Splat: Part 2

I always tell people that I’m not afraid of heights. And I’m not. But I’m not too keen on the idea of falling. If you already read Splat: Part 1, you’ll know that sometimes I slide down a mountain on my butt to keep from tipping forward.

I think this has developed as I’ve grown taller. The farther I am from the ground, the more likely I feel I am to my top-heaviness pitching me forward or sideways and rolling me down a cliff. Kind of like one of those too-tall SUVs that tip at the curves.

So I’ve been worried lately that I’ve been lying when I say I’m not afraid of heights. Is that what this is? My worry of pitching forward, is that a fear of heights?

Maybe. Maybe not.

I don’t think my wish to stay somewhat safe and not fall down a mountain that I’m hiking is a phobia. I’m obviously still going hiking. It’s probably just a healthy dose of becoming older and more aware of the consequences of my actions.

That being said, I decided to google “fear of falling” to see what came up. The first few results were for a popular movie by the same name. But then I came across a new term, “bathophobia,” which is a fear of depths or deep places, according to Dictionary.com. It sounds kind of like a fear of the bathtub, and maybe that counts as a deep place.

Fear of heights is known as acrophobia. Now, to me, acrophobia makes sense as a name. Acro, like acrobat…someone who is up high doing tricks.

A study involving infants and go-carts by scientists at UC Berkeley and Doshisha University in Kyoto found that babies become aware of heights and start avoiding them around  the same time they become more experienced navigators—crawlers—of the world, according to the Huffington Post.

Looks like we aren’t born with a fear of heights but become more aware of heights and their dangers as we grow more reliant on visual information to move about, the scientists found.

Ringtones

-courtney-

On my way to my parents’ homes for the Thanksgiving holiday, I called someone with whom I hadn’t spoken in over a year. Important Life Lesson: Avoid making phone calls like these before stressful family holidays. And while driving.

I made this phone call with every expectation that this person would either a) never call me back or b) scream and yell so that I would never again try to reach them.

Surprisingly, neither one happened and there was a pleasant outcome to the whole affair.

So despite the fact that I had spent months agonizing over whether this person would care to speak to me and that my heart almost exploded through my eye sockets when I made the call, it was completely worth it. With a 30-second voicemail and a little faith, I’m on the way to restoring a very important friendship.

Why did it take me so long? I believe there are two reasons.

1)    I had hurt this person, which is why we weren’t speaking. I wanted to respect their feelings in the event that they truly did not want to hear from me.

2)    Initiating any kind of conversation meant that I needed to apologize and really mean it.

Now usually I’m a fan of the “it doesn’t matter what other people think” mentality, but if it has to do with hurting feelings within the context of a friendship, I think putting the other person first matters a lot. An apology for the good of the person saying they are sorry tends not to solve problems within the relationship.

The second component of dragging my feet seems a little silly. Why was it such a big deal to apologize?

Well, the apology wasn’t the scary part. This person’s response was. What if they still hated me? What if they couldn’t forgive me?

Ultimately, I’m glad I dragged my feet. It gave me the time to really think about how I wanted to approach the phone call and frame the potential conversation. And so far, it is working out in favor of a pretty great friendship.

Splat: Part 1

-Allie-

One of Courtney’s first posts was about jumping off the high dive…or rather, not jumping. She described a fear of looking down, of being that high, of making that great leap, of falling.

Well, Phoenix is a city that is relatively short. I mean, the buildings are short for a city of its size. But it’s surrounded by plenty of tall mountains—plenty of heights to jump from or stay away from or fall off of.

Whatever your preference.

Back at the end of September, I went hiking up Camelback Mountain with a good friend of mine.

hiking camelback

Photoshoot before heading down the mountain. Photo taken by nameless fellow hiker.

For those of you who are familiar with Camelback, you know that it’s a fairly crowded hike, and honestly, there is danger of you falling off the edge into oblivion or one of the nice Scottsdale resorts below. Guests probably wouldn’t be amused.

We went on one of the first nice days after the hellish summer season wrapped up, so you can imagine the crowds. There were a few people jogging up and down the mountain, and many would plow through, expecting all in their path to move. My friend and I were both impressed and worried for our safety as we pressed ourselves against the rocks to avoid being tossed off the edge by a runner.

We kept commenting on how we weren’t afraid of heights, we were afraid of falling. On the way down the mountain, we slid on our butts in some spots for fear of tipping forward and cascading face-front only to go “splat” on a fellow hiker. Wusses? Overly cautious? Careful? Perfectly Sane? All of the above.

I don’t remember being afraid of falling off the edge when I was younger. In recent years, I’ve done far more sliding down rocky cliff-like mountains on my butt as I’ve become more and more worried about my ability to be sure-footed.

So where does this fear of heights come from? Or is it a fear of falling? Find out more in Splat: Part 2.

