Rationally Fearful- Part 2

Yesterday, you read about my fear of lighthouse climbing.  For the record, we also visited Bunker Hill Memorial while we were in Boston.  I’d never been to Bunker Hill, so imagine my surprise when we jumped out of an Uber to discover that the Memorial is a 294 step obelisk, spiral staircase included….The Bunker Hill story ends pretty much as the lighthouse story ended…me sliding on my backside down 294 steps….

But the terrifying nightmare family vacation continues:

After Boston, next stop : Maine.  Specifically- Acadia.  Acadia, as in mountains.

So, you are probably thinking, “Gee, how does someone who is afraid of a 40 foot high lighthouse actually hike in the mountains?”

I really enjoy hiking.  I love nature.  I love being outdoors.  As a city dweller, I don’t often get to experience green fields and trees, so I try to incorporate at least one hike into every vacation.  My Husband is not afraid of heights.  My daughter is part mountain goat, part adrenaline junkie.  Finding a balance of keeping us all happy is important.

Picture this:  the information desk at Acadia- the players- Park Ranger, The Husband and me:

Me:  I’m a bit afraid of heights, but I’m OK with physical challenges.  Can you recommend a good hike for my family.

Park Ranger:  (opens the map- takes her pen) Start here, Gorham Mountain Trailhead- it’s on the loop road just past Thunder Hole.  It’s a tough hike, but there are no ledges or anything to scare you.  When you get to this point. cross the street and then head back to your car along the Ocean Cove path.  Really beautiful.

The Husband now joins the conversation, he missed my question because he was purchasing a park access pass.

Husband: Can you recommend a really good hike- no issues with fear or strength?

Park Ranger: (she looks at me, then at him) Are you together?

I’ve always been afraid of heights.  Always.  I never liked roller coasters.  I wouldn’t climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty in third grade.  I don’t like heights.

The Husband knew this before we were married.  The husband knows this now.  I have no issues with telling people about my fear of heights, falling and small spaces.

Which brings us to the next questions:

  1. Should you be embarrassed by your fears?  No, because it’s part of who you are.  To be embarrassed by it is to not accept something about yourself.  Not accepting yourself is never good.
  2. Should you partner/family/friends be embarrassed by your fears?  No.  You need to accept people for who they are.  If you are embarrassed by someone else’s fears, you must ask yourself why.  Why does someone else’s personality trait bother you so much?  Does it really impact your life?

I don’t think my husband is thrilled about my fear of heights and falling.  He gets slightly annoyed when I hike really slowly and/or cautiously.  He hates when people pass us (but that’s a whole other blog for another day). He has said on more than one occasion “You can do this.”

Which brings me to the next question:

  1. Should someone push you into doing something you are fearful of? 

This is where it gets tricky.  On one hand, sometimes you just need a little push to get over the hump.  On the other hand, no one should push you into doing something you don’t feel comfortable doing.  But how do you know which case it is?

Next question:

  1. Is your fear impacting your life?  Did you ever watch the TV show “Monk”?  Monk was so paralyzed by his fears (which included a fear of milk) that he was unable to work at a job he loved- ie being a detective.  So if you have a fear that is impacting your life, you may want to do something about it.  Not being able to hike up mountains is not impacting my life.  I am not a goat herder.  I am not a Sherpa.  Manhattan is a relatively flat island.
  2. Is fear stopping you from doing something you really want to do?  I’m going with a real life example here.  A few years ago we were in Hawaii.  My daughter,the adrenaline junkie,wanted to jump off Black Rock, a cliffish spot on Maui.  Though generally fearless, this made her pause.  I asked her if she would regret not doing this activity, to which she replied “Yes”.  So I talked to her about her fear (I know- the woman who can’t climb down the steps of a lighthouse is giving advice on cliff diving) and said I would love her either way, jumping was entirely her decision- but that I had every faith that she could do it if she wanted to.  (Disclaimer- I was petrified of her diving off of a cliff into the ocean- but I didn’t want to let my anxiety over power her)  She ended up doing it- and was so glad she did.  In my case- I don’t care if I hike to the top of a mountain.  I get enjoyment just being outside.  My family wanted to do the “beehive trail”.  This trail entailed scaling the side of a mountain holding onto handrails- at almost a 90 degree pitch.  I had NO INTEREST in this hike. I told them to enjoy themselves, and I would find a shady spot to read my book.  They loved the hike- I loved reading.  Win win.  I know I’m capable of hiking mountains- I really don’t want to.

And here ends our tales of fear.  For the record- I am not an expert on anything.  Everything written is personal experience and observation.