I sat there breathing slowly, my eyes slightly closed, and my palms slightly sweaty. I tried keeping my eyes open and taking in the beautiful views, but then I would just think about crashing into the dangerously cold water below, or clipping one of the ridges we were really close to when the plane would drop a few feet in the turbulence. It was a small plane – only 7 passengers and their luggage could fit.
I had my 5-month old baby close to me as I wore her in a Moby wrap, and wrapped my arms tightly around her. I tried to think of as many positive thoughts as I could. “We are safe,” I would chant inwardly. I visualized a protective bubble around us, and every time the plane dropped, I would take a deep breath and try to relax myself.
One of my spiritual teachers taught me to make sure that I had positive thoughts at the time of death, so that my soul wouldn’t be “thrown” into a negative next life. I remembered this – while realizing I was ironically remembering it because I thought I might die – and changed my thoughts to be more positive.
Some girl with a rhinestone headset on kept trying to talk to the pilot, and I wanted to say, “Shut the fuck up and let the man concentrate!” But she was up front and I was tucked in the back. And to yell it would have potentially distracted the pilot.
Before takeoff, the pilot said, “Make sure your seatbelts are on very tight, because it’s going to be really bumpy until we get out past the hovercraft landing pad.”
“Oh, cool!” one of the guys in front of us said. He was a hunter dressed in camouflage, trying to be nonchalant. Once the bumps started, he and the other three men in front of us were silent the entire time. Absolutely silent, and looking straight ahead.
My husband kept trying to give me a freakin’ expedition planner series the whole time, saying things like, “See over there? It seems you could packraft across to that other island pretty easily” or “See that beach over there? I stored some whale bones over there last time I was here. We should hike out there…I think we could get there by gaining that ridge…” He loved plane rides – bumpy or not – for the free flightseeing tour.
Making the most of his thriftiness, I suppose…
I looked at him sternly. “I am not listening to anything you’re saying, or looking at any of those spots, until this plane lands.”
Bumpy rides were never my favorite thing, but ever since I had my baby, I dislike them even more. I almost quit working in the bush entirely because I hate these flights. But I love working with the people in the villages more.
The pilot stayed calm, his eyes scanning all around the entire time, looking for signs of bad gusting winds or topography that would signal possible worsening turbulence in that area.
Maia slept the whole time, enjoying the “rocking.”
We got out of the turbulence and my hands relaxed. Easy conversation began up front. I started to point out the beautiful peaks above the clouds to my husband, asking if he knew their names.
The plane landed and I clapped. I clap every time the plane lands, and have been doing so for years, ever since the entire plane started clapping after our landing on a small plane flight in Nepal. It made sense to me – it IS a miracle that we can get through the air in a huge heavy metal thing. We should be freakin’ throwing confetti every time a place lands!
After my adrenaline subsided, I began to reflect on the different ways we all dealt with the situation: silence, talking too much and too loudly, affirmations and visualizations, visual distractions, feigned humor…
How do you deal with the bumps in life? I don’t think one way is necessarily better than the other – that’s not the point of this post. But what I do think is important is to develop an awareness when we are engaging in one of these activities.
It’s a signal to us that something is making us nervous. Maybe it’s something good, like your Big Crush starting a conversation. Maybe it’s something very objectively dangerous, like my small plane ride in major turbulence (we had two days of cancellations due to weather, and we flew out in a small window of “good enough” weather).
Either way, start noticing what you do. Don’t disregard it – it’s info…just like your emotions are information about what you need or don’t need and whether you are meeting said needs; and just like your when your body has aches and pains, it is telling you it needs something.
Unless what you do compromises other people’s needs – like the woman talking to the pilot in an obnoxious way on my plane (he eventually told her to cut it out) – I don’t think you even need to change these responses unless you want to. Perhaps your response is getting in the way of something you want, or perhaps it is simply incongruent with the way you want to show up in the world.
But definitely know and understand how you respond to life’s little – or big – bumps.
Here are some tips:
1) Recall 5 different stressful/fearful/anxious/uncomfortable situations
2) Do you recognize any patterns in how you handled it? Or perhaps you react a certian way with each different type of stressor (relationship vs work vs financial vs physical danger)?
Assess all areas such as your body (your posture, noticing any tension, shallow breathing, tight chest, etc), voice, hand gestures, eyes (do you look at the ground, make eye contact, or have eyes darting all over the place)
3) Are you OK with how you are experiencing this stress, or is there something about it you’d like to change? For example, I am fine with my method of focus and going inward and creating positive affirmations and visualizations. It works for me, and doesn’t weigh on others, really. I am NOT OK with how I get fixated on the negative when I am sleep deprived, so I’d like to work on that.
4) Share with me below in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!