A few weeks ago I was on a flight to Las Vegas for a conference and was seated next to a young man (probably around 30 which is young to me now) who was obviously new to Denver and struggling with anxiety about flying.  He was “obviously” new to Denver because he didn’t get the air currents surrounding our airport. Living in Denver, turbulence is typical whether you are taking off or landing because Denver International Airport is located on the eastern plains of Colorado where winds are common.

Although I didn’t know the gentleman next to me I swear there were a couple of times where he almost reached out and grabbed my leg out of impulse as he yelped with each bump.  As a therapist I knew the importance of reassuring him that turbulence was common and nothing to be alarmed about.

You get used to it.

In addition to offering reassurances to my fellow traveler that turbulence was normal I also knew distraction was key.  I asked him questions about his travels, finding out where he was coming from and where he was going.  I learned a lot about his journey, his adventures, and how facing his fears had become a thoughtful experience he met head on.  He was delightful, kind, and grateful to me for helping him.

I reflect on him, his mantra about facing fears, and my own experience of learning to hold steady through turbulence. I also note how we tend to get used to the bumps as we navigate our lives and rarely celebrate a successful flight. We learn to ride the airstream and accept the fact that turbulence is part of the experience before we even step on the plane.  We don’t think twice about it.   We don’t hesitate to book the itinerary.

What other option do we have in life?  We could attempt to avoid the bumps but then we wouldn’t go anywhere. Instead, like my fellow traveler, most of us choose to face our fears and do what it takes to get from point A to point B.  We need to celebrate each successful landing along with what it took to get there.  We also need to help our fellow travelers along the way, ask for help when we need it, and cherish the journey itself.

Travel well.



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