I have a fear of heights. What’s strange is this wasn’t always so. I remember on one ordinary day, I looked down from the top of a boulder that I scaled in Lake Tahoe; it was the first time that I ever visibly shook from fear. I was shocked by my own reaction because until that moment, I had no idea that this fear of heights existed.
As a child, I’d scamper up trees like a squirrel only to leap into a huge pile of leaves that I raked together. I never once thought of death or broken bones. Apparently, my curiosity was more persuasive than my fears. However, as I clung to the boulder that fateful day in Lake Tahoe, I was not only scared of hurting myself but of the 5,000.00 Emergency room bill, if I did. It took awhile and my arms were dreadfully sore but I finally stopped trembling and climbed back down the boulder; my pride, most certainly, wounded.
A few months later, I decided to face my fear of heights in Switzerland by parasailing from its mountain tops. I read about it once, exposure therapy or something to that effect, in which you confront your fears head on rather than avoid them. My thought was what better way to face my fear of heights, acrophobia, than jumping off the Swiss Alps? Although quite breathtaking to sail down over Interlocken’s landscape, it didn’t cure my fears. Instead, I spent the entire flight trying not to pee on my tandem guide. Awesome!
So what went wrong? The flaw in my best laid plan was that I didn’t have any practiced relaxation techniques, etc. so I wasn’t well equipped to overcome my fear although I did feel proud of myself for, at the very least, trying. Plus, what a great conversation piece that I had in my back pocket- I parasailed off the Swiss Alps; leave out the almost peeing part and I look pretty cool!
After my failed attempt, I never tried again, that was until an opportunity arose in Hawaii over the Thanksgiving break. My friends wanted to zip line and at first, I was hesitant. However, I felt that I needed to try to face my fear again in honor of my mother who faced her greatest fear, death. So, I agreed to the 8 line zip with a 9th line that led into a pond within the heart of Maui. At first, I kept my fears to myself and even when I began to shake as I stepped into my harness, I blamed it on too much caffeine.
We piled into a dilapidated van that drove us up a dirt road. Dust made visibility almost zero. Once stopped, we hiked the last few hundred feet and I stood on the precipice. The ocean stretched out in the distance as I stared at the 1000 foot line. "I can do this! I can do this! I can do this!" I thought to myself.
I walked forward and was clipped onto the line. I stared at the vegetative ravine below and took a deep gulp. As instructed, I ran forward and let go. The wood platform seemed to fall from my feet as I propelled along the gulf. The fear that led me here seemed to fall off the platform as well and dissipate into the clouds overhead. I felt nothing but exhilaration.
I knew that this time, I had overcome my fear. Maybe not permanently, but most certainly, it was a pivotal step forward. As the van careened down the hillside, I looked back up the mountain and a rainbow had formed over the ravine. I knew then that my mom was watching and was proud of my achievement. One small step for man became a giant leap towards overcoming my acrophobia. For the first time in years, maybe even decades, I felt free. “Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them…”- Tagore
Next month- look for the requested blogs and remember, my inbox is always open for suggestions...Happy Holidays and may this year be blessed with infectious laughter that makes your side hurt, joy that makes your heart sing and love that keeps you warm on the chilliest of nights....Love and light to all and to all, a good night!