Sometimes I stop what I’m doing and trace the contrails in the sky. I imagine little tiny faces peering out from windows swaddled in clouds as thick as condensed milk and I wonder…
There was a season in my career when it was necessary to travel to Las Vegas every week. While my colleagues enjoyed a short flight and a cocktail, I loaded my luggage into my BMW and drove seven hours across the desert and that was just one way. When asked I would say that I loved the landscape and time to be alone. I lied.
Sometimes I would stop what I was doing and trace the contrails in the sky.
My daddy was a small aircraft pilot who viewed flying a plane like riding a motorcycle or driving a sports car at high speeds. On our birthdays, we were invited to bring two friends on a scenic flight across the Kansas wheat fields. I always got sick.
When the President of the company I worked for finally asked why I preferred to drive rather than fly, I looked him straight in the eye and replied, “I have a significant temporary fear of flying.” There. I had said it. Thinking he could be of some help, he brought me a little booklet written with the intention of helping people like me overcome our angst. I remember my favorite line vividly, “The only thing there is to fear is the people on the plane.” Two weeks later 911 would come to pass. It’s a really good thing I loved my BMW.
But still, sometimes I would imagine little faces eating dinner on tiny plastic trays and I would begin to cry.
There is nothing on this earth more tragic than fear. It steals the life we have, fretting in the moment, and robs us of the possibilities that only an unfettered mind can dream.
Then, just like that one Sunday, everything changed. I checked into my flight. I found my seat. And just as the door was about to close I de-boarded the plane. I sobbed from the other side of the fuselage all the way home wondering how I allowed my fear to get so completely out of control. Sometimes it takes severe mercy, a collision of doubt and faith, to change the trajectory of everything.
Two weeks later I was enrolled in a Fear of Flying course that took me four weekends to complete. Along with learning about “redundancies” and cabin pressure I discovered notebooks full about who I really am.
I think life is about the white streaks against the sky. Evidence that we come and go. That we are here and then we are not. That we chase our dreams and uncover our identities in distant corners and run to the arms of the ones we love no matter how complicated the journey or how far.
Across the world, or even, just there across the room, we sacrifice our fears, lay them bare and crack them open so that the very best of us can take wing and fly.
Over the last several years I have traveled throughout my beloved France…
to tiny villages that embody the essence of the mantra that has been my constant traveling companion—
Small Space. Big Life.
—And I have laid to rest my fears.
IMAGES CAPTURED: Saint-Paul-de-Vence, breathtaking ancient hilltop cemetery—Departement des Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France