As my three children know, I have certain fears or phobias. These aren’t the kind that are so extreme I shake or go into shock with their mere mention (although the mention of cock roaches or rats comes close), but they have prevented me a few times in my life from doing things that normal people would do.
I mostly attribute these fears to my upbringing as an overly-protected only child raised by parents who were terrified I might ‘hurt myself’. I don’t actually know the specifics of their fears — broken limbs, being attacked by a rabid dog, falling onto the subway tracks with a moving train bearing down on me, but those were the immediate things that sprang into my vivid imagination. I railed against their ‘fear mongering’ as a child, but that didn’t stop me from realizing, as an adult, that their fears had in fact stifled my curiosity and interest in doing many things.
I was afraid to ski, afraid to climb trees (not that I was, as an uncoordinated and decidedly ‘frilly’, unathletic girl inclined to try anyway), I was afraid of ferris wheels and most definitely, roller coasters — anything where I was hanging way above terra firma counting on a piece of wire, some questionable machinery or small pieces of wood or plastic attached to my feet at the top of a huge hill.
I was also afraid of large ships sinking in the ocean.This phobia was of my own making since, once, as a child, I watched a news clip of a sinking ocean liner and could not get it out of my mind. This, admittedly, is a weird one since I lived nowhere near an ocean (except for 2 years in Vancouver where I was born and as Television wasn’t even around then and I likely wouldn’t have ben watching the news even if it had been)I was even reluctant to see the movie Titanic when it came out since I didn’t think I could handle the sinking part. But I did watch it –or parts pf it — and so began my re-programming against fear.I finished this re-programming a few years ago by going on a Caribbean Cruise with a friend from California. It was a small vessel with only 150 passengers, and was equipped with beautiful sails…and, of course, a REAL computerized engine. To my utter amazement, I loved it!
During last year’s trip to Australia, I conquered yet another fear. The Man in My Life and I had a chance to take a gondola ride up a mountain to see vistas over town, mountains and ocean. I hesitated but reluctantly agreed to try it. Ah, the things we do for love! I didn’t want him to think me a complete wimp. It too was fine. I was beginning to see a pattern. Perhaps my parents really were crazy! (Most young people reach this revelation in their teen years, but as we can see from the current discussion, I was a slow learner.
Then My Man and I tried a trip up another mountain in a cable car in the coal mining region. We were facing backwards going up so we could see the mountain, then frontwards to see the vistas coming down. As we reached the top on the way up, we went into total darkness. I admit it; I freaked out — just a bit. But I held it together and actually enjoyed the trip down with the magnificent views. One more fear conquered, stricken from my list. At this rate, by the time I die, death will be my only fear!
This year in New Zealand, another gondola ride up a mountain. I was fine going up but as we began our descent, as the car hooked onto the cable, it clunked a bit as it grabbed on, then tilted up uphill ever so slightly, then began its descent…fast! I clutched My Man’s leg and started shrieking. Not a piercing scream, just a little tentative bit of one. I was leaving room for escalation should the need come –if we continued going at this speed down the mountain. Thankfully, it evened out and went at a lovely, sedate clip…sedate enough for an old lady with high blood pressure and raging doubt.
And my final fear-conquering moment was a trip in a very small plane over a glacier in New Zealand. When I first saw the planes on the tarmac, I gulped. It reminded me of my scary trip to Havana years ago. I flew from our resort(my other friends were going on a different day excursion) to Cuba’s main city in a Russian cargo plane from, I’m guessing, the 40s. The only good thing about the plane was that there were no windows to speak of — so I couldn’t see what was happening: ie., when the crash was coming. As we descended into the airport in Havana, something that looked a lot like smoke began billowing from the air con vents. Was it smoke? Was it condensation? We didn’t know but the entire load of passengers started praying. (I assume the rest of them were praying to a god; I was merely asking the universe that protects small children and fools. We landed safely but the plane was delayed a few hours on its return trip for repairs…I know about lack of parts and the ingenuity of the Cuban mechanics, but I was less than enthusiastic about getting back on the plane. However, it was that or walk hundreds of miles back to the resort…and I was wearing strappy sandals!
The small plane in New Zealand, I was comforted to discover, was modern, comfy, and perfectly safe. The day was clear with brilliant sunlight and the view of the glacier and the stunningly blue lake on the top was worth the ride and a few tentative, rapid gulps of air.
My kids (especially Gill) remind me occasionally of the roller coaster ride they guilted me into taking them on just after my divorce. I felt it was my duty (even though I was terrified) to help them have some fun at Wonderland. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was pale, my fingers clenched tightly on the bar in front of me, and I was convinced I would die of a heart attack or stroke. I didn’t, but that was the only time I ever went on a roller coaster. I have gradually learned to conquer these other phobias, but NEVER ROLLER COASTERS!!! Gill, you and your siblings are welcome…I went through that for you all!