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Thursday, December 2, 2010

To do....or not to do...that is the question

After a few hundred miles on the road on Sunday, the last thing I wanted to do was climb a mountain.  I am not very good with heights.  I am not very good with depths, either.  In fact, unless it is flat, stable earth, I am no good at all.  When I returned from my fabulous weekend, Samantha suggested we go to the 'Iron Bridge' to take some pictures of the City. I agreed, albeit half heartedly, and suggested we take the dog.  What I didnt realise was that we would have to climb a rock to get to a very, very high place.  The dog didn't seem to have a problem, but I was convinced he was going to jump over the edge, lead securely fastened, carrying me with him.  I managed to get to the first ledge but had to stumble back down to the car, dog in tow.

I have a list of 'don't like's' that is so long, it would rival the Great Wall of China.  My irrational justifications quite often leave people wondering whether I am off the planet, or they have been transported to a alternative universe. 

Again, in the words of my heroine, 'let's start at the very beginning'.  One of my earlier memories was when I was on holiday, with my parents and my sister, Elise.  I was about six years old and I was watching a two year old swim in the hotel pool.  She was wearing a large rubber ring.  I was terrified of the water and my dad was showing me how the ring would keep me afloat.  I just couldnt go in the pool, and eventually, my dad gave up.  As we were walking away, I heard the girl giggle and decided that perhaps I could do this.  I pulled on my dad's arm and told him I wanted to try, again.  Unfortunately, I had taken far too long to gain the courage and we w
ere already late for dinner.  I vowed that I would never let fear get the better of me, or at least I would push myself to my limit.  Enter my alter ego. 

My alter ego not only has a mind of its own, it also has a voice, a very loud voice.  When I am thinking, 'no way', it perks up with a 'heck yes!' and I am left arguing with myself and my irrational justification. What is irrational justification?  Hold on to your hats, it is going to be a bumpy ride.

I do not like going into the sea.  I will be attacked by sharks.  It doesn't matter where or whether the particular ocean has ever or never had a shark attack or a shark sighting, it will.... as soon as I enter the water.  However, I cannot let my phobia get the better of me, so I enter the water, making sure I have a clear path to the beach should the unthinkable happen.

I do not like flying.  I scan everyone before and during the flight.  If there are no suspicious characters, we are going to crash.  This is very unfortunate as I live on one side of the Atlantic and most of my family live on the other. 

I do not like boats.  They are going to sink.  If ever I have the unfortunate opportunity to sail, I spend the whole time on deck.  My irrational justification for not taking the vessel is that the plane that I chose not to board, will crash into the boat. 

My list of phobias are not particularly interesting but the outcome of my attempting to overcome has often caused amusement.  Phobias have played a big part when it comes to my wish list.  It is split into two.  Part one is 'places to visit'; part two is things to do'. It is the latter that the phobias affect, although the former often requires methods of transport that are not 'Tracie friendly'.

As I said, I realised that if I gave into my phobias I would not do anything.  The advantage to constant fear is that I can achieve a 'thrill factor' from going over a high flyover. Jeremy Clarkson, of Top Gear fame, once said that not being afraid of anything was not always an advantage, as you were always looking for the ultimate thrill (not quoted perfectly but I am sure you get the gist!) 

There are a lot of things with which I do not have a problem.  I can drive any vehicle, anywhere, at any time.  I can swim in a pool quite happily.  I can sit on a beach.  I have even been known to kayak....

My first 'road trip out of State' was through Oklahoma to Arkansas to visit Dana's mum and sister.  His sister, Cindy, lives by a lake and loves to kayak.  My first attempt was very successful, so when we visited again for Dana's mum's birthday, I was happy to give it another try.  Cindy asked if I thought I would be able to make the trip around the 'island' in the center of the lake.  It should take about an hour.  Alter ego shouted in the affirmative before I had a chance to shake my head.  It was quite windy and the waves were choppy.  I was doing very well as there had not been any tales of a Lake monster, and Loch Ness was so very far away. I believe I had heard that the lake was 'man made' so it was in fact just some water, albeit rather deep, over flat, sturdy land.  There was a lot of open water between the shore and the island and I was careful to follow instructions to stop me capsizing.  After sixty minutes we had only made it to the near side of the island and Cindy pulled into a cove.  When she suggested we turn around as the weather was becoming less condusive with our sport, I panicked.  If she suggested we turn around because of the weather then things must be bad.  I asked very quickly, 'where are we headed'.  (I had been told to look at a point and try to travel in a straight line to that spot).  Once she pointed out our destination, I left the island, arms stretched, oars dipping into the water at the right depth, focussed on the boat hut that was by the shore.  Rowing at a speed that would challenge the olympic champions, I made it back to safety in no time at all.  Cindy was impressed.  I knew the adrenaline had kicked in and once focussed, little can interrupt my concentration.  Kayaking had never been on my wish list, but I decided it was near enough to canoeing, so another tick was gained. 