Commando

-Allie-

I’m sorry, I’ve been neglectful. Forgive me.

Well, a few things have happened – I’ve combatted one or two “fears” since we last met.

Last weekend, my sister and I went to a spa, courtesy of our dad. He thought we should do something super cool since it was her first time without her kids since having them three years ago. We headed to the Spa at Camelback Inn for some pampering.

I had booked myself a massage. This would be my third in my lifetime, and this time I was ready.

Ready for what, you say?

For those of you who have ever gotten a massage, I’m sure you’ve had this battle: clothing? Or no clothing? We’re afraid of our bodies in this country.

My first-year roommate took me to my first massage as a birthday present my first year of college. She told me to dress comfortably, and I forgot to ask her the crucial question: do I wear pants? Do I wear underwear? What do I do?

When my masseuse (a female, thank goodness) told me to undress to the degree that I was comfortable and get under the sheet while she left the room, I got flustered. And yes, I left my yoga pants on. She probably thought me a fool. And I didn’t really get my legs massaged, but that’s okay. It’s a learning process, right?

A year ago, I was particularly stressed.

So my dear boyfriend got me a massage for my birthday! It was at a place in downtown Charlottesville owned by a husband and wife couple. I got the husband as my masseuse. Uh oh. A male masseuse? Could I do it?

I decided to challenge myself, so I didn’t leave my yoga pants on. But I couldn’t go completely bare, even under the protection of the sheet.

But last weekend, I was ready.

I made sure to book myself a female masseuse – it was the sort of ritzy place where they had enough people that I had options.

I walked into my massage proudly, confidently. I knew what I was doing. A few minutes before, my sister and I had explored the locker rooms. The ladies at the front desk showing us a counter where we could fill a “sachet” with various dried smelly things – roses, lavender, sage, etc. A souvenir for the hundreds of dollars we were spending.

We got our over-sized terry-cloth robes, and I felt empowered. This time, I would do it. I would become a pro.

My masseuse left the room. So I hung my robe on the hook behind the door and got under the sheet.

Zoom Zoom

-courtney-

Driving has never been one of my favorite activities. Especially when I have to do it alone. And when you factor in major roads and late night hours, I’m practically running in the other direction.

When an invitation to my cousin’s mother blessing arrived last month, I lovingly put it on my bulletin board with no intention of making the six hour drive for such a short weekend. But as the date neared (and as the prevailing theme of this blog loomed over me) I wondered why I was turning down the opportunity to see my family.

Fear. Fear of losing sleep, of being out of my routine, of feeling stressed out. Fear of driving on 95 by myself for 5 hours in the middle of the night.

So with 5 days until the party, I called up my cousin and committed myself to being present at the occasion. I downloaded a couple of new podcasts, got an oil change, and packed my bags. And I kept myself so busy that I didn’t have a moment in the preceding days to be afraid.

After work on Friday, I hopped right into my car and set out. The drive was easy and the trip was satisfying. There was a small hiccup when I hit the Fort McHenry tunnel. My heart rate picked up in anticipation – I had forgotten this part and forgotten how much I hate tunnels.

Instead of freaking out, I thought about being upside down. For one thing, if I could go upside down on the rope wall, I could certainly drive through this tunnel. And for another, at least I could drive through the tunnel right side up.

It turns out that I wasn’t even as scared of driving at night as I thought. It still wasn’t my favorite experience but it was absolutely worthwhile. In this circumstance, the outcome outweighed the feelings of fear. Maybe that is a factor in overcoming fear? Something to think about.

Comfort, Context, and Challenges

-Courtney-

I spent most of last weekend upside down. 

Since I teach yoga in a gym setting, my classes place down dogs and warrior ones at the center of the practice. Headstands are definitely out of my league as a coach and safety supervisor.

Consequently, inversions rarely make it into my own practice. I find restorative postures, such as supported child’s pose, much more accessible when I skid into my living room after a long work day.

When I signed up for a weekend-long Iyengar workshop at a local studio, I never considered the personal challenges that lay ahead. I looked forward to meeting other students and learning a few new cues for my classes. By the end of Sunday, I had gained so much more than that.

Rope walls have become popular teaching tools in some yoga studios around the world. They allow the student to explore new planes of movement while feeling grounded and supported.  I enjoyed playing with this new prop and expanding upon familiar poses.

Then the teacher instructed us to circle the rope around our middles and begin to walk our feet up the walls – we were going upside down.

I broke into a cold sweat. My shirt was sticking to my skin before my heels even left the ground. And before I could second-guess myself, my torso rolled way from my hips, my toes scaled the wall, and my head then hung inches above the ground.

As I hung, supported by a rope sling and surrounded by seemingly more confident practitioners, I experienced a steady state of calm. My heart rate slowed and my breath deepened. I embraced the opportunity to slow down and to be present.

