Some of All Fears
FEAR. The word itself causes anxiety. There are entire movie genres dedicated to making us scared. Fears can range from the ordinary, like Glossophobia. The fear of public speaking. Other fears can border on the obscure. Chaetophobia and Vestiphobia sound much worse than the fear of hair or clothing but that is what they are. The fear of work is called ergophobia and this one seems ahead of its time.
I don’t exactly have Eisoptrophobia (fear of mirrors) I just don’t believe they are telling me the truth. After spending a few days going back and forth on whether to write this or not, I wasn’t sure if I was procrastinating or if I was struck with the fear of making decisions (Decidophobia). While most doctors are serious most of the time here is some proof that some of them have a sense of humor. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words! Before I go any further I feel I must apologies to any Phobophobia sufferers out there. They of course have a fear of phobias. I’m not sure if there is a fear of not giving credit but to avoid it I will direct you to RecoveryVillage.com where I found these phobias.
Fears and Loathing
My particular fear that gets to me more often than not is Acrophobia. The fear of heights. I am not sure if the fear of heights is an accurate description. More of a fear of gravity pulling me off something tall and placing me, not so gently, on the bottom. So more of a fear of plummeting.
As fears go, I feel that Acrophobia is probably up there with one of the top in the world although I haven’t figured mine out completely. I am not scared of flying, which is about as high as you can go. Nor am I scared of ladders. I can climb a ladder to a roof but I can’t step off it onto the roof. In my mind since the ladder is touching the ground, I am still on the ground. The roof however is touching the house and is not directly in contact with the ground and therefore suspect. Don’t ask me how it works. It’s my crazy and I own it.
Many people have asked me how it is that I can walk up on mountains and still be scared of heights and the roof thing is best I can come up with. The one and only time I hiked to the top of a 14er I was perfectly fine the entire way up and then froze at the top. I have hiked for miles on edges with no problems only to freeze when I finally looked down. But I am getting better. Like the monsters under the bed when you are a kid, some fears can be conquered if you work hard enough.
Bridge Way Way over Troubled Waters
This brings me to my latest attempt to conquer my extremely rational fear of heights. The Royal Gorge Bridge. The Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in North America. Officially it stands 956 or so feet above the Arkansas River and stretches 1200 feet across the gap. Unofficially, and strictly by my estimation, it is roughly 3 million feet tall and 2.5 million feet across. The bridge was built in 1929 and supposedly can hold over 2 million pounds if you believe in math. But could it hold one Fatman?
People always say that conquering your fears is a good thing and it shows growth or something like that. I don’t know that I agree with that entirely. I can say that conquering fear can be good but some fears are rational. Am I scared to jump out of a plane? Yes. Would I jump out of one if it was going to crash and it was my only hope? Maybe. Would that conquer my fear? Absolutely not!
I think the goal of trying to conquer a fear is better described as building up strength. William Faulkner said, “You cannot swim to new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” Faulkner didn’t have Google Maps. But there is truth that you don’t know what is past the fear until you step past its grip.
Mind the Gap
So step past the grip of fear I did. I stepped onto the rickety (not really) bridge in the clouds (nope). With each step I took my legs wobbled like a drunken sloth (true). The wind was blowing at least 100 miles an hour (light breeze) and boards fell a thousand feet to the waiting rapids below with each step. (where do I come up with this). As I got closer to the middle I made the mistake of looking down over the edge. My stomach leapt to my throat and my feet were instantly encased in concrete. (mostly true) I couldn’t move (for a moment) and then I remembered its just one foot after the other.
The scariest moment was in the middle of the bridge when a gust of wind started to blow my hat off. When I reached up to grab my hat I had an quick bout of vertigo. The rapid movement made me think I was falling. I wasn’t. I moved on. The boards do actually slide a bit underfoot. They aren’t all bolted down to make sure the bridge has some give in it. That part wasn’t cool.
Fear for Fall
As I was about three quarters of the way across I looked to my left and saw someone ziplining across the gap. Suddenly I felt very comfortable on my wide stable bridge that led across. I made it to the end and looked back at what I accomplished. Twenty six million people have visited the park and I am guessing at least twenty million had made it across this bridge. But had any of those twenty million conquered the fear that I had? Most likely.
The unintended consequence of making it across the bridge is that you have to get back. How many heroes get to slay a second dragon immediately after the first? I was a little calmer on the way back. I took video thinking it would make me look cool. Then I watched and realized my voice was still as wobbly as my legs. I won’t say that the fear was conquered but the strength was gained.
More from the Fatman
If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Screw it, I’m Trying” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms.