My daughter thinks I am Superwoman, Batgirl, Asthma Girl Runner, afraid of nothing. She knows not that I have a secret fear of heights that at one time was a very open, intense, paralyzing fear. I had this ridiculous recurring nightmare as a child where I was at a nightclub on the second floor, I walked up to the balcony level with the spinning, silver, reflective disco ball, the music was playing, and someone pushed me over the edge……I had this nightmare two decades I think; I did not stop having it until I had lived with my now ex husband for a couple of years and finally felt safe from my parents. I’ve been shrunk plenty, I’m good at this psychoanalysis stuff……so let’s get back to my fear of heights, shall we? I used to go to the mall and almost shake whenever I was on the second floor and would approach the edge; I was afraid of bridges, any and every open height. I spent years working on conquering this fear though, because, quite frankly, it made me angry to be afraid. I was severely pissed off that life had been so bloody traumatic that I had all this stupid irrational baggage, and my fear of heights was something I felt I could beat. I stood over a glass floor in 1996 and I wanted to throw up the whole time, but it was amazing to watch the Toronto Blue Jays play while I stood above them in the CN Tower. Then I went out onto the ledge, a giant, open, towering, windy, horribly intimidating observation deck, and my now ex-husband proposed to me; it was incredibly romantic and sweet and I felt pretty safe, but I had someone to “protect” me.
Fast forward to 2013, I’ve spent years diminishing my fear of heights but that open height fear is still deeply rooted inside me. My date suggests we go rock wall climbing, and since it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and on my bucket list, I happily agree. As the day comes closer, I am nervous, about everything from what I will wear to what my butt will look like as I’m climbing this wall, and whether or not I might pee on myself. He takes me to Urban Krag, an old church made into a rock wall climbing center, and the place is amazing, the juxtaposition of the stained glass windows and the modern rock walls is an amazing sight; it is beautiful, creative, the staff is friendly and helpful. The waiver took forever to complete on an iPad and I just wanted to get this started and over with before I embarrassed myself to death.
Then, certification! The instructions to become certified involved knots and I’m absolutely not mechanically inclined as well all know…..they seemed overly complicated given my anxious mind, but I managed to calm myself and learn it. I had no idea I would be responsible for another person’s life, my date, and learned to belay, and well, that meant my life was in his hands. Talk about trust building he says….hee hee. Nice! So we get through the certification including testing climbing and it’s hard, which I expected, but most of all, it takes huge faith in ME to move from one “rock” to the next, to move a foot and a hand at the same time, I was almost giddy at just 12 feet. Adrenaline…..oh yes! He climbs a wall no problem, it was challenging so he tells me to climb the letters, and that was just the focus I needed. At times I was shaking, quivering, sweaty, asthmatic and terrified but once I got to a certain point and could see the top, I was NOT stopping. Touching the top of that plywood (I think) wall, was even better than when I climbed the mountain years ago…..because I pushed past so much fear in order to get there. I think given my honest expression of my fear during the practice, he was surprised I reached the top, and in fact, I tried to do it again on another wall but I was just too exhausted, my arms were literally done. As a CrossFitter I am familiar with muscle failure, and I wanted to stop short of that. I wanted to live to climb another day.