I am absolutely fucking terrified of flying. I have a deep-seated – I think, fully rational – fear of heights. Or maybe falls. The reality of hurtling through the sky in a tin can actually horrifies me.

Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.

Add in the facts that I appear to have been seated in front of the world’s most irritating passenger, that my connecting flight has been cancelled and rerouted through Dublin, and I’m not in the best of moods leaving Montreal for home.

As the woman behind me crunches into another mouthful of potato chips whilst simultaneously kicking my seat and loudly chortling with her compatriots, all I can think is “Please don’t let me die while I’m so very very irritated.” It seems a shame to face my imminent demise whilst in such a negative headspace.

Once more I’ve been seated by the window, with a couple occupying the two seats to the outside. They seem pleasant enough humans; at least not actively irritating, but they’re settling in for sleep. Good for them! But bad for me, with the loominginevitability of bladder emptying needs on a 5.5 hour flight.

It’s been deeply and ruthlessly bred into me that I must not be a nuisance. Especially not to strangers. Isn’t that a bit fucked up? We were brought up to believe that as members of family, our needs were somehow worth less than those of random strangers we might interact with. I think my brother is doing a better job of shaking this indoctrination, as he challenged my apologies to people I was interacting with who were causing me inconvenience. It’s just, more than anything, my instincts tell me not to make a fuss.

That said, passive aggressive bitching that you might hope to have overheard is just fine.

I’m trying to break myself of these life-time habits of thought and action. I’d like to hang on to stuff I truly get use from and believe myself as an adult; stuff that fits with my own priorities and world view. But it’s a pretty tangled up mess in there and it’s not always easy to differentiate between habitual beliefs and true beliefs. And, of course, I get tired of constantly questioning myself, of stopping and thinking. And I get tired of being reasonable.

If I were to answer a questionnaire or some online quiz about my thoughts regarding humanity, I’m pretty sure I’ll be checking boxes on the sympathetic – nay empathetic – side. I’m pretty sure I’d check the “mostly inherently good” option. But if I examine my gut reaction to actually existing in human spaces, I’m not really sure I totally believe that.

I find interacting with people exhausting. I find common spaces irritating and unpleasant. Well, unless we’re all spread out, or I’m spread out away from people, then I quite enjoy it. But the cramped confines of airplane travel is something I find triggers huge irritation response. I hate being touched by strangers. Actually, while we’re on that topic: why is it that the person whose preference is “less touching” for greetings is the weird one? I don’t want to hug, and I certainly don’t want to kiss people on a first meeting. And if a person is someone I work with, or merely have a casual acquaintance with, I probably never want to do those things. I actually love being physically affectionate with my closest friends and family, but it takes a hell of a lot for me to get to that relationship stage with someone. Anyway, back on topic.

Nope, I can’t. All my anger and hedgehog-assassin senses are firing as the woman behind me digs into the noisiest packaging imaginable. I don’t know what she’s doing to it! Maybe she too has flying anxiety and is twisting it to alleviate her fear. Maybe she blames it for her current unemployed state, or existence in a perpetual state of neediness and self-hate and so is slowly squeezing all life from it. Whatever the cause, whatever the depth of her own sorrows and life-difficulties, I can’t help but hate her (more than) a little bit right now.

I’ve five hours left ahead of me on this flight. And another flight after that before I land on home soil. I miss my family like a hollowness in my chest. But I’m coming home, I’m coming home. I’m winding back that golden thread that connects us, pulling me slowly closer to my home, my safety, my peace.

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