Monday, 9 September 2013

fear of flying

Once, taking a much delayed night time flight from the island of Cyprus, where my father and I had attended the wedding of my youngest sister, I fell prey to an overwhelming anxiety concerning the safety of air travel, and our journey in particular, a powerful presentiment of disaster taking an unshakeable hold on my mind. Overwrought by the long waiting, oppressed by the darkness of the night, and longing for home, I became convinced that my father and I would never see our family and our home again, that we would fall out of the sky over land or ocean, thus to perish.

As we took our seats in the aeroplane, I was conscious of a fine tremor throughout my body, a parched mouth and pent up breath escaping my lungs only in small gasps. Once seated, I placed my clenched hands, icy despite the heat of the night, in my lap, closed my eyes for a moment. In that moment, I felt the warm enclosure of my father's hand, taking my own in his, as though I were a child. He did not speak, beyond remarking that my hands were cold, there was no need for words; my desire to implore him to reassure me that we would reach England safely assuaged by the compassionate pressure of his hand.

At present, experiencing an anxiety of the most profound order regarding my ability to draw, I realise that whenever I think about the act of drawing, I suffer the same symptoms that possessed me whilst suspended in the airspace over Europe; a pounding heart, mouth as dry as the desert, chilled, damp, trembling hands, a nervous flutter in the gut. I have not touched pencil to paper, yet am wholly in thrall to the fear of failure, a terror of taking wing and thus becoming vulnerable to the possibility of falling.

Of late, desperate to calm my fright, which is a grave impediment to my practice, I have taken to closing my eyes, and imagining the loving warmth of my father's hand closing over mine, affording me precious comfort, and conferring upon me the reassurance that it will be possible for me to begin to draw once more, even though it may be many months before I feel that I am ready to make the attempt.

 I shall never again, beyond the bounds of memory and imagination, experience my father's tender concern, shall never again be able to take his hand in mine, as I did during the weeks of illness before his death, and as he took mine during that interminable flight from Cyprus, but I have at least the cherished remembrance of his paternal sensitivity, the selfless love he extended towards his family throughout his life, and which guided his every action.

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