Hiking 3 1/2 hours up a steep mountain? Lovely.
Riding 7 minutes down on the gondola? Spear your hiking pole thru my heart and call it a mercy killing.
I’ve turned into a 40-year old acrophobe. And I blame it on my start-up.
Here’s the back-story:
This past summer, my husband and I went day-hiking up Bald Mountain in Idaho. Perfect excuse for exercise, communing with nature and accomplishing a goal. Who wouldn’t feel good after that?
We made our way up the mountain in the shade of the gondola. The free ride down was to be our reward. Three hours later, I bounded, thrilled to be sitting down on the cushioned seat, happy for the beautiful scenery in front of us.
That was until we began the descent. My stomach immediately lurched and my only vision was of the gondola slipping off its rail and careening into the rocks below.
I was afraid of heights? What the hell!?!
As a teenager, I loved rollercoasters, cliff walks and skyscraper viewing decks. I savored the take-offs of airline flights, I jumped from the high-dive platform without hesitation and I never lowered the security bar on ski lifts. But now, in the safety of Swiss-manufactured steel cage, I got light-headed, starting negotiating with God and ended up with my eyes closed, humming “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” until we reached the ground. I figured it was a gondola thing. No more Swiss transportation for me.
But last week, it happened again on the plane ride home our Christmas vacation. The flying scared the shit out of me! Consistent turbulence and the sight of snow-capped mountains just below the wing tip sent me into a panic attack — sweaty armpits, shallow breathing and shaking arms included. We were all going to die! I shouted to my earphoned kids “I LOVE you!” They nodded and kept watching their movie.
A few days later, while skiing, I found myself holding tightly to the chairlift bar, wondering if a gust of wind could send our chair tumbling down a ravine.
What on earth was happening to me?! I was unraveling at the seams.
I know the phobia of heights has plagued thousands, but for me, it was new. A NY Times article (“Can A Playground Be Too Safe?”) discussed growing trends of acrophobic children due to the lack of high climbing equipment at parks and gyms. Maybe I just needed practice bungee jumping and climbing ladders? My husband suggested that I just needed rest. But I blamed it on the start-up. The stress and pressure of building a company, raising two children and not letting my muffin-top of fat overcome ALL of my jeans had made me afraid to leave sea-level. Maybe I couldn’t handle it all?
No way! I thrive on multi-tasking.
So I started researching late-in-life phobias and strategies on how to overcome them (without a cockatil of heavy medication and vodka). Turns out, the fear of heights is often most caused by a simple fear of dying; a greater realization of one’s mortality. For some reason, I’m more afraid now of dying than ever before. Hmmm.
Could it be that now, with a loving family and a start-up launching in April, that I am more in-love with life than ever before? Could it be that the “pressure” to juggle my family and ambition is, in fact, engaging me more in life? That I want to live more than ever?
Well, well, well.
That’s a spin on stress and aging, isn’t it? Life is simply getting more interesting and I, more anxious to live it.
I’ll take it. Here’s to a promising 2013… and lots of fear of dying.