I dislike flying, even though I’ve taken many flights to Europe, Asia, and around the United States. In the last ten years, distorted sound and imbalance from Meniere’s Disease with increasing hearing loss in the ear with a hearing aid make airplanes a challenge. Jet engines and sound echoing off hard surfaces roar in my head like a science fiction movie. Garbled announcements make me worry I’m missing something essential like a gate change.
“Just take your hearing stuff out and read the signs,” my son Anthony suggests.
“But sometimes the signs don’t match the schedule. They change the gate without changing the signs.” The howling fans and muffled speaker systems make me feel ungrounded and lost.
“I know,” I say to my sons. “I wasn’t always this anxious, but telling fear to go away is useless. Anxiety is already a Meniere’s Disease symptom, plus I’m lowering medication because of side effects so I’m more anxious than ever,”
“Chill, Mom. Take the hearing aids out and fly to North Carolina. You’ll get help from years of mediation practice.”
“Maybe, and I can ask for a wheelchair.” My gut clenches. My jaw tightens
A wheelchair? Me? I walk miles every day in nature.
“Why do you resist a wheelchair?” my friend asks.
“Pride.” There I said it. “I don’t want to face how confused and unbalanced I am by sound filtered through a hearing aid and cochlear implant in a place with awful acoustics. No! I don’t want to be this fragile.”
Pride is silly considering I won’t see anyone I know and no one cares. Except me. I care.
I was fit and strong until 2013 when Meniere’s knocked me to the ground. I’m ten years older, too, but I judge myself harshly. I’m embarrassed by my embarrassment.
My teacher Marion Woodman used a wheelchair. Did I think less of her? Of course not. I thought she was smart to get the help she needed. Why am I being dumb? False pride is not my friend.
Writing the truth helps me see pride and accept the need for a wheelchair, but when I book my flight, I learn my incoming and outgoing flights are close together in the same terminal at JFK Airport. It’s a straightforward walk, and I won’t need a wheelchair this time.
I’ll do what both my sons recommend and remove my cochlear implant and hearing aid. This trip, I can stand on my own two feet, but it won’t always be that way.
It helps to write about my vulnerability and clarify my shame. Marion was surrendered to the aging process, or so it seemed, but she struggled more than I knew. I’d rather stay connected to the earth, but next time I fly, I’ll say yes to a wheelchair without the drama.
How do you manage traveling or driving on ten lane highways busy with traffic. I used to get in my car and drive ten or eleven hours to North Carolina, but those days are over. What’s over for you that used to feel easy?