Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In God's Hands

I'm trying to conquer my fear of flying. I started by connecting it back to when it began, and recognizing the feelings around the fear. That helped, but booking flights to Mexico this fall brought me face to face again with why I'm afraid. My stomach began churning, and my palms felt itchy, and my breathing was tight and tense. I repeatedly stated to myself that I must control my fear instead of being controlled by it.

Our brains are wired to protect us when we sense danger, but long after the danger has passed, we end up with protective measures in place that might not be appropriate any longer. A lot of my fears stem from childhood, so they are well entrenched in my system, and I am not remotely the same person now that I was then.

Trying to look at it objectively has helped me. I need to separate out the feelings from the situation, and understand that I can re-train my brain to think differently about specific threats. As I gain more skills, and learn to live in the light instead of the shadows, my fight-or-flight instincts can become healthier and more appropriate to the situations I find myself in.

I don't want to allow my irrational fears to stop me from traveling with my family. I want to enjoy a vacation and be able to anticipate it without the fear of the plane trip getting in my way. Eventually I hope to do book tours and fly to LA for script meetings and go to movie premieres and I must be able to board a flight and feel calm and happy about my trips. I don't want to grit my teeth and try to make it through. I think it can be better than that.

As my pastor makes his way through his series about death and resurrection, I'm learning to trust that whether I am alive or dead, I am in God's hands. The same understanding applies to all situations which have fear and anxiety as part of them: whether I am on a plane or not, I am in God's hands. Whether I am healthy or sick, I am in God's hands. Faith doesn't mean much until it comes up against that place of hardship and strain. It's easy to believe when life is good, and much harder when it hurts and we feel rubbed raw.

I don't know exactly how to re-train my brain, other than to change the way I label myself. Instead of saying, "I'm afraid of turbulence when I'm on a plane," I can say, "I like to fly and go on vacation with my family." I can think of myself as a confident flier instead of an anxious one. And failing all of that, I can get pills designed to relax me and take them if I need them. The longer I hide from this and try to avoid plane travel, the deeper my fear gets a foothold. I want to be bigger and stronger than my fear. It is an extension of me, but it is not me.

I prayed and asked God to help me. I asked for peace and I found it, deep inside, when I unclenched my fist and surrendered my control issues yet again. If I am always in God's hands, then it matters not whether I am on a plane or on the ground. I either believe that he can take care of me or he can't. I want to find peace and joy in all of my pursuits. When it's missing, I can slow down and ask for direction. We didn't book these tickets until I felt like it was the right thing to do. The fear is not gone, but the peace is there, and I have to believe that the peace can outweigh the anxiety. No matter what, I am in God's hands.

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