Monday, March 7, 2016

Open water swimming and my fear of flying!

I don't like to fly. Which is unfortunate, because I LOVE to go places.  But turbulence makes me very anxious.  As does being in the air.  And take off. And to some extent landing.  I get panicked on airplanes. I have anxiety attacks. I grab the hand of the person next to me, which is fine when it is my husband, not so cool when it is a stranger.  Basically, flying sucks.

But I want to fly. I want to fly comfortably. I want to be able to go to the places I want to go and have flying simply be a mode of transportation, no more or less stressful than a train or car or bus.  Sometimes stinky, sometimes delayed, but generally ok.

So I signed up for the "Fear of Flying Clinic" run by a non-profit in Seattle. The clinic is held at the Museum of Flight (or as I've come to call it-- the Museum of Anxiety) for two weekends. It culminates with a "graduation flight" together-- to Sacramento and back in a day.

So what does all this have to do with swimming?  Well, my love of open water swimming came up multiple times over the course of the past two days of the clinic, and is helping me overcome the fear.

One of my biggest fears is that the plane will just fall out of the sky.  Turbulence feels that way to me.  I was talking to the pilot who volunteers at the clinic to teach us the science behind flight.  He said that air is a fluid, just like water.  The plane can't just "fall" because the air is there beneath it.  That is when I started working on my airplane as orca metaphor.

The metaphor is that the airplane loves the air like an orca loves the water.  It will swim (fly) along happily.  Sometimes a current from a river flowing into the water will push it aside (strong side wind) and the orca will keep swimming (flying) along, adjusting its course to go where it wants to go.  Sometimes there might be obstacles that create churning water (turbulence from the jet stream for example). The orca just keeps swimming (flying) along its way.  It may not like the churning water, but it does not pose any type of hazard to the orca (airplane).  Sometimes there may be boat wake, that causes the waves to bounce the orca around.  Again, it may be uncomfortable, but it does not pose a safety hazard.

Since I experience these types of currents and wakes and waves when I swim, I can picture myself as a orca (airplane) safe and mostly happy in the water (air). I was first developing the analogy for a swimmer, but realized that the tendency for a swimmer to be high in the water, made some if the details difficult.  For a water-loving mammal like the orca, the analogy can go further.

I'll get to test this analogy next weekend, at my graduation flight! Wish me happy swimming (flying)!

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