breath begins to come in short gasps and I watch my hands as the grip and twist and fidget with anxiety.
I scramble for my earbuds, for my book, for anything to relieve the absolute panic I know is about to wash over me. It’s inevitable.
I’m flying. I’m released from the gravity that tethers me to my ordinary, everyday life. It feels like walking a slack line at first; I’m checking and rechecking for a diaper bag, I’m catching the eye of a toddler running away in my mind, I’m scanning for a plugged in teenager about to miss our boarding call. Strangely, they’re not there. I’m alone, feeling the float of lift off and gathering life from a new perspective.
It’s not exhilarating. To be honest, it’s unsettling.
This feeling of groundlessness unnerves me as we cruise along at 36k feet. Thankfully, the ride is smooth and my mind stills and wanders a bit.
I’m alone. Away from everything that tethers me to ME. I’m a stranger in a slew of travelers, incognito to everyone around me.
I could be an aging actress. A famous writer. A salesperson or an investment banker, or perhaps an editor or a restaurant chef or a politician.
I turn the pages of my novel to try and lose myself. It’s about a family of tinkers- travelers, nomads, those souls who wander but are not lost. Groundless, yet grounded. Their possessions with them always, settling briefly in one town and the next, they lead a decidedly unconventional lifestyle.
They’re outsiders, nudging the edges of discomfort as they roam.
I absolutely know that feeling.
Flying high in the sky, I can look back on my home and take in the vastness of our world. I can remove myself from my house and my street and my school and everything that is ordinary. I can become an outsider looking in.
I can see farther than I can imagine. I can revel in the anonymize of just being me. Jennifer. Mother, wife, daughter, sister, teacher, writer, friend.
The babies are crying in the back. I remember the weight of mine on my chest, nursing them to comfort so many years ago. I’m not that woman anymore, I remind myself. I can hardly remember her, it seems, outside of the visceral muscle memory of skin to skin, the sprawl of innocence spread alongside me. I’m flying and I’m weaving in and out of me, catching snippets of memories like I’ve just stumbled into a dream.
I’m flying, and I’m free of those old pulls of my ordinary self. I’m floating on my true nature, grabbing pieces of my life past, present and future.
Now, with only air beneath me, I’m unsupported, unrestricted. I’m free from my ordinary form, floating in a temporary state. It’s simultaneously unsettling and uncomfortable.
The pressure intensifies as we begin our descent to Salt Lake City and I breathe in slowly, then exhale. I pull Me back inside, I imagine the girl who will be waiting when I land. She’s a lot like me, but not quite. She’s her own, extraordinary, ordinary woman.
In and out, I prepare myself. It’s always bumpy on the landings.
Honestly, I need that jolt.
It’s sometimes hard to hit reality, isn’t it?