Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tracey and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Fear of Heights

I am afraid of heights. Terrified is a better adjective for it, actually. I don't like sitting on people's shoulders. I don't like elevators that I can see out of. I don't like ladders. I was in a play in 10th grade and performed nearly all of my songs/lines on top of a scaffolding, shivering and quivering every step.

I violently fought my fellow choir members when they claimed they were forcing me on the "Scream" at Fiesta Texas. I literally bit and clawed my way out of so-called friends' arms out of fear for my life (Michael Crane, I haven't forgotten this!). I get sick just looking at roller coasters. This is no exaggeration. I drove by myself from College Station to Galveston one time and nearly died. Driving along I glance to my left and see the Astrodome. Oh, how nice, I say to myself. then I look to my right and there, all lit up, is Astroworld and all it's disgusting thrill ride madness. I almost lost control of the car and drove off the road I was so horrified.

I know where this fear comes from. I almost had fun the first time I was at Six Flags. I think I was 7 or 8, and we rode the Mine Train. Ok, maybe it was the mini-mine train. Regardless, I was nervous but enjoying it until I saw the Shockwave tracks right next to us. For those who have never been to Six Flags over Texas in Arlington, the Shockwave goes upside down. Cue the screaming, uncontrollable 2nd grader. No way was I going to do that. If I had the option of jumping out of my seat I think I would have.

I've tried to get over some of my heights problems. The summer before my senior year of high school I decided to show how stubborn I am by proving everyone wrong about my fears. I signed up for the church backpacking trek and climbed the 14,000 foot mountain by myself, no one carrying my pack for me, in tennis shoes and not hiking boots (Why was I going to buy boots that I would wear one week? Please. Waste of money) and was not even at the end of our group. On our 1 year anniversary of dating, Brandon and I went to Reunion Tower. Did I hyperventilate on the elevator up? Of course I did. But I lived. And I got to see a beautiful view of downtown Dallas from about 55 floors up. When on a spring break mission trip to Windsor, Connecticut we took a train to NYC for a night. Brandon, Jonathan Hawkins and I decided to use our short time traveling to the top of the Empire State Building. Yeah, that's over 80 stories tall. You can definitely feel the elevator shaking after about 40 floors or so. Luckily, we didn't have time to even contemplate how scary this would be because we got to shoot to the front of the line. Oh, the perks of hanging out with a guy in a wheelchair. Thanks, J Hawk!

The other night I had the only reoccurring dream I've ever had. Since elementary school I've had variations of this dream, but the end result is always the same. I'm at the mall on the 2nd or 3rd floor and all of a sudden the floor shifts. Instead of being a flat walkway, the floors start to rotate and lean at a sharp angle towards the ground below. I walk as close to the walls as I can, but to no avail. I slip and fall underneath the rails and fall to my death on the ground floor. I always wake up in a cold sweat after these dreams. I know they're impossible, but it doesn't stop me from actually hugging the walls when I go shopping at the mall. I will not look over the rails. Don't ask me to. I'll walk down the stairs and see what needs to be seen, but I'm not leaning over anything. I will fall and I will die. And these are facts in my head. The only good thing I can say about my reoccurring dream is that at least this time every time I stepped on a tile it lit up like in MJ's "Billie Jean" video, and at the end I walked into a store where Clive Owen apparently lived. Not a bad dream until, of course, I slipped through the rail and died.

My life seems to revolve around that fear. I want to know if there are stairs or an elevator I can go on instead of an escalator when we go to sporting events. I want to know how many windows there are in tall buildings. I need the details before I will agree to do anything up high.

And yet when I think about heights, it really isn't any of these things that comes to mind. When I think about heights I think about God and an immediately answered prayer.

When I went backpacking I was jealous of everyone else around me. On our summit day we hiked up and I heard comments like, "This is beautiful!" and "Wow, isn't God amazing!" and realized that everyone trekking with me was loving their surroundings. I hated them. Not only was I bothered by the bugs and the crappy food we had to eat, I didn't see any beauty around me. It was scary. All the others were enjoying the view and I was terrified. So halfway up the mountain I stopped. I looked around. And then I pleaded with God.

I closed my eyes and said, "God. I know you can do anything. All I want right now is for just this moment to not be afraid of heights. Just for today, please take away my fear. Please don't let me be afraid. I want to see nature as your beauty and not as something to be scared of."

I opened my eyes. My immediate next thought was, "Wow. This is awesome". All of a sudden I looked around and I didn't see a possibility of falling. I didn't see a death trap. I didn't see a eulogy. I saw God's beauty. Then I laughed. I laughed and rejoiced and sang the entire rest of the way up and down the mountain.

God answers prayers. We know that. But he answered this one IMMEDIATELY. I asked and He said, "Ok. I can do that." No problem. SO easy. And so inexplicable! One second I'm near tears wanting to just sit and wish myself back on solid ground and the next I'm running and jumping thousands of feet above sea level. Never since that day have I doubted the existence and goodness of God. Even when I don't understand it, I never doubt it.

That's what I think about when I get on an airplane. No, I don't particularly like take-offs. No, I certainly do not like turbulence. I don't have a thrill-seeking bone in my body and I definitely don't like that stomach-jumping feeling that gives others so much excitement. But when I get in the air I don't think about how painful it would be to fall to my death. I think, "Thanks God. Thanks for all of these beautiful things you made. Thanks for airplanes that give us the ability to have this view of your creation". And when I feel nervous, I sing "Lord, Be There" or "Be Strong and Courageous" and am comforted. And in fact, I actually love airplanes and would travel by them every vacation if I could.

Next summer Brandon's mom has planned for the entire family to go to Lake City, Colorado. It's a scary place to me. In the middle of the mountains. Close by all these frighteningly skinny jeep passes that Brandon and the other men in the family love. I, however, am convinced that he will die on one someday. I'm trying very hard to forget about my obsessive fear of heights and focus on the knowledge that I don't have to be afraid of heights because really, it's just tall nature. It's a challenge and a struggle, but I think I can do it. After all, my reoccurring dream isn't about dying in Colorado, it's about dying in a mall.

As long as I don't go to the mall in Denver I guess I'll be alright.

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