Posts Tagged With: fear of heights

Day 413: Zipping along

Today, I am flying back home, to a climate that will be more inherently painful to me than the weather in my current location. That is a given.

But, maybe, just maybe, I will experience that pain differently than I expect.

Yesterday, during my last full day in Boquete, Panama, I went zip-lining for the first time. Expectations were present; the reality was different.

Like THAT never happens.

Zip-lining, from the beginning, seemed like a risk, fraught with possibilities for joy AND pain.

Like THAT never happens, either.

The Joy/Pain possibility is a tough one to predict, but it can seem really critical to figure that out, before making a move.  And for days, during my time in Boquete, I did extensive research, and kept coming up with different answers to the question:

To zip or not to zip?

On the Pro/Potential Joy side were these factors:

  1. The potential of flying like a bird, something that sounds darned appealing to me.
  2. More views of the spectacular local scenery.
  3. Bragging rights.

On the Con/Potential Pain side were these factors:

  1. I am afraid of heights.
  2. I have never done a pull-up in my life, although there was controversy about whether this would be a critical factor.
  3. My capacity for physical endurance has lessened recently (and has rarely been “normal”, since childhood).
  4. “Shaming rights” — that is, feeling weird, different, or otherwise “less than.”

One person who was very pro me zip-lining was Ingra, who manages the daily operations of Los Establos, where we have been staying in Boquete.

Here’s Ingra, pre-zip yesterday, as she was giving me advice about how to let go of anxiety and just enjoy zipping along.

Image

Image

Her advice included “breathe, a LOT” and “know that you can always back out.”  I thought these suggestions were wise, especially since I spout them myself, both in the blog-o-sphere and my work-o-sphere, too.

What is extraordinary, for me, about this portion of the story, is that Ingra and I got off on the wrong foot when I first arrived at the hotel.  She and I have very different communication styles, I think. I also projected a lot of judgment onto her. And yet, she developed into somebody I truly like, who seemed to genuinely care that I have a good experience.

Right before I left for the zip-lining adventure, she gave me a hug.

How did zip-lining go, for me?

Well, there are lots of ways to tell that story.  I could say zip-lining, for me, was a personal triumph and/or a personal nightmare. I could say I took a risk, and it was worth it. I could say that I showed bravery. I could say I was different from the others. I could say  I almost quit when I saw the realities of the physical exertion involved, but staff and I decided I should go for it.  I could say I had the thought, “This will be too much for me,” before I even started. I could say I had the thought, “I can do this,” immediately after that. I could say that I did more physical work than any other participant, because — twice! — I needed to make it to a platform by pulling myself hand-over-hand while suspended, alone, over the cloud forest. I could say the zip-line staff went above and beyond in helping me complete the task, once I became physically depleted. I could say that staff and other participants accepted my limits and applauded my efforts.

I could also say that zip-lining and Ann were NOT a match made in heaven (though the location seemed close to it).  Nevertheless, we both survived the experience.

As usual, the worst part of the experience for me was …

…. my old friend, Shame.

Shame told me, once the adventure was over, that  I had NOT REALLY gone zip-lining, because I had needed assistance for the end of the journey.  And I projected those messages of shame, at some points, on all other human beings within zipping distance. And those Shame Thoughts and Projections drowned out what other people were actually saying to me, plus several high-fives mixed in there, too.

My Shame was not impressed, when staff gave me one of these, just as they did to everybody else:

IMG_0431

The first thing Shame said was this: that’s not really your certificate, because your name is misspelled.

Like THAT never happens.

And, Shame said, there are other reasons why that certificate of completion does not apply to YOU.

Soon after that, the staff  announced they were going to show us the video they had made of our shared adventure. Shame said to me, “You’re not going to buy that.” Shame also said,  “Maybe you should turn away and hide your face, when everybody else is watching.”

Because that’s what Shame ALWAYS says.

However, I did watch the video. And for most of my appearances, I looked just like everybody else, although maybe a little more … blank.  Maybe a little less happy.

But  I believe that most observers would not have noted the details, which were — at times — so excruciatingly obvious to me.

Like THAT never happens.

It’s true that some of my video appearances were unique. Nobody else appeared tethered to a smiling staff member. And nobody else was shown walking, on a side path with another smiling staff member (who said some very encouraging and cool things to me on our  very short walk1 down to join the others).

Hmmmm. As I’m re-reading what I’ve written so far, and seen how many lines of dialog Shame has in this story, I’m reminded of a photo I took my very first day, in Boquete.  Hold on. I want to find it, to answer back to Shame, right now:

IMG_0256

Yay!  I love the chance to use a photo I haven’t shown you before.

Anyway, so back to yesterday .

