Crossing the bridge

We don’t have internet access at my parents’ home in Vancouver but I’m writing anyway and will post whenever I’m able.  The following was written on Saturday, October 10.

I’ve been afraid of heights for as long as I can remember but today I challenged that fear and won! Overcoming this phobia has actually been a long and gradual process. When my children were young I was determined not to pass my fear on to them so I forced myself to do things and go places that I might otherwise have avoided. I remember riding the glass elevator up the outside of the CN Tower in Toronto with them in 1991. I stood as far back as I could and still, by the time we reached the top, the brochure that I was carrying literally bore the imprint of my white knuckled fingers, I was clutching it so tightly.

I’ve also been determined to live life to the fullest and not to allow fear to keep me from seeing and experiencing all that it has to offer. Consequently, over time the fear has gradually diminished. Climbing Mount Fuji last year was a definite turning point. Since we climbed at night and couldn’t see beyond the area that was illuminated by our flashlights, my fear didn’t really kick in until after sunrise the following morning when we began our descent. At first, I was almost paralysed but once you’ve reached a mountaintop, staying there isn’t an option! I had no choice but to force myself to begin the downward climb. The trail was wide and, in my head, I knew that it was perfectly safe but that didn’t make it any easier. As I forced myself to continue putting one foot in front of the other, however, I gradually relaxed and began to enjoy the views laid out below us. By the time we reached the bottom, I knew that I had conquered a giant.

This fall, on a particularly windy day during harvest, it was necessary for either Louis or I to climb to the top of one granary to check whether or not it was full and then another to open the hatch. The only ladder that we had at our disposal was quite flimsy and in the wind, we didn’t consider it safe enough so he lifted me to the top of the granaries in the bucket of his front end loader!  To reach the hatch on the second one, I had to climb out of the bucket onto the top of the granary. There was a time when I couldn’t have forced myself to do that but it was actually fun. That’s when I knew it was time to challenge my long held fear of suspension bridges!

For several years, while growing up, I lived within walking distance of Lynn Valley Canyon in North Vancouver. As a terrified teen, I crossed the suspension bridge that dangles some 50 metres above the canyon a few times but I always had nightmares afterward. Returning as a adult some years later, I was unable to step foot on it. Even though the children were with us, I simply couldn’t force myself. They crossed with their father and grandfather while I stood by and watched.

Before we came to Vancouver this time, feeling confident that my fear was finally under control, I determined that we would visit the park again and that I would cross that bridge. I thought to go one day next week when the park wouldn’t likely be crowded and I might even be able to cross alone without the vibration caused by many people crossing at once. This morning, however, we woke to beautiful sunshine and even though it’s a long weekend and I knew that the park would be busy, I decided that today was the day.

We went directly to the bridge and I crossed, not once, not twice, but five times! The first time, I stepped out confidently but crossed with some hesitation and didn’t look down. The second time, I stopped midway and enjoyed the view and by the fifth time, I crossed without even touching the handrails! What a victory!

Will fear of heights ever threaten me again? I don’t know, but if it does I know that I will remember that I’ve crossed the bridge and hopefully that will give me the courage to step out in confidence.

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6 thoughts on “Crossing the bridge

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