I am afraid of flying. I have to fly, to get to places I want to be, and I try to console myself by repeating (obsessively, while death-gripping the armrests of my seat) that there's a bravery in doing things you're afraid of. I also remind myself that physics are wonderful, that if there is a God, It doesn't want me to die yet, and on some flights even figuring the over-priced airport fast food nuggets count as a modern-day chicken sacrifice. Flying is innocuous, yet I'm terrified of it. I hate turbulence especially, so when we hit turbulence, I remind myself that turbulence rarely, if ever these days, causes the plane to crash. Much more likely is mechanical failure; the most dangerous times are takeoff and landing. Which makes takeoff and landing rather awful, but it works for the turbulence. Spectacularly unhelpful were the fellows one row back on my last flight home who decided to converse about Interesting Plane Crashes Through History, but I managed to tune them out.

I think what I'm afraid of isn't so much the flying itself (again, physics! very comforting!) but the idea that I will have my last moments be full of terror and awfulness and screaming. "You will feel a slight tingle, followed by death," is the exact opposite of this. If I knew death was coming, I might be scared of dying itself, of no longer being alive, but at least it's a slight tingle, versus fear and pain and screaming and all that. Since I'm not really sure what happens in the afterlife, if there is such a thing, I'd take a slight tingle over a flaming ball of wreckage hurtling from the sky any day.

I also get this sense of vertigo. Or at least I used to call it vertigo; I didn't realize there's a word that may describe it. The definition for occhiolism from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is rather long, but is elsewhere summarized as "the awareness of the smallness of your perspective in the scheme of the universe." I have had one or two flights where I was struck by the absolute beauty and amazeballsness of flying, and was able to contemplate the wonder of being 30,000 feet over the earth... then the 30,000 feet concept strikes. The sheer nothingness between myself and the ground, the weirdness of being this tiny human in a slightly-less-tiny tin can, surrounded by air and sky and clouds, separated from any firmament by thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or millions of miles, and suddenly I'm caught in an emotional vertigo, a speck, a nothing. It's the same sensation I get when swimming, especially in the ocean. Suddenly the depth below me and the height above me (coupled with a fear of something slimy brushing my leg), and I'm gasping with the knowledge of how insignificant I really am in the scheme of things, both physically - in mass and size - and mentally/emotionally. It's not a horrible sensation per se, but the wrenching of perspective from ego-filled-me to speck-of-a-being is dizzying.

All that said, I had a good trip to Puerto Rico. It was laidback; I didn't make it to a drag show or a punk show and completely missed the handwritten sign to a burlesque show just down the street until it was far too late to go. I didn't swim in the ocean (see above), but I did frolic in the waves. I didn't swim with the manatees, either, but maybe next time )

April 2017

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