Facing Fears

When I was a kid, the taller, faster and loopier the roller coaster, the more I wanted to ride it.

I loved the thrill and exhilaration of riding a roller coaster, but it was more than that. You see, I have always had this weird sense of wanting to prove to myself I could do something that scared me. I know, it’s weird. No one else cared whether I dominated the Sidewider at Hershey Park or the Great American Scream Machine at Great Adventure. It was just for myself, a notch on my own belt, so to speak. And sometimes I’d have to ride solo because no one else had that lust for an adrenaline rush as I did.

Whatever the case, I loved the high I got from such rides.

What I didn’t like was something equally as exhilarating, for example, as skiing–where I would be in charge of my own risk.

Though I grew up in a ski resort town (Vernon, home of Vernon Valley Great Gorge and Hidden Valley fame), I can count on my hands the number of times I skied. I took some lessons when I was thirteen and was petrified the entire time.

I was fast … and didn’t believe in slowing down … and took a few tumbles as a result. But I didn’t enjoy being in control of my own exhilaration levels, if that makes sense. I think it’s the same reason I’d never skydive or bungee jump. I’m willing to take some risks … but not if the potential danger was coming from my own doing.

Which brings me to today.

This weekend Luis and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary! We’ve been together 11 years as of November 10 and our wedding anniversary is 11/18/06 so this weekend was all about celebrating. With him winding down his MBA and traveling and house guests the past nine weeks, it has been a rough couple of months for us as a couple and we really needed the connect time.

When he gave me the gift certificate (plus a gorgeous vase of multi-colored roses) I was totally surprised–what I loved most it was super-creative and fun, something new for us to experience together. He’d never been in a small plane and I had as a small child but not at all recently.

And I’ve always been fascinated by flight — I think I inherited that from my dad; I had little mobile planes hanging from my nursery and he bought Maya a little Red Baron (my fave as a kid) when we visited the Kalamazoo AirZoo when she was just two weeks old. Someday, I hope she is fascinated by flight, too.

Anyway, he told me it would be an intro private lesson and one of us could sit up front and the other in the back, or both of us in the back. He told me to go ahead and choose. Honestly, when I saw the Cessna today, all I could think of was that plane crash that just killed the coaches from Oklahoma State. 😦 So originally I said I’d sit in the back and let him fly.

But then it was just like when I was a kid … that competition inside myself that says, “you will regret not doing this …” and so I opted for the front seat, copilot position. I was intrigued watching the pilot fly and learning how things work, but I was freaking at the idea of flying myself–especially since it was really bumpy up there today.

Once we hit about 2500 feet it did get smoother and she said to go ahead. I lightly put my fingers on the yoke (“steering wheel” to us) and was shocked at how little motion moved the plane — so much, so, that I let go after like 2 seconds (don’t worry, her hands never left her yoke!). I was so proud of myself and I think Luis got some pics on his phone but he’s in Chicago right now so I can’t see them. Anyway, it was a-ma-zing and for as scared as I was … it was a total high.

I’ll be honest–I didn’t love how much it felt we were tilting when she turned — sometimes it felt like we could flip in just a second — but that was part of what made the experience so unforgettable and cool.

Through our headsets we were both just marveling at how amazing it was. Truly, it was amazing. Just like those roller coasters I had to “defeat” as a child, today I can say I beat another challenge. It was so awesome!

Here’s our day in photos. 🙂

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PS–Although he doesn’t regularly read my blog, in case he takes a peek: Luis, this was, by far, our best anniversary yet. Thank you and TQM 🙂

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