On a recent flight from LA back to London, I got assigned a seat in the middle…. yep full squishy sardine style middle seat…
My fellow long-legged travellers will know the struggle is real when it comes to cramped legs on a long haul flight
Despite my preference, I never pay the extra to select an aisle seat. I opt instead for the more trusting (and cheapskate) option of just setting an intention to get “randomly assigned” one 😉
For the last however many dozen flights I can remember though, it has actually worked! So on this particular flight, when I didn’t get my way, I started to feel a little panicked.
Now these days, I am far from being a nervous flyer. A few years back I went through a phase of binge-watching episode after episode of Air Crash Investigation which did trigger an almost crippling fear of flying (surprising much?!). Every time I would hear a strange noise my internal dialogue would run to “what was that? Sounds like the landing gear hasn’t locked into place. This reminds me of Season 4, episode 9! Should I get into brace position now just in case?”. Or “there was a long delay before boarding… were they doing maintenance? I hope they tightened all those nuts and bolts properly! Remember Season 6, episode 2 where the whole tail snapped off mid-flight and cut the power to the hydraulics?”
I know… super productive thoughts to be having mid-flight.
The reason so many people suffer from a fear of flying is because it is the ultimate in “letting go”, trust and surrender. As a passenger you literally place your life in the hands of the Pilots & crew. One of the core themes in my life in recent years has been letting go of control and being able to trust and flow. It wasn’t until I worked on my need to be “in control” all the time (and stopped watching such scary plane crash documentaries!) that my fear of flying just dissipated.
But on this particular occasion, I was definitely feeling a slight sense of anxiety rising up in me at the thought of a 10 hour flight crammed in between two strangers.
I asked at both the check in desk and the gate for a swap to an aisle seat but was told each time no dice because the flight was full.
I had set my intention but then got something different …
Then I tried to change my “something different” but couldn’t …
So at this point, I knew there must be a reason WHY I had been assigned that seat
I accepted this easily and prepared to board, almost excited to find out the why…
“Maybe I’ll be wedged between two gorgeous guys!” I thought, optimistically
“Maybe the plane is going to crash and seat 32H is where I have to be to survive!” I thought, morbidly (residual thought from my years of plane crash documentaries obvs!)
“Or maybe, someone next to me just needs some advice or a shoulder to cry on” I thought, much less selfishly.
I boarded the plane, shoved my bag into the overhead lockers and took my seat. I was joined shortly after by a quiet business-like woman on the aisle (MY seat!) and a much younger looking female backpacker by the window seat.
Interesting… I thought to myself
No Daniel Craig look-alikes or hunky men of any description, no one looking like they need advice or healing… guess that just leaves the plane crash theory for now?
We hadn’t even taken off and I was already 10 minutes into my first movie when I noticed the young girl by the window seat staring out into the distance. Is that a tear? I wondered (maybe a bit too excited that someone DID need my healing touch and therefore the plane crash theory was now off the table)…
It wasn’t just a tear, she was actually proper crying. I took some time to feel what she needed and whether I could help her. In my gut I knew she was feeling alone and would be open to chatting, but I couldn’t think of the right words to open the conversation without her feeling embarrassed. Eventually it came to me and I took my opportunity to make a joke about getting all the tears out now before the air conditioning dried her out. I know… totally lame but it did the job. Her sniffle turned to a half smile and her energy opened to me with relief that she was no longer alone…
For the following couple of hours we chatted about her recent trip, why she was sad to be leaving behind all her new friends, how her life will be changed and her fears of returning home. I shared stories with her and helped her recognize the perfection of everything she’d been through. There was no doubt we both got something out of our “seat placements”.
It reminded me once again that we are always being guided to be exactly where we are meant to be. These days I find it so much easier to just let go and trust in that. In the past I might have allowed my anxiety to escalate and as a result, not even noticed this girl needing some support.
Gifts can come from the most unexpected places. I know that “not getting an aisle seat” in the scheme of life is actually very trivial, but this example is symbolic of the bigger picture.
Next time you find yourself not getting what you want (no matter how big or small it is), ask yourself the following question:
Why do I want it? i.e what does it mean to me if I do/don’t get it? This will highlight your attachment and ascribed meaning to the outcome. From my past experiences travelling I had formed the belief that “If I have an aisle seat, I will have a comfortable flight, I will be able to sleep, get up and walk and go to the toilet without climbing over anyone, and not feel claustrophobically crammed in”.
Having formed that belief (and subsequent attachment to the aisle seat), it is easy to see why I felt uneasy about not getting it. My control mechanism to ensure I have a good flight was to get an aisle seat… but without that, I am in the unknown. Maybe I will get really cramped legs, maybe I won’t be able to sleep and then get to London and be really grumpy and tired and not be able to go to Bingo tonight! Not to mention the dilemma when the person on the aisle seat falls asleep and then you can’t get out to go to the toilet (KARMA alert – that is normally me 😉)
Life has given me a lot of practise in letting go, so now it does come much easier and quicker for me to get into that place of trust and surrender than it used to. I have also learnt that trying to hold on to anything out of fear usually just creates more resistance and tension anyway…
What areas of your life could you benefit from loosening your control on? Do you put restrictions in place around food, exercise, how you allocate your time, money, or even social interactions?
Don’t judge yourself though, everybody does it in different ways. Having control just makes us feel safe because it keeps us in our comfort zone. Try challenging yourself with this – in small ways at first – and then notice how you feel and what it brings up for you. As always I love to hear your experiences and questions, so let me know.
P.S. If anyone ever wants to know about all the potential ways planes can malfunction or crash, then you know where to find me!