Fear of flying

cali trip

Last week I did something that I very rarely do which was to take a vacation.  I was coming up on an important birthday (I’m sure you can guess which number I hit) and I wanted to do something very special to celebrate.  For years I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about California but I’ve always made up excuses why we couldn’t travel there.   Then I realized I was being an idiot as the real reason was because I am terrified to fly.

Trying to describe this phobia to other people who don’t have it is difficult.   I come from a family of flyers- my brother is even an airline captain.  I’ve flown quite a bit- especially when I was younger as my parents suffer from wanderlust, and I’m familiar with the experience of it.  I know the stats and how safe it is, but it doesn’t matter.  The second I see the airport and all the planes and the people, my body lurches into a state of panic.  I just see fire balls in the sky and want to cry.  I’ve never flown with John and although he knew about my fear, he couldn’t believe how deep and menacing it was until he experienced it first hand.

Even before we boarded the plane I went through the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief.  There was actually a sixth stage which was blind panic, which I favoured but I also spent a lot of time in denial and depression with the occasional comatose stage of acceptance.   I had two solid vodka tonics in me which helped dull these sensations but it wasn’t enough.  We boarded the plane and the nice flight attendant gave me another vodka tonic which I chugged back in front of him (much to his horror) before he declared that I belonged in a frat house.  The journey itself was fine until we hit turbulence over Utah.  It came out of nowhere and it was startling.  People screamed- I was one of them and likely the loudest, then I cried and shook for a while. After that, I found myself under the suspicious eye of the flight attendant as I was probably labeled ‘high risk’ or some other term they use for unpredictable drunk artists.   John was good- he did his best to console and calm me and he even let me tear the skin off his hand to help distract myself.

However, it was all worth it.  California was breathtaking in spite of the drought.  We spent some time at Mr. C’s in Beverly Hills before going up the coast to the Biltmore in Montecito and Santa Barbara where I couldn’t get over the ocean views and gorgeous architecture.  We went back to Los Angeles and stayed at the magical Chateau Marmont in one of their garden cottages that we nicknamed ‘The Mildred Pierce’ as it was authentically out of the 1940’s and was very special.

The trip back was significantly easier, mostly thanks to the harrowing taxi ride from West Hollywood to LAX in  a record breaking 17 minutes.   After that, I was more than happy to take my chances with the airplane.

6 Responses to “Fear of flying”

  1. Haha, I love your description of the flight over to California! I totally understand and relate in the series of emotions you feel. Once i board, I always give myself the same lecture of “why am i putting myself in this position again?! Im pretty sure this is the last time I will ever fly!” But then once I arrive back home again I am planning my next trip! Traveling is too much fun to get caught up in the fear of it, I would miss out on way too much fun and beauty! And I notice the more I fly and dont listen to that fear the more it doesnt bother me. It will never be one of my favorite things to do but its worth it for the end result!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing and I LOVE your art, its truly amazing!

  2. It is so hard to explain a true phobia to others, I know. But I am so glad you overcame yours to take this beautiful trip – the photos are gorgeous and it sounds wonderful. Your description of your experience, both flying and the vacation, is very entertaining, much like your paintings! (While my feelings about flying to not reach the full criteria of a phobia, I really really hate it and fear it – yet love to go places. It’s a difficult battle, but every time I fight it, I am so glad – and it’s an excuse to give myself a pat on the back for ‘overcoming another obstacle’… cant we all use as many pats on the back as possible?!) 🙂

  3. Cathy Winhold

    nicely put Janet and now that you experienced this amazing trip to California – let the adventures begin!

    Love your writing- keep it up my friend.



  4. I’m so glad you braved it and enjoyed California! I have flying anxiety, too (I tend to get airsick as well) but not quite as bad as you, I think. I much prefer car trips, but our vacations to California and Maine required air travel and they were so worth it, too! Happy Birthday!

  5. Sounds lovely! I would love to see your paintings of images of california.

    Love your art. mandy

  6. I’m so happy you made it to California!! :)I live near Santa Barbara in a small town called Ojai. I love your art and your sense of humor cracks me up! I wish you had a true “dog governess” like the one you paint and write about…my little mini dachshunds and I sure would love that! Well, I hope you venture out more by plane…it is a bit uncomfortable and scary to fly, I must admit. Thank you for sharing your great art! I love it!


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