Climbing above the fear
(Photo by Robin. 2006)
I once took a great, one might even say magnificent, fall down a long metal staircase in a castle ruin in Scotland. I met a Spirit of some kind on the way down, which may or may not explain why I survived a fall that should have killed me, but that’s a story for another time.
So began, over a decade ago, my fear of heights and long, steep stairs or climbs. Oh, I can go up just fine. I climb and climb and climb, delighting in the workings of my body, muscles straining, skin sweating, lungs and heart pumping pretty hard if it’s a particularly difficult climb. I quit smoking almost six years ago (the anniversary is coming up soon). I think this makes me much more aware of my body and how it works than if I had never smoked although one can never be too sure of such things.
Nope, the climbing is not the problem. As long as I keep looking up, watching where I’m headed, than I do fine. It’s turning around, looking from whence I came, that brings on the fear. Seeing where I am and knowing I have to go back down, knowing that down is the direction in which most people slip and fall, pushes all of my panic buttons. Breathing becomes difficult (as I find myself wishing I had a cigarette to help me cope with this fear; funny how old, bad habits and cravings come back in moments of fear). I break out into a sweat, a cold sweat, one that has nothing to do with physical exertion. I freeze. Panic turns my muscles to stone and for a brief period of time that stretches out forever, I cannot move. Not one step, not one movement, not one twitch, not even one whimper. I am locked in the fear.
Since I’m not currently writing this from the top of a long flight of steps or from halfway up a mountain, I obviously find a way to overcome the panic and make myself move. Sometimes I go back down immediately, missing the pinacle and the great view I was striving towards. I’ve seen many a view from the photos my husband took when he got to the top while I clambered and crawled my way down, the whimper finally materializing as I sometimes slide down the hill or stairs, keeping myself as close to the ground as I possibly can, keeping my center of gravity low, low, low to the ground. Those are the times when the fear is so great that I’m mentally and physically unable to keep going up because I’m sure that if I don’t go down, right this minute, I’ll freeze up for good. I’ll become a statue and turn to stone, forever frozen in my fear, a lesson in fear for others at the halfway point of some great climb.
Sometimes I can finish the climb and I am rewarded with an awe inspiring view, as if the gods have decided to give me a gift for having walked, or climbed, my way through the fear. It’s not an easy thing, overcoming Pan’s contribution to the world of emotions. Then again, perhaps it’s easier than I consciously think. When I surrender and stop struggling with myself and the fear, I can and do carry on.
The hard part is letting go. That often seems to be the case. Most things come easier after I let go, but the control freak in me tries to hold on as hard as I can before it finally dawns on me that to get past this, I must let go.
So, I let go and in the letting go, I can climb. And in the climbing, I soar through and above the fear.