The thought of spending the next eight and a half hours in the seat of a 767 American Airlines jet is almost enough to squash the enthusiasm of my first vacation to Hawaii. I’m already thinking these fashionably tight jeans probably weren’t the best choice for the trip. I could happily watch action, or sci-fi movies for a few hours, but I’m sorry the romantic comedy, “Did You Hear About The Morgan’s” is just not working for me today. I’m in the mood for, “Clash of the Titans.”
However, it occurs to me this might be a great opportunity to do a little thinking. So, at 41 thousand feet I’ve decided to give some of my deepest fears a little introspection.
The blanketing clouds beneath the jet conceal what could be a deadly plunge should the engines on the plane suddenly fail. I am reminded of one of my oldest fears, acrophobia, the fear of heights.
With my seatbelt securely fastened, and surrounded by the planes walls I have enough security to keep the phobic reaction at bay. Normally, when I’m elevated more than my own height from the ground something very uncomfortable happens in my mind and body. My equilibrium disappears, my heart rate dramatically increases, and utter panic sets in.
I wonder why some people are able to scurry across beams and rooftops with no inhibitions, while others are so terrified of high places that hold the best view.
To my credit I’ve always been willing to tackle my fears. As a child I followed my tomboy friends up many a tree, and garage. Most of the time finding myself stuck like the whinnying cat in a tree, too petrified to move forward or back. I still climb to heights well beyond my comfort zone. Fortunately, I rarely need to be rescued.
Acrophobia is just one of a long list of fears harbored deep inside my psyche. Loneliness, abandonment, poverty, failure are just a few that have occasionally surfaced from my subconscious. I suspect there are others buried so deeply they only appear in the nightmares I may be too afraid to remember.
Perhaps all these fears stem from just one source, a fear of dying. It’s one of life’s certainties along with taxes of course. Surprisingly, it’s a fear people are least likely to talk about. Faith in an afterlife, a resurrection, or reincarnation seems to make the inevitability of death easier for most. But the reality is it’s an unknown, and unknowable factor.
Maybe what I fear most about death is not whether or not it will hurt, or what if anything comes next, but rather the letting go of this life. There is still so much to do and see. When the time comes I hope to face death with dignity and contentment. Of course, the bigger challenge is to put those principles into practice each day of life.
There is a well of territory to explore when it comes to my fears. Unfortunately, it’s a little difficult to concentrate with the steady stream of traffic to the restroom just behind my seat, and the stewardess making her way down the isle with a huge beverage cart.
Note to self: A crowded to capacity jet is not a favorable environment for focused internal probing, unless of course, you’re a Zen monk.