No choice but fear

Sometimes the Universe waits patiently while you gather your courage to face your fear. Other times it sneaks up on you and shoves you from behind.

Yesterday, C and S and I headed to Glastonbury to check out the Abbey, the Chalice Well and the Glastonbury Tor. The Tor is a big steep-sided hill, jutting up from the English countryside in a defiant juxtaposition to the gentle, rolling landscape around it.

I was looking forward to the view from the top, especially with my new camera in hand. I was even looking forward to the climb up. In the past, such a climb would have been beyond me but the last 5 years of hard work to get healthier meant that I was sure I could climb the Tor, even if I had to stop a few times along the way.

What I did not expect was the heart-stopping, limb paralyzing fear of falling that hit me like a ton of bricks when I was almost to the top.

I have never been afraid of heights so I’m not sure why I was suddenly gripped with the irrational fear that I was going to fall down the steep slope of the Tor and completely lose control of my bearings. Or, given how strong the wind was, just be blown right off into empty air.

I sometimes have claustrophobia and anxiety attacks and what was amazing to me was that this feeling and the response of my body was exactly the same. Racing heart, shortness of breath, constricted chest, a little voice in my head crescendoing “no, no, no” and that sense that everything was spinning completely out of control, no matter how hard I tried to hold it together.

I know it’s not rational, which I find really annoying. But it is still very real. And as little as I understand the why’s and how’s of it, one thing I have learned is to stop and deal with it.

Step One – acknowledge the feeling no matter how silly/stupid/ridiculous I think it is. So, I tell C and S that I’ve having problems with being up that high, and the steep slope and that I’m not sure how I am going to get back down. I am trying not to cry.

S very helpfully says, “Well, you don’t really have a choice.”

While part of me wants to smack him for pointing out that I have to do what every cell in my body is screaming I can’t do, the small rational part of my brain still left recognizes that he is, of course, right.

I have no choice. I am going to have to do this so I’d better figure out how.

Step Two – ask for help. Ever am I grateful for my true friends. The ones who bring out the best in me but who also stand steadfast beside me when I am, ahem, less than my best. Including the times when I’m a total mess. So, C ran around with my camera and took some pics since my back was glued to the building at the top. Then, she walked in front of me holding my hand while I made my way back down the path to the safety of level ground.

Step Three – be gentle with myself. I don’t know why I reacted the way I did. But one thing I do know is that beating myself up about it doesn’t help. It is love and acceptance and forgiveness and understanding that defeats fear. Not anger. Whether it is directed inward or outward. I don’t care what anyone thought of we two 40+ women holding hands as we slowly walked down the hill. Together, we did it.

I’m not sure if the time that the Universe gives us is a gift or a barrier. In this case, I was forced to walk off the edge of that steep hill of fear because I had no choice. I had to get moving forward.

I wonder how much time we waste in that place of constricted hearts, feeling like things are spinning out of control, trying to catch our breaths before we accept that have no choice but to face toward the fear and then head straight into it. Otherwise, we’re just stuck on a hill. Or, in a rut.

Perhaps the hardest thing might be that sometimes we do have a choice.