How I Lost Control When The Planes Crashed


Many years ago, I had a lesson in surrendering.

Now, I’m not very good at it.

Surrendering, that is.

I’m a problem solver and will work and work a situation to find a solution.

I like to do that.

I get energized by the process.

But sometimes we just have to accept things as they are.

They are what they are.

Many years ago, I took a domestic flight. I was one of only two international passengers on the flight.

But this wasn’t the US.

It was a developing country.

The first American fast food restaurant was still six months away.

(As I write that, I see those last two sentences could be construed as oxymoronic.)

The plane was on the runway and as we boarded the crew were standing by the doors.

But instead of the welcome I was used to, the passengers were met with stony-faced indifference.

I sat down and if I hadn’t already realized this was going to be a less pleasant flight than the ones I was used to, I got it when the food was distributed, thrown at us by the flight attendants.

When I pulled down my table from the back of the seat in front of me, crumbs and other remains of the meal eaten by the passenger who’d inhabited the seat before me fell in my lap.

And this was before the flight started.

I’d resigned myself to a low-level of customer service and resolved not to eat the hard, dry biscuit that exploded to powder when I bit into it and which constituted my meal.

So I sat back in my seat to enjoy take-off, my favorite part of any flight.

As we taxied along the runway, I looked out at the airfield. This was not a swanky, modern, architectural beauty of an airport.

It was a few buildings in the middle of a field.

That could have done with a bit of weeding.

As the plane increased its’ speed, my attention was brought to items on the grass by the side of the runway.

First, a wing.


Next, a cockpit.

The door hanging open.

I couldn’t quite believe my eyes.

A fuselage, tail, another wing followed.

All recognizable but burned.

All in all, I counted the remnants of one and three quarters aircraft.

In pieces.

Now, I’m no airplane buff.

But my Dad is.

I went to so many airshows as a child, I knew more about the different types of WWII plane than it is reasonable for any child aged four to know.

I knew what I was looking at.

I was looking at the remains of a plane crash.

Or three.

And looking at them while sitting on a plane I couldn’t get off.

It was not reassuring.

Not reassuring at all.

So as I passed this sight, looking out my little window, wondering if my parents would ever see their only daughter again, I considered my options.

I only had one.

I couldn’t get off. I couldn’t influence what happened.

I had to see the flight through.

And a funny feeling came over me.

I sunk into my seat and relaxed. No pushing or trying or discussing or worrying.

I. just. relaxed.

It was awesome.

Sometimes we need to know when to stop the relentless push, push, push.

We all have limited resources and we need to balance if the goal is worth the energy needed to achieve it.

We have to consider the opportunity cost – what we will lose if we go after our goal.

And we have to accept that sometimes disappointment and helplessness are our lot.

That we have less control than we would like.

Obviously I survived the flight and took two similar flights afterward.

The final flight was out of the country to an international destination and that was a very different experience.

Obviously, international reputations are a concern while internal domestics are another matter entirely.

Such is the nature of the free market, respect for individual rights and regulation.

And lack thereof.

Problem solving is cool, choice is great.

But sometimes we get out of whack, out of balance.

We become just like the wreckage of those planes – empty, hollow.

Burned out.

The irony is that I had this awesome feeling of surrender in a place where I had no options.

Resting, handing over the control to someone else is difficult.

We want to be alpha females, to nurture, to help, to fix.

But sometimes we need to stop.

Just stop.

Wave the white flag. And let happen.

Whatever will happen.

Do you find it hard to surrender? Do you want to fix everyone’s problems? How do you feel when you let it all go? Let me know in the comments!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary E. Ulrich
May 18, 2011 at 3:57 am

Holy McMuffin! Did any of the other passengers notice the other plane wrecks? Did you ask the attendant about them?

I’m not good on the surrender thing either. I think that’s a basic strength and flaw of Warrior Women.

Alison, It sounds like you handled the experience well and concentrated on life lessons instead of the “what ifs” –congrats.
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Alison Golden May 18, 2011 at 9:46 am

Holy McMuffin. I like that. If I start using is McD’s gonna come after me, though? I think in the country I was in, plane wrecks on the side of the runway must be commonplace. Certainly didn’t seem to raise much comment among those around me as far as I could tell (I didn’t speak the language.)


SuzRocks May 18, 2011 at 7:01 am

Many, many, many times have I just had to let go and smile and realize whatever is going to happen is going to happen. It’s always reasuring when you see a crashed plane next to the runway….

I usually feel more relaxed when I let go. More at peace…I’m trying to get better at it.
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Alison Golden May 18, 2011 at 9:47 am

It *is* peaceful to let go, that’s the beauty of it in my opinion, Suz.


misty May 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I would have peed my pants, (which, from the sounds of it, the seats were probably used to) and THEN eventually come to the same resolutions you did… you are just WAY quicker and better than me:)
wise, wise words…
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Alison Golden May 18, 2011 at 7:57 pm

It’s certainly true I didn’t get up to use the bathrooms, Misty. And after my food tray experience, I didn’t look around too closely at the rest of my environment. I figured it wouldn’t matter too much in the final analysis.


Karen P. May 19, 2011 at 8:17 am

Yes. I have an irrational fear of flying coupled with an obsession of plane crashes. And lately I’ve noticed this letting go happening during take-off, that whatever will be, will be. That those decisions were made as soon as I bought the ticket. Thank goodness, makes for less acid reflux during the flight. 😉


Alison Golden May 19, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Yuck, acid reflux on a flight, not fun. Not fun at all. 🙁


Lin May 19, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Wow…what an experience! I work for an airline as part of my “day job,” and it is amazing what a different experience international flying can be. The standards are just entirely different, which is, of course, a really scary thing!

I also really appreciate the analogy here about just letting go. It’s something I struggle with constantly, so I always appreciate the reminder! Great post!
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Alison Golden May 19, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I know! Best not to think too much about those different standards, IMO. We’d never go anywhere interesting. 🙂


Glynis Jolly
May 19, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I used to want to solve all the problems but age has made me a little wiser. Remember the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. . . and it’s all small stuff.”? Since taking on this mindset, I’m enjoying life a lot more.


Alison Golden May 19, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Sometimes I have a hard time deciding what small stuff to deal with and what to leave. Recently I’ve abandoned my dependence on to-do lists and rely on my subconscious to tell me what’s important. When I’m not sure what to do next. I stare out the window (or some such) and it comes to me like magic!


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