My friend stood with the phone camera, waiting for me to get to the spot you see me standing on- a beautiful bridge over a creek. There wasn’t any thought in my head whatsoever suggesting I shouldn’t do this, other than the slight pinch of ‘maybe it’s egotistical and vain to ask to have your photo taken.’
As my feet crossed the transition of tracks that were on a gravel path to the bridge itself, the spaces between the wooden railroad ties became open windows to the creek below. The width between them was enough for a foot to fall through, but at worst, that would twist an ankle, bruise a shin. These were logical thoughts in my head, as well as, “there’s no reason for you to slip through since you know you should place your feet on the wood, not in the space between the wood.” What I’m trying to say is, there was nothing to be afraid of.
So when my heart started pounding and I felt dizzy and terrified and panic-stricken and regretful and frozen, I knew damn well that this was an unreasonable feeling. The thought, “oh my God I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I CAN’T DO THIS” got louder in my brain and came out my mouth, as my friend explained to me what I already knew, which was, I couldn’t possibly fall through, it was physically impossible to do so.
But seeing the running creek far below me made my head swim. I knew it was ridiculous. I crawled to photo-position on my hands and knees which did nothing to help as it meant gazing directly at the depth of my imagined fall.
What strikes me the most is that I don’t think it was even falling to the creek that I was imagining. I was dreading the jolt of fear I would have if my hand or foot slipped through, the split second of intense fear that it would induce in me before the thickness of the rest of me would prevent any more of my body from falling, was enough of a reason to be afraid. I was essentially afraid of the intense sensation of fear, and upset at my irrationality.
I stood up long enough to have a few photos taken. I tried laughing it off and admitted I was being ridiculous. I went carefully back to the metal edges, the “side-walks” of the bridge, and waited for my heart to stop pounding. It took way longer than I thought it would. Probably a few minutes but it wasn’t like being in safety immediately fixed it. It was pounding in surprise and dismay at my own total lack of control. It was pounding at its pounding.
Fear of heights is relatively new to me. Something that’s reared its head in the past few years or so. I’m still in a state within it where I’m willing to do things like climb a fire-tower ladder that climbs 120 feet in the air, or climb into my fireman-friend’s firetruck basket and get sent up in the air high above all the tallest buildings in a Berlin neighbourhood. I’m willing to do it for the experience, but I am terrified while it’s happening. I don’t enjoy it, I just feel proud for having done it.
“Courage isn’t not having fear. Courage is having fear but doing it anyway.” I’ve been called courageous umpteen times over my touring years of hobo existence, and this has been said to me when I’ve replied, “But I’m scared all the time.”
What’s bugging me is that I have more fears than I used to. They say that’s normal with aging, and I’m definitely afraid of aging, but I hate that I’m afraid of becoming more afraid. And I hate to think that becoming more afraid is going to make me cross fewer bridges. I hope I’ll keep crossing them anyway, and I hope I’ll learn to calm down while I’m on them, rather than rush to get off. Though they say that highly anxious people are more likely to survive disasters, so maybe I should listen to the ‘get off the bridge’ voice? I’m not sure. I’m afraid of indecision too.