We’re flying to New York for vacation. I like to repost this old story sometimes when I’m about to get on a *plane. Mostly because posting it is a ritual, and OCD is not really “curable” so much as “treatable”.
I’ve also been touching a particular stuffed animal on the right foot eight times every day for the past week, but we won’t get into that yet.
So it’ll take a couple hours to fly to New York, which means a couple hours of me white-knuckling the armrest, rocking back and forth and saying, “What was that noise?! Did you hear that?! We’re crashing aren’t we?!!! We’re crashing and you know it and you just won’t tell me!! You would tell me if you knew something, wouldn’t you? WOULDN’T YOU?!!!! No, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know – unless you know something! Why did you just look at the wing?! Is there smoke?! What the hell was that noise?! What was it?!!”
This is after popping a tranquilizer (or two) before the flight. Good thing, too, because otherwise I might become a real asshole on that plane. 😐
So I have a few phobias, flying is obviously one of them, but all of them revolve around some kind of hideous, improbable death caused by things like plane crashes, serial killers, and flesh-eating bacteria.
My New Year’s resolution in 1999 was to spend an entire year studying the world’s religions and pick one that I thought would suit me, so that I could finally stop being so scared of this stuff. I was raised in the Protestant church (sporadically), but something about it never sat quite right with me. Probably the whole “Jesus loves you – unless you don’t love him – in which case fire will rain down on your tortured soul for all of eternity” thing.
Man, talk about a guy who has a problem with rejection! Even when you have the misfortune of dying, there’s still all that judgment!
Just got decapitated on a ride at the fair? Seems pretty bad, doesn’t it? Well, you better pick up your bloody head, your list of sins, and get in line for the pain train straight to Hell. You’re gonna be all, “I just got my head cut off!” and he’s gonna be all, “Remember that time you hit your thumb with that hammer and yelled out my name in vain? Time to pay the fiddler, my child.”
Also the “no dancing” thing. But not unlike putting Velveeta in literally everything, that’s really more Methodist/Baptist specific.
So I sought out a religion that would give me something to believe in, without the threat of burning in hell for all of eternity because I had an impure thought about the rhythm section of Duran Duran ONE TIME. After much reading and research, I settled on Hinduism. You know, like every other navel-gazing white girl asshole in their early-20s.
I studied every text I could get my hands on, started meditation classes, became a vegetarian, and visited the local Hindu temple. I carried the Bhagavad Gita around with me like a newborn baby. When I became tense or frightened, I would chant, “Amaram hum madhuram hum” which means, “I am immortal. I am blissful” – and after a while, and for the first time in my life – I believed it.
I no longer had an obsessive fear of death, because what was death but a doorway? Was I afraid to walk through a doorway? Of course not! I became incredibly centered, calm, and really annoying to be around. Nobody likes a 23-year old who thinks they’ve got it all figured out.
After a year of religious enlightenment, I had to take a five hour flight to Las Vegas. This was going to be the big test!
Balanced, centered, and fearless – I refused a tranquilizer for the flight. I said to my mother, “There’s nothing to fear anymore. Does it really matter if I die? What is this body if not a mere switch-plate for my soul? You and I have found each other so many times in the past after being separated. We’ll find each other again.”
She pursed her lips at me and said, “Uh huh. How about you take one just in case, Maharishi? You can crush it and sprinkle it over your tofu.”
I dismissively waved my hand at her, gave her a hug and a “Namaste” to which she replied, “Whatever. Just try not to sell anyone any flowers at the airport.” I boarded the plane and placed my carry-on bag in the overhead compartment, sat down, and fastened my seatbelt. I had never felt so in control…
…until the plane started down the runway.
Sometime between take-off and landing, the Bhagavad Gita became a paperweight, and my new mantra was, “I’M SORRY, JESUS! PLEASE DON’T LET THIS PLANE CRASH, JESUS! OH MY GOD WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!!!!!!”
Thankfully, the nice old lady in the seat next to me was kind enough to give me her barf bag to hyperventilate into, and she even loaned me her crucifix-embroidered handkerchief, which I attempted to return to her after I’d wrung it out several times with my tears and sob-drool. She politely told me to keep it. I later dropped it into the trash at the airport, along with the bindi that was on my forehead under my bangs.
“It was at that moment that I first realized Elaine had doubts about our relationship. And that, as much as anything else, led to my drinking problem.”
*I realize that by posting this before a plane trip that it’s going to make it double ironic if we’re in a plane crash. You’re all gonna be like, “Oh my god – SHE KNEW!”
One of the most important things to know about dealing with OCD is that you do not have the ability to control things with your mind. Seriously. Here’s the treatment for OCD: Stop acting like you can control things simply by thinking about them or saying them out loud or touching inanimate objects X number of times. That shit will make you crazy.
I also realize that by pointing out said double irony that it’s actually going to be triple ironic if we’re in a plane crash.
Damn it. See you in Hell. I’m off to touch a particular stuffed animal on the right foot eight more times.