For some inexplicable reason, parasailing was also on my list.

When learning about Columbus as school, I longed to visit the West Indies and, as a surprise, a few years ago, Dana took me, with Samantha, to Jamaica.  Yes, we had to fly.  After a flight on a plane that was rejected by the Wright Brothers, we landed in Kingston and were taken through every pothole that existed between the airport and hotel. 

The next morning, after the 'welcome chat', we went in search of the parasailing booth.  Two ticks in one weekend.  Who could ask for more.  After booking in for the afternoon 'flight', I had a change of heart.  Could I do this?  There was an ensuing argument between myself and my alter ego.  'Yes, I can'; 'No, I can't'  I argued for the next couple of hours and felt I could not go through with it.  However, Samantha managed to sail beautifully through the air and was reluctantly pulled back into the boat with a look on her face that said nothing but, 'amazing!'  The straps were tightened around my waist and I started to rise and rise, and rise.  I was doing very well until I rose above the cliffs.  I looked down and then it happened.  I lost my nerve.  I tried very hard to relax but the panic was far too great, even my alter ego became frightened.  I thought about unstrapping myself but realised the drop would most definitely injure me if not kill me.  The only way to get down was to draw attention to the people down below.  I waved one hand, very quickly as I was not willing to let go of the handles.  Dana waved back.  I waved a little more, pointing down.  Dana waved back.  It was when I started kicking my legs and screaming (not that they could hear me) that I saw Samantha tug at Dana, who was still waving back!  Eventually, I saw him signal to the boatmen, and I was reeled in very, very quickly.  As I hit the boat they raced to the shore.  I lay down in a beach hut for the rest of the afternoon.  Although I had achieved another tick, parachuting was permanently erased from the list.  

A trip to St. Paul's Cathedral, in London, was another challenge.  I love London and all the history that it contains.  Once inside this amazing piece of architecture, I climbed the wide stairs to the Whispering Gallery and then up to the first outside gallery.  I attempted to climb the wrought iron spiral staircase up to the next level, when the fear set in.  I felt as if the earrings were falling out from the holes in my ears, as well as the rings off my fingers.  It took three attempts to climb the steps but I managed, eventually, to continue upwards.  I would like to say it was sheer willpower but the main reason was that there were a lot of people behind me and it would have been impossible to get down.  Once at the top I was given a badge, normally reserved for children, as I was 'so brave'.  I walked out on to the ledge and viewed the City, with my back firmly against the wall and my palms flat against the bricks, all the while telling Samantha to 'get away from the edge'.  Coming down was as hard as climbing up.  I almost crawled down, backwards, and seemed to gain the sympathy of those behind who obviously were in no hurry to reach the bottom. 

When our guests came in March of this year (the gunslinging posse from Stortford), Chara had arranged for a tour around the Capitol Building in Austin, and a private tour to the top of the building.  Only special guests are invited and I managed to walk out on a footpath that overlooked the City from a small porthole, but the final spiral staircase was too much.  I attempted to climb three times but it was impossible for me to climb higher than the third step.  The younger generation managed to get to the top and waved at me from the ceiling.  I told them to 'stand back from the edge'.  I tried twice more to climb further than step three, but to no avail.

I have to listen to the voice of reason.  If I manage to get to the top of anywhere, with difficulty, I have to then come back down. 

Fears and phobias are part of my life and if I can look at them with amusement rather than contempt or concern, I am content.  Of course those around me don't always understand.  If they did, I may never have....another story.

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