Home > Communication, Friends, Humor, Travel > “The fun begins in 3 … 2 … 1!”

“The fun begins in 3 … 2 … 1!”

Folks, please allow me to perform an improvisational dance in the corridor!

For your added pleasure, I’ll throw in a game of dodge-the-flight-attendant! It’ll be merriment for your whole family, but you’ll only catch it if you kindly set aside your tablets and laptops and books, oh my!

The fun begins in 3 … 2 … 1!

In “My sweet, soaring vulnerability,” I wrote that “I only have panic attacks before takeoff.”

That’s true. When flying, I only have full blown panic attacks before takeoff.

It’s also true that I’ve felt panic’s fiery grip in flight. It’s much less common, and I’ve avoided the worst by reminding myself I was just fine up until four seconds ago. By counting in twos the moment my vision starts dimming. Counting backwards from 100. Breathing in and out in slow, even rhythm. Doing crossword puzzles. Telling the person next to me I’m about to have a full blown panic attack if they don’t share their thoughts on the weather and/or their favorite sports team pronto.

There was one time none of my usual in flight strategies worked.

I’m trapped. I’m trapped! I thought myself around in dizzying circles. I am stuck in a sky on the plane and the seatbelt light is on and the flight attendants said I have to stay in my seat so I am trappedtrappedtrapped!

On the verge of a full blown panic attack, I asked myself one question that changed everything:

Am I really?

Asking a simple question set a thousand different options loose in my brain.

I had plenty of options, even on a tiny plane way up in the sky. I wasn’t trapped in that seat.

I imagined unbuckling, climbing over fellow passengers in my way, tearing a book out of a reader’s hands and shouting, “Ooga booga!” while making ridiculous faces. Just because I could. Because I was buckled in, not welded to my seat.

I burst into laughter at the thought of it. At the reality that I could do that.

I chose not to, which was probably better for everyone.

But I smiled as I tucked away knowledge that’s helped ease my anxiety ever since:

I’m making a choice to be here.

I thought of this while washing kale tonight.

(Almost all my revelations involve the kitchen, somehow.)

A friend of mine feels imprisoned in much of his life right now.* I understand–and appreciate–why he feels this way, but I see many other options for him. Of course, I can’t make him see those options as clearly as I do. I used to feel a sense of personal responsibility for his sadness, but eventually realized it was neither my responsibility nor in my power to change. What comes next is up to him.

Still, my brain loves seeking solutions. As I moved from rinsing to peeling kale off for tomorrow’s salad, I wondered how I might succinctly explain to him the many options he’s missing in the throes of panic.

Which got me wondering what it will take for him to see those choices. That he’s actually making a choice by saying he has no choice right now.

That’s when I remembered the very first time I imagined doing improv on a plane.

In the sky or on solid ground, there’s one question I ask myself now that helps quell my anxiety.

It reminds me there are different angles from which to view every problem. More than that, it reminds me to seek those angles, and find freedom from believing myself trapped.

What other choices could I be making right now?

Fortunately for my fellow passengers, I’ve never once done running-from-flight-attendantsstand-up comedy on a plane.

I’m pretty darn sure that’s a choice I’m going to keep making.

But you know what? It feels fantastic to know that I could.

The fun begins in 3 … 2 … 1!

* This does not involve abuse. The reality is that escaping abuse is a terrifying,
complicated matter well outside the scope of this “think positive for a better world!” post.

  1. March 3, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Always a great reminder – and appreciate the caveat about abuse!

    • March 4, 2015 at 5:26 am

      I finished the post and could suddenly hear all the people who asked my mom, “Why didn’t you leave?” That’s whole books unto itself … but short of that (and other extreme situations), I do believe we usually have lots more choices than we remember to look for!

