Turbulence

I should start off this post by saying that I have really good parents. Really, I do. However, like all parents, some of their parenting moments leave lasting effects. One such moment happened when I was approximately 8 and half years old and living in Washington State. The Rents decided to surprise me and the Sibs by taking us to the Seattle Space Needle Amusement Park. It was a pretty legit surprise until someone (I honestly can’t remember who) thought it would be a good idea for us to ride The Galleon.

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The Galleon looked relatively harmless. It was a gondola-like boat that swung back and forth like a pendulum. “Just like a swing,” according to my dad. It didn’t seem too crazy… until we got on it. As it turned out, the Galleon was Spanish for you’re-going-to-fear-for-your-life-and-there’s-nothing-amusing-about-this ride. The Galleon didn’t just swing at one level, it climbed higher and higher. The Carney-ride master kept yelling: do you want to go hiiiiigggggghher!! I did not. I wanted to get off and never look at another amusement ride again, but my screams of NOOOO were drowned out by all the other weirdos on the ride screaming their heads off in delighted frightfulness.

After going higher and higher, the Carney-ride master urged us to count to three so that we could “flip the boat over.” At this point, I tried to climb off of the moving ride, more willing to end my life then continue with the unsettled feeling in my stomach. My dad still laughs when he tells the story of how he had to fight to keep us all from jumping off the ride. Ha ha ha….yeah, not funny at all. I still don’t ride amusement rides to this day. I won’t tell you how many times I’ve been to Disney World and have never once ridden any ride there (true story: I stood in line for my friends and studied for my MCAT for a day trip to Magic Kingdom).

The fact that I hate turbulence then should come as no surprise. I had a six hour flight from a wedding weekend (not mine) in Oregon and I spent approximately 1.5 hours of the flight with my hands curled like talons, wrapped around my thighs, trying my best not to openly panic. I am that person on the plane who is so obviously undergoing turbulence-related anxiety that people who hate speaking to their seatmates feel obliged talk to me. Flight attendants bring me water without my asking and offer me kind smiles and consoling pats. Not that my anxiety is completely irrational; turbulence can cause all sorts of problems. Like so.

It’s not the turbulence that bothers me so much. The small, rational part of my brain that goes radio silent during turbulence realizes that turbulence is a part of flying and that it is, in itself, a relatively harmless phenomenon. But the overwhelming large, irrational part of my brain hates the way that turbulence makes me feel. I don’t like the feeling that my intestines are trying to crawl away from my stomach lining. I don’t like how I feel when the world seems to drop from beneath my feet. Unlike people who enjoy roller coasters, I don’t crave the feeling of my heart in my stomach. You know, this feeling. More than anything, I just want to get the feeling over with and get back to normal. I want to get off of the ride. Interestingly enough, turbulence in my everyday life causes the exact same reaction.

My life has been turbulent, ridiculously so, for going on two years now. My job seems to present me consistent opportunities for absolute I-can’t-make-this-up craziness and other boggling conundrums. Some days I feel my heart dropping into the pit of my stomach before I even get out of my car. And though the small, rational part of my brain knows that life is difficult – turbulent even. The unwieldy, irrational part hates the way it makes me feel.

I’ve been talking about the inherent difficult of life a lot lately probably because my life is much more difficult then a) I want it to be and b) feel that I deserve it to be (which is a rather loaded statement that could take eons for me to unpack ). The ultimate question, the question with which this blog began over a year ago is, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis: How do I stop regarding all the unpleasant things (all the turbulence) as interruptions of my ‘real’ life? I feel myself circling around this thought in every blog post and story that I write. And, after a year, I don’t know that I am any closer to the answer. C.S. Lewis’ answer to this question, however, is rather profound. He says that: the truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day. This is my real life. And lately it has been hands curled, seat-gripping, doing-everything-to-keep-from-screaming-out-loud turbulent. What I wouldn’t give for smooth sailing and a cloudless ride!

But do you know what I do in the air to calm myself down when my anxiety reaches the point where I might start loudly freaking out (and get tackled by my fellow passengers)? I pray. I say the Lord’s prayer. I say kid’s prayers. I say Forgive me Fathers and I’m not even Catholic. Turbulence in the air (and in my life) makes me feel helpless. It makes me feel like maybe I can’t do this on my own. It makes me think that instead of trying to climb off the ride (because really there’s no getting off once the ride starts), then maybe I should try asking for help instead.

Which means that maybe I am much closer to answering my original question than I thought.

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