Flying into Fear, Part 2

Read Part 1 here

What a strange airline it was!

My fear of flying made every flight I took an exhausting process of dread, panic, relief, and guilt. Mental health issues usually require a variety of strategies to overcome. Healing is more art than science, a process of trial and error with fingerprint individuality. For me, therapy on its own wasn’t cutting it.

I’d heard more than once that information doesn’t help the phobic person, that irrationality can’t be countered with facts. That was not the case with me. I sought out information to set my brain grooves aright. I read Patrick Smith’s book Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, which communicates the science and safety of flight with frankness and humor.

I also started to spend time on the SOAR Fear of Flying forum online, where Captain Tom Bunn puts all manner of fearful flyers at ease with data about planes and the human brain. (In short, planes are a lot more predictable and reliable.) [Read more…]

Flying into Fear, Part 1

PlaneYears ago, I worked with a woman who sold her car after a spider’s nest fell on the roof. Although her husband seemed to have cleared all spiders from the interior, she could not bring herself to open that door. Ever again.

I knew another woman who took anti-anxiety meds regularly on the off chance she’d encounter a snake at her Midwestern office job.

And how can we forget public speaking, all those students who stay home from school on presentation day beset with digestive difficulties as they dread the encroaching next?

Of course, these fears have always seemed irrational to me. By definition, phobias are irrational. Spiders and snakes rarely kill anyone. And public speaking? What’s the worst that can happen? [Read more…]

Peace, My Animal

Mice

“Benedic, anima mea,” I say each night to the mouse that lives behind my desk. I know what the phrase speaks of a soul, but “animal” often has more meaning to me than “soul.” Occasionally I quote Ada Limón’s poem “The Long Ride”: How good it is to love live things, even when what they’ve done is terrible. Her poem refers to a horse that killed its rider when spooked; my benediction forgives the droppings I find next to my paints each morning. In my more ill-tempered moments, I kick the desk before going to bed and hiss, “I’m an island of mercy, mouse.”

Because I am. It’s not that I can’t kill an animal. It’s that I overthink, gather information, and turn it over in my mind, especially when that information unsettles or intrudes. The consequence of so much information seeking is that I hold strange things in my heart, fall in love whenever I’m frightened.

I’m not frightened of the mouse. Given the right opportunity, I’d be willing to kiss its little ears right off. But I’m troubled by its intrusion into my space, by the fact that a living being is running about while I sleep. The mouse is one more thing in a long list of things I can control, one more thing after which I have to clean up. [Read more…]

Waiting for the Blessing

By Lisa Ampleman

Newborn First ChristmasOn Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, my church blesses expectant families. Rejoice, rejoice, we sing, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. A whole people waiting for a savior, families who are waiting for the birth of their baby. The rite is called the Blessing of a Child in the Womb, a small curled-up body in warmth and darkness.

For many years, though, the message to wait, to rejoice meant something very different to me: the lack of a child in the womb. Disappointment month after month.

I began to doubt that my husband and I would ever hold a baby in swaddling blankets. I clutched his hand more tightly as couples walked up the center aisle to be blessed in front of the congregation. Our hands formed the shape of the nursery rhyme: Here is the church; Here is the steeple. I pursed my lips and willed my stinging eyes to stay dry. Or, knowing it was coming, I asked my husband if we could attend another Mass, without the blessing.

Others in those pews, huddled in their winter coats under stark blue banners, have their own yearnings: for employment, for a spouse, for an end to pain or illness. Not all will see fulfillment by Christmas when the church fills with pines and poinsettias.

One of my favorite Psalms says, “I believe that I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living,” not in heaven, but here on earth. Some difficult days, I could hold that phrase like a warm heating stone in my cold torso. Many times, it felt like self-deception to say such things. [Read more…]

Monasticism in Lockdown America, Part 9: Psalms, In the End

Continued from yesterday

 

11826685814_171e060196_mThinking of the psalms as a way to cycle through the entire range of human experience, I recently brought them with me into juvenile detention.

The kids there, on Sunday afternoons, shuffle through automated doors wearing orange jumpsuits and pink booties and take their seats shyly around bolted-down steel tables with me.

These are boys and girls who have likely seen, and felt on their bodies, and heard, what no child should have to see or feel or hear. And after absorbing all they’ve endured and trying to maintain composure, they have probably been kicked out of classrooms for not watching their tongues. For small outbursts, foul language, bad attitudes. Now, in detention, they spend most of their time in lockdown, in cells of their own, alone. [Read more…]


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