During that class, I jumped. I had expected a rush, the sense that my insides were coming out, and an unpleasant splash as I hit the water. All the reasons that kept me from walking off the high dive. Yet my experience was just the opposite.

I’m comfortable in a yoga classroom. While inversions are generally out of my comfort zone, they are paradoxically also within it. Yoga is safe and accessible, and perhaps a place in which I will be able to further explore my fears and apprehensions.

Last weekend, I literally turned one of my fears on its head. And this week, I’ll tackle another.

Shoo Scaredy Cat

-Allie-

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Meet Monty.

Normally he spends his time scaling the walls of my apartment — he loves parkour — and chasing creatures no one else sees. Earlier this week, he was my model, and for a few seconds, sat still while I staged a mini-photo shoot.

My new camera finally came in the mail on Tuesday, and I didn’t really have much time to get to know it. I would say that we’ve moved passed shaking hands and on to small talk.

The above picture of Monty was the first photo I took with my new Canon. Well, okay, I’ll be honest. It was the third photo I took with it, but the first photo I liked. Slowly but surely, I am dipping my toes into the world of real photography — the world beyond point-and-shoot.

For class this weekend, we were tasked with gathering interviews for a radio show we will be putting together next week. As part of my new goal to become an artist and translate that into multimedia journalism, I carried my camera along with me.

I was back in Charlottesville, and my old high school was the scene of a pretty neat event. The town was having its first Mini Maker Faire, which gives local innovators and creators a space to showcase their work. The Faire included activities for children, a fashion show, and work by the “makers.” The children seemed particularly entertained by the Faire — they even got to play with saws and hammers.

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I Didn’t Jump

-Courtney-

I am, admittedly and fairly confidently, a creature of habit. In my opinion, this is generally pretty awesome. I have my morning cup of coffee down to a science. Watching television reruns provides immense comfort. My wardrobe is consistently colored with blacks and burgundy and I wear my favorite shoes (brown Docs) every day. I like being home for the night at 7PM. I might not yet be partaking in all of Buzzfeed’s “19 Signs You’re a Homebody” but I’m rapidly getting there.

While I love my ladybug slippers, huge sweaters, and daily routine, being a homebody and a creature of habit is a little inconvenient when you agree to start a blog about going out and tackling your fears. Agree? I can hear Allie reminding me that this theme was actually MY idea.

Well after 4 years of happily humming along with my routine life in the Blue Ridge, I began to realize how much was happening around me and that I might be missing out on some really fantastic experiences. Most of my friends have begun adventures in grand new places, embarking on impressive career paths or undertaking ambitious graduate coursework. I am one of the few who didn’t leave my college town post-graduation and while I am perfectly content staying put, that’s precisely what started to gnaw at me – I’m just perfectly content.

Eleanor Roosevelt was already on my mind when I headed over to a work meeting at the start of the semester. Now, fitness professionals don’t have conventional staff meetings.  After reviewing the fall schedule while sitting on gym balls, we all slipped out of our sneakers and in to sporty bathing suits to hit the pool. Some gabbed in the hot tub while others opted to play water polo. I decidedly took to the high dive with several other coworkers. Our supervisor had specified on the way to the water that the diving board had only one way down. I laughed and confidently mounted the ladder up to the deck.

And then I looked over the edge.

Never in my life have I felt so literally petrified. Those around me took a sharp breath in and then one by one dropped off the tip of the board. Some simply walked off. Others bounced off and shouted with delight. I stood, feeling my feet firmly attach themselves to the platform, as ten other personal trainers took the jump. My supervisor and a handful of others began to cheer from the pool deck, urging me to just jump. I joked and laughed and took to tree pose, desperately hoping that I could find solace in my favorite yoga pose that would give me the confidence to jump.

It didn’t work. I didn’t jump. I took a deep breath and realized that I didn’t have the confidence to free fall ten feet into cold water. I did, however, have the confidence to own and accept my fears and to walk down the ladder with just as much self-assurance as I had when I climbed up. In that moment, I feared judgment. And in that moment, I faced it.

As Allie and I will continue to learn and explore, there are many different kinds of fear. My laughable fear of fern spores pales in comparison to my legitimate hatred of roller coasters. When Eleanor suggested “do one thing every day that scares you,” what kind of fear did she mean? My interpretation is a recommendation to step outside the box each day, to try something new, to learn your limits.

By challenging myself to creep out of my comfort zone each day, I’m not only getting to know my town better but getting to know more about myself. I am finding out things about  myself that I never knew were there, both positive and negative.

In the coming months, I intend to try new things. And I plan to try many of them alone, perhaps conquering two fears at once. I may not be skydiving or swimming with sharks (or swimming at all – did I mention I’m scared of water?), but I will be learning my limits and nudging them to make my comfort zone a little bit bigger.

So with that, here’s to fear.