Scaredy Cat

As I get older, I seem to be scared of more and more. Not quite everything. And it’s not like I’ve come to be overwhelmed with a paralyzingly fear that keeps me under the covers all day. But it’s enough to make me think.

I noticed it the other day on a flight. We were going from Peoria to Baltimore. Via a thunderstorm. On a commuter jet (the only real option flying in and out of an airport tucked among endless cornfields). It was kind of funny when my 9 year old commented on how small the door was to the plane as we were boarding. She’d never been on a plane that small. It wasn’t as amusing when the flight hit turbulence, even if she did try to convince me it was just like being on a roller coaster. I don’t like those, either. Despite her best effort to soothe my nerves, I found myself thinking horrible things. First, I’d chant in my head “turbulence is just a bumpy road… turbulence is just a bumpy road.” Then I told myself that planes don’t just fall out of the sky. They don’t, do they? Finally, I began to wonder if people on doomed flights realize something is terribly wrong (what’s that thunking noise?) or if it just happens and they, hopefully, pass out and have no idea what’s happened. Does everyone on the plane have this mental conversation? At least some of them? As long as I’m not alone… and as long as I’m not sharing this inner dialogue with the pilots, I’m ok. Right?

The oddest part is… I don’t consider myself afraid to fly. I never pass up the chance to fly somewhere. And I’d far rather fly than drive, even if I do spend most of the flight gripping my arm rest so tightly I may leave a mark.

When I’m safely on the ground, sometimes I find myself worrying about ending up a single parent. Not because I think my marriage is going to end, even if I have lately been picking spats when I know better. I worry that I’m going to end up a widow before I even get my daughter to high school. I’m not really old. Neither is my husband. Ok, I’m actually older. But I am turning 45 in a couple of weeks. Forty five. Old enough that a few days ago when I was having trouble breathing and felt an unrelenting pain in my ribs and back, I googled heart attack symptoms in women. Then promptly had a panic attack, called my husband and insisted he leave work immediately, went to my doctor’s office where I was declared to have a pulled sternum muscle and an over active imagination then sent home with a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug to get me through the weekend. Because I needed to calm down and get some rest. And stop making doctors stay late over pulled muscles.

And while 40 is the new 30 and all that crap, I have recently realized that when the media is referring to middle aged people, they mean me. Really, I’m lucky if I’m middle aged. That would mean I’ll live to see 90. What scares me is that my mother died when she was 60. Six months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on her birthday. If I live as long as she did, then I only have 15 years left. That’s how long I’ve been married. And that’s gone by in a flash. Shit. I don’t like the idea that I’m going to be done that quickly. I suppose that’s what prompts people to make those ubiquitous bucket lists. Which I refuse to do.

But I have noticed I have a burning desire to do something out of character for my birthday. You won’t find me jumping out of an airplane. Not unless I overhear the pilot repeating to himself: turbulence is just like a bumpy road.. Turbulence is just a bumpy road. (we are passing through some clouds now as we make our approach into Detroit… Bumpy road, bumpy road, bumpy road. Does the flight attendant look concerned? Damn, can’t see her. Why are clouds bumpy, anyway? No, don’t tell me. I probably don’t really want to know.) No, my wild turning 45 plan is to not plan. Throw caution to the wind. Wait to see if there are any last minute flight deals out of Peoria and if not, just throw our bag in the car and drive. To somewhere thrilling like Wisconsin. What has happened to me that driving to Wisconsin is something to look forward to? When in the Midwest… I’d love to just show up at the airport and hop a flight to anywhere. But there are two problems with that. First, the flights from here hardly go anywhere. And second, that would seriously cut into my Pottery Barn budget. And since there isn’t a Pottery Barn here (naturally), my budget has to include shipping. It isn’t cheap.

Since my birthday probably won’t include lounging on a secluded Caribbean beach or having high tea in London, I figure it should at least include a little self reflection. Starting with why life is getting so scary.

My quick list of things I have recently noticed I am afraid of:

Bugs (granted, not a new one)
Taking off (in an airplane)
Clouds (in an airplane… I like them well enough floating overhead)
My daughter not doing well in school. I spent half my life worried about my own grades, now I have to worry about hers.
Having my writing be rejected (so I have stopped writing. good choice, huh?)
My health
My husband’s health
Having to support myself again one day

There isn’t much I can do about anything on that list. Except let go. Enjoy what I have. Try to let 45 just be a wonderful year. It’s just a number… it’s just a number… it’s just a number.

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