When I was small, maybe 6, I was playing with my brother who was 5. We went up to my parents' bedroom and there was a small storage area built into the wall with a door that was maybe 3' x 3'. We opened the door, crept in with the idea of flipping our parents out when they couldn't find us, and waited with breathless anticipation for the fearful shrieks. They never came. And the one flaw in our scathingly brilliant plan was that there was no handle on the inside of the door. Yep. We were trapped and no one could hear our fearful shrieks. Oh, how the mighty had fallen. The tables were turned and we, now sobbing, waited for what felt like three decades for someone to finally figure out where we were. They were probably just enjoying the serenity of the children they thought were napping or reading, but who were self-incarcerated within the walls of the apartment. Thus began my debilitating fear of enclosed spaces, or as I refer to it, closetrophobia. (see what I did there?) To avoid being closed in, I once climbed 38 flights of stairs while 8 1/2 months pregnant to avoid taking the elevator. The girls at work knew of my fear and in order to therapeutically break me of it, decided to host my last day before maternity leave luncheon at the Top of the Tower Restaurant. Nice going girls. I guess I showed you. Too bad I lost my lunch! It was so much better going down than coming up.
Another irrational terror I suffer from is acrophobia, or fear of heights. I don't know the source of this one, but it has always been a problem for as long as I can remember. I have generally been successful in dealing with this by simply avoiding it. There have been times, however, when I could not.
One of those was during my carpentry class. We worked on both fine and finish carpentry and one of the things I had to do was climb scaffolding to work on a roof. It didn't take long for everyone to realize my problem. I don't know if it was the cold clammy hands or the colorless face or the fact that I was curled up in a ball rubbing my hair and sucking my thumb that gave it away. If you remember from an earlier post, I was 38 at the time and the rest of the class was 16 and 17. They encouraged "mom" by talking me slowly up the scaffolding. Step by step, I negotiated my way up, my hands almost slipping from the sweatiness of my palms.
"Don't look down!" was their chant and my commandment. I was at the top. "Now just put one hand on the roof. Good. Now your other hand. You're dong great!"
What I would have otherwise considered condescension was trumped by my gratitude for their patience.
"Now, slide one knee up onto the roof. Great! Look at you! Such a big girl."
Okay, now it the condescension was seeping through my psyche and ticking me off. But that was good. It fueled my determination. I was the top of the class and I couldn't fail now. I slid one knee up, then the other. I was off the railing and onto the shingles.
"Now, just crawl up and lie on your belly until you get comfortable."
"How does February sound?"
"You're doing fine, really. Go, mom!"
So there I was, lying prostrate on the top of a small garage. I was motionless for some time when I finally realized they were still coaching me.
"No, slowly roll over and stare at the sky. Just lie on your back. You'll be fine. When you're ready, we'll take the next step."
"Just tell my kids I love them!"
After a brief period, I heard them once again.
"Now, sit up, but don't look down. Just look at the horizon."
I got up on my elbows and looked out. There was a parking lot. It was not the beautiful scenery I had hoped for, but neither was it heaven or hell, which meant I was still among the living.
I managed, with a little more coaching, to actually get on my knees and it was at that point that I once again lost my lunch. I slithered backwards, probing for the edge with my work boot, until I felt the scaffolding. I dismounted, crawled down without looking, and then went to clean myself up.
My "A" for effort balanced out my "F" for incompletion and I gratefully accepted a "C" for the roofing portion of my carpentry education.