I DID buy the video of the zip-lining adventure, and here’s proof:

IMG_0432

Here’s a better shot of two smiling members of the Tree Trek Staff, on the bus ride back yesterday, after the adventure:

Image

Thanks, guys!  I’m glad I made it.

Now we’ll see if I can make it back in Boston.

Oh, just one more thing. When I woke up this morning, I thought, “Gee, I wonder how small the plane is going to be today, on the way from Boquete to Panama City?”  And my next thought was, “I hope it’s a really small one!”

So maybe I  DID complete something, yesterday.

Thanks to Ingra, Tree Trek Adventures, all the inhabitants of Beautiful Boquete, people who keep up as best they can, those who have all sorts of reactions to zip-lines (and other modes of amusement and transportation), and to you — of course! — for zipping by here today.


1 A short walk, by the way, where we saw another quetzal.  I’m just saying.

Categories: inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Day 218: What’s the problem?

I started this blog post, last night, around 1:15 AM:

So I’m going on a great trip, starting at 9:30 PM tonight, with my wonderful 15-year-old son.

Things are going well at work.

I’ve been enjoying writing this blog.

I feel like I’m learning a lot, every day.

I’ve prepared enough for this trip, definitely.

So what’s the problem?

Why am I anxious, fearful, wanting to hide, and irritated? Why am I focusing on worst case scenarios?  Why am I feeling overwhelmed by decisions I need to make about packing and so on, when I know there is no right or wrong decision, and it’s all solvable?

It doesn’t make sense.

Although I usually believe that everything makes sense, on some level.

And, as I’ve heard lots of people say, in similar situations, “I don’t like when I’m feeling this way. I SHOULDN’T be feeling this way.  I should be happy.”

Well, maybe I could try this: just be with the feelings.

Be pissed off and irritated, for no reason.

Be anxious and fretful, for no reason.

Instead of trying to overcome those uncomfortable feelings with positive re-thinking, maybe I could just be irrationally and unreasonably cranky, right now.

Okay, I’ll give myself an assignment: to have all those feelings I feel uncomfortable with right now:

Frustration

Fear

Then, I put my laptop aside, and was able to fall asleep.  (Yay!)

Then, about an hour later, I woke up and text-messaged (!) my bf, who was downstairs:

“Hi Michael!”

I didn’t know if he would see the message, but I guess he did, because he came upstairs and we had an amazing talk about topics including childhood experiences, guilt, depression, and people we knew who had tried to commit suicide (and one who had succeeded). That might sound like an awful conversation to have at that particular time, when my hope was to fall back asleep and feel refreshed and ready for the rest of my trip preparations. But the conversation also included another topic. Love. So it was awe-ful, in a different way.

After the conversation, I cried. Hard.

It all helped.  And I fell back asleep.

Now it’s morning. And there are several things I have to do, including bringing my car into my mechanic for some unexpected, major work.

So what is it that I would like to write this morning, before I end this blog post?

Maybe this:

I am afraid of flying.

Actually, as an old friend pointed out to me a long time ago, regarding my fear of heights:  “Ann, you’re not afraid of heights. You’re afraid of dying.”

He was right.

Every time I’m going to fly, my busy human mind goes lots of places (as human minds do).  And my mind goes to the possibility that the plane will crash. Which affects my mood. Which increases my anxiety.

And which makes me feel like I need to get everything done, now, because what if I’m gone, tomorrow?

While living each day like it could be your last (something I’m pretty good at, with good reason) has an up side, for sure…

Like most things, it has a down side, too.

Before I close, I wanted to introduce you to a stranger I met yesterday.

I was walking around Harvard Square, in Cambridge, getting some foreign currency, playing with my travel anxieties by “rehearsing” various travel-y things, and pretending that I’d never been to Harvard Square before, when I walked by this guy:

IMG_1370

I was distracted by lots of things, so it took me a moment to take that in.  When I did, I stopped, took out a dollar, and came back.  I told this guy, “I used to be in advertising, and that’s the best ad I’ve seen in MONTHS.”  Then, we had a great little conversation, where I ended up telling him that I was nervous about flying. He said, “Oh!  I understand!  But you know what?  Flying is the safest mode of travel.” And he told me that he knew what he was talking about, because he used to work for Delta Airlines.

And as we were having our conversation, several more people stopped, said something appreciative to him, and put money in his cup.

He also told me that he had several other signs he used.  He recited them all, with pride. I asked, “Which one does the best for you?”  And he gave me the answer I expected, “This one.”

Then, before I bid this gentleman adieu, I took his picture, told him I’d like to put him in my blog, and asked him his name.

“Caspar,” he said. “Like the friendly ghost.”

I like thinking that ghosts are friendly.

Thanks to Caspar, friendly creatures everywhere, and — of course! — you, for reading today.  Here’s hoping I’ll be continuing this blog, daily, on my travels with my son.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.