flying phobia

flying phobia

You want me to get on an airplane? Drugs, please.

ANXIETY RUNS IN MY FAMILY. So do large foreheads and potbellies, but those don’t prevent me from getting on an airplane. I’d avoided flying the anxiety-filled skies for the last ten years, but now I would feel like a wimp if I told my best friend– who was 600 miles away, alone with a newborn, and in need of my assistance–“hey, I got the weekend off and found a really cheap plane ticket, but I’m too scared to fly, so sorry, you’re on your own.”

I would do it. I would go. But to board a plane, I would require drugs.

When I was a psychotherapist, I discouraged clients from relying on psychiatric medications. Meds are Band-Aids, I would say. They don’t fix the problem; they mask it. You should only use meds if your life is at risk. Like when you are getting on a plane.

My mom – who hates to fly – said her neighbor Sally attended one of those get-rid-of-your-flying-phobia classes that involved facts, relaxation techniques, a tour of the airport, and at the end, a fear-free flight. “Are you kidding?” I asked my mom. “Why would I want to convince myself that I’m not going to die?” That would be tricking myself into a false sense of security while speeding through the clouds at forty thousand feet in a flying tube of death. I did not want my last thoughts in this world to be, “Feet relax. Feet you are relaxing. Feet you are relaxed.” No, I would put my affairs in order, say my final goodbye to my partner Leah, and take my Xanax.

The day of my flight, I posted my last will and testament on Facebook and hugged Leah tightly at the security checkpoint, assuming I was about to plunge to my death in the ocean because the plane’s engines will fail due to some human error, like a mechanic confusing a bottle of personal lubricant with WD-40 – “oops.”

Boarding the rickety commuter plane was as easy as ripping out my own heart with a pair of pliers, but at the last minute, I surprised myself by forgoing the Xanax so I could take Promethazine, a travel sickness pill. This would prevent me from throwing up on the woman sitting beside me, who kindly offered me the window seat and then leaned as far as she could into the aisle to distance herself from my growing pile of grieving Kleenex filled with tears and snot. I tightened the lap belt over my potbelly and prepared to face my death without the assistance of a mind-numbing psych med. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to face my mortality and have my affairs in order, I thought. I tried unsuccessfully to convince myself  of this as the plane bumped along the runway gaining speed.

I survived the two-hour flight, this time. No plane crash, no death by panic attack. And due to my thoughtful drug choice, the other passengers would remember me as the anxious woman with the big forehead who cried hysterically, which is better than being known as the woman who puked on the plane. Did I mention travel sickness also runs in my family?

-Amelia Sauter


will mow for beer

Overgrown yard

I wish my yard could look like this.

THE EARLY HOT WEATHER this spring gave our grass a head start on its annual quest to reach the sky, prompting me to think that whoever invented lawns should be punished by mowing mine.

I’m the one who usually gets stuck with the mowing, not because I’m better at it, but because I’m not as good at everything else. Because my partner Leah wields power tools, she can repair plumbing, hook up a stove, and build shelves. The last power tool I used was the blender, for frozen margaritas.

Since we moved onto our half-acre plot eight years ago, Leah and I have both avoided mowing our vast yard. I protest; I wait two weeks. The grass gets so high that it takes two hours to cut, and to clean up, I need farm machinery to roll the clippings into oversized Shredded Wheat bales.

We thought of overgrowing our yard into a weedy wildflower delight, but the woman down the street already tried that trick. A nosy old neighbor reported her to the village, claiming her self-made field caused a radical increase in savage snakes and swarming mosquitoes at his house. This is the same vigilante who shoots young deer in his backyard with a BB gun and swears he’ll keep Trumansburg civilized.

Initially, I planted substantial flowerbeds in the hopes of cutting back on lawn time. Now when I mow I get to admire gigantic weeds choking scraggly blooms as I push by. For years, my sister planted only plastic flowers around her house. I’m starting to see the wisdom in sticking inanimate objects that require no maintenance into the dirt to look healthy and colorful year-round.

Grazing might be an option in another town, or another era. Woodrow Wilson used sheep to manicure the White House grounds during World War I. To no avail, we’ve been begging the village to allow us to have chickens, so I can only imagine what they would say about sheep or goats. I’m sure our nosy neighbor would have input.

One year, Leah planted literally twenty-three baby fruit trees in an effort to shrink the lawn, not considering it would be years before they cast enough shade to minimize grass growth. Complete with cages and stakes, the twenty-three saplings transformed our big lawn into a big obstacle course that twists and turns around the snickering trees. Because mowing our yard resembles a physical challenge on a Japanese game show, quotes for hiring someone to trim the grass start at $50 a pop. Twenty weeks of lawn mowing will cost us $1000 for the season. That could buy two plane tickets to Florida this winter when the offending grass is long forgotten under the snow.

In a desperate move to make lawn care meaningful, the eco-conscious Leah purchased a push mower, the kind powered solely by human idealism. Like everything utopic in theory, it’s not very functional in reality. It takes two of us to push it, probably because we let the grass get too long, and it seems to cut only every other blade of grass. Leah faithfully sharpens the push mower’s blades once a year, but that’s all the action it sees. Keep your eye on the “for sale” section of craigslist for this one.

I am jealous of well-manicured lawns dotted with intentional, tidy flowerbeds, clearly cared for by someone with either obsessive compulsive disorder or enough money to hire help. Proud owners of such works of art can join garden clubs. I’d like to start a “I’m Lucky If I Mow My Lawn Once a Month” club so I can have something to feel proud of, too.

Yesterday when I cut the grass, I enjoyed the vindication of plowing right over three dead little fruit trees. Three less obstacles to maneuver around. I took such glee in their demise that I felt guilty.

But that’s what it’s come to: I curse the lawn, I curse the unkempt beds, and I curse the trees that laugh at me as I circle around them again and again. My only reward is that mowing the lawn is a good excuse to drink a beer in the middle of the day.

-Amelia Sauter

Amelia wants to know: How do you cope with mowing your lawn? Send your comments below.