  2. March 3, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    One time Himself and I were traveling back to the US from South Africa, and we were in the middle section of the plane for SEVENTEEN LONG HOURS crossing the Atlantic. it was horrible, and I was about to get all sweaty and panicky and start screaming (in my head, but still, a scream is a scream) when I realized that the woman seated next to me was several deep gasps ahead of me down that particular tunnel. So I tapped her on the wrist and chirpily said, “Hello! Are you headed home or going on vacation?” She gave me this blank stare and I just beamed at her and started chattering away about the visit we’d just had with my family, and she managed a few words, and I chattered a few more pages, and so it went until at last she was breathing normally. It was a relief to be able to shut up! But … do you have any idea how many panic attacks you can squeeze into a 17 hour flight? I made it my personal mission to watch her, and every time she started twitching and wriggling in her seat, I started chirping at her. Concentrating on controlling her anxiety completely took my mind off my own discomfort! I think she eventually figured out what I was doing, but I’m pretty sure she still thought I was a total nutter.

    • March 4, 2015 at 5:32 am

      LOL! It’s possible she does, but it’s good you kept track of that. Anxiety is this beast trying to claw its way out, demanding–and taking–total attention. Voices from outside are a great reminder that the outside goes on regardless what’s happening inside, and that feelings of anxiety aren’t truth. (Second best remedy, after laughter!) I’m grateful for everyone who has shared their feelings on the weather, sports or whatever else crosses their mind.

      Flying is better since embracing my vulnerability, but this question continues to help me on land almost every day. 🙂

  3. terrikurczewski
    March 4, 2015 at 6:42 am

    Excellent connection! I know so many people who feel the same way. It’s taken me a lot longer to realize that I’m not responsible for their lives. Great piece!

    • March 8, 2015 at 4:51 am

      A short phone call a couple of days ago revealed that there’s a disconnect between what I know and how I feel in the thick of things. I’m going to work on getting those synchronized, because it’s absolutely the know (not the feel) that’s right–and workable in the scope of my life–here.

  4. March 4, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    I’ll be flying back to Portland tomorrow and will think of yelling “ooga booga!” at other passengers whenever I get stir crazy. 🙂

    • March 8, 2015 at 4:53 am

      Thank you for this! It made me giggle then, and it’s having the same impact now.

      For some reason, it’s the “ooga booga” bit I always imagine immediately after getting settled in to my seat. I ask myself, “Who’d have the best reaction?!” Jost noting it early takes my baseline down a notch, ’cause I know where to look first if the nerves start jangling!

  5. cardamone5
    March 4, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    I would pay $ to see you do that dance, on a plane.

    You are so right about your friend. No choice is a choice, and panicking is a choice, although it can feel involuntary. It is also true that you can’t change your friend’s perspective. You can only listen and be supportive. The rest is up to him.

    I can identify with your friend’s position, finding myself beset with seemingly paralyzing anxiety/panic recently. That’s why I wrote about trying to stay present, and not getting bogged down by self defeating thoughts because right now, it feels like the only choice that will leave me feeling empowered.


    • March 8, 2015 at 4:55 am

      Trying to stay present is big for me, too. There can be so much regret in the past, and so much uncertainty in what’s to come. In now, right now, there is plenty: the sounds of snoring from the bedrooms, connection, food, shelter, warmth. I make much better choices mindful of what I have–borne of love–than inspired by fear or nerves!

  6. March 4, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    I use to panic, yes really truly panic at take off. Now I have over 3,000,000 flight miles in 22 years under my belt on just 3 airlines. Only the other airlines know what I have on the rest of them, my bet? Close to another 500K. Yes, you read that correctly, those are just my flight miles, weird right?

    Seeking solutions is sometimes one of the more difficult things we have to do in life. I was talking to a friend the other day and the discussion was how to get out of the rut I am in, not writing, not speaking, not doing any of the things I love. I know why I am in this rut and part of it is feeling trapped. But I don’t really know how to get out, I know there is a solution, I just can’t seem to find it.

    Maybe, just maybe it is in the simple things; like washing kale.

    I always and with great joy, love you and your reminders.

  1. March 4, 2015 at 7:20 pm

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