The term "gripped with fear" has a real reality to it. Exposed to any element of height would freeze my entire body, my head feel like it was swaying as my stomach turned cartwheels. On our honeymoon my husband and I took a ride up the mountain on a ski lift to lunch at the restaurant at the top. The only way down was the lift or slide down the slope. I was in shear panic worsened by my newly wedded husband laughing at me and causing the chair to swing even more. Stubbornness kept me from tears but I have never forgotten the emotional violation of the experience. A year later we planned a trip to California taking the road over the Rocky Mountains. Little did I know it would include a mountain pass with thousands of feet drop offs. I thought my heart would explode from fear which overshadowed the entire vacation knowing that the way back home included the reverse trip over that pass. Later while living on the coast of southern California we took our toddler to the ocean shore amusement park. I don't know why I even got on the double ferris wheel; the fact remained I was on it and no way off until it stopped. My daughter decided to stand up and turn around in mid ride compounding my panic attack. When the wheel we were on reached the top, we were also on the top of the total wheel which created the maximum falling experience as the two wheels went around.
At that time I could not even stand next to a window of a high rise. Interesting that I would eventually jump off a 35 foot cliff. Overcoming that gripping fear was an achievement that started years earlier one step at a time, none of which were planned to achieve the end result. I started with painting a house. I have always improved every house where I lived. One particular challenge was how to paint the peak of a house which meant I needed to stand at the top of a 20' ladder with paint can and brush. Determined to get it done, I convinced myself I was standing on the ground not on the top of a ladder. It worked even though it was a bit dangerous because I almost just stepped sideways off the ladder. Another challenge was proposed by my son who was maybe a preteen at the time. We were at Lakeside Amusement Park where they had a ride called the Chipmunk. It was a little two man in-tandem bullet type roller coaster. He challenged me: "I dare you to ride on it with me." I accepted the challenge just to amuse him and not back down from a dare. I wasn't sure if I would get on the ride or not but not wanting to back off I found myself at the loading platform with the bullet in front of me. He asked if I wanted to be in front or back; I chose back. As we whipped around, over, up and down, I never said a word. He could not believe I was even on the ride let alone being so silent. He turned around to check on me and found that I had my head securely buried down behind his back. I couldn't see a single thing, only could feel the movement. I survived the ride and that for me was a big step that allowed me to enjoy every ride at Disney World, not once but twice.
I had never wanted to ski for fear of the lifts. My husband at the time had wanted to learn how to ski but remembering how he laughed at me and intentionally swung the lift chair on our honeymoon, there was no way I was ever getting on a lift with him again. Fast forward 18 years, my son had become a black diamond skier through the Eskimo Ski Club and offered to teach me to ski. Knowing the he would never do anything to scare me, I jumped at the chance as I had always wanted to come "down" the hill. Our first lessons out we chose the slope with the tow rope. I quickly fell in love with the freedom of flying down a snow packed slope and was ready to take on the lifts. Much like being with my care taking brother, I had total comfort with sharing a lift with my son. I enjoyed many years of skiing thanks to him even though I would still get a small feeling of panic every time the lift took off. I loved Keystone because they had a gondola located at a spot on the mountain where the lines were never long. I referenced my son as being of the same caring personality as my older brother. I would follow my brother up and down cliffs as he would always say, "Don't be afraid, just grab onto my belt and I will pull you up." And he always did.
That 35 foot cliff? It happened around age 60. I had been dating an Italian family; yes an Italian family. You don't date just one person in an Italian family, especially an old cohesive Italian family. Events include the whole family and that wasn't a complaint as I enjoyed their entire family. One such event was a white water trip down the Arkansas River. I love water and boats so this was looking forward to a totally exciting adventure. The family gathering involved three ten-man rafts. As it turned out there was one too many participants for oars to participate in the rowing. Being the oldest female I was delegated to the seat "between" other rowers. I was furious and really just wanted my money back. Bored beyond bored, I was enlightened when a young twenty something niece gave up her oar because she had been bucked out of the raft twice and was hurt and afraid. The guide barked the rowing orders and I was having an amazing time following with muscle and vigor. Then the second obstacle of the trip came to us as we met face-to-face with a huge boulder. Try after try the guide tried to get us released from the boulder in the middle of the river but failed. We were all evacuated to stand on the boulder to wait for rescue which was so much fun to me. I had no fear as I had a life vest on whether a rosy attitude or not, I somehow didn't believe I would ever drown in the rapid. One by one, we were towed from the boulder to the shore via a rope with t-bar that went between your legs like a chair. I was last and those ashore were worried that I would be alright. I was having fun; I mounted the t-bar and jumped into the raging rapid. As warned I was pulled under the rapids and remained until close to the shore. All ashore, the raft deflated, pulled to shore, inflated again, we all boarded once again on the downside of the bolder and were off to continue our adventure. ,
Somewhere halfway or more down the rapids trip, the lead boat pulled into a quiet alcove. Raft two and our raft number three followed. Everyone ahead of me jumped off their rafts and started running up a hill. I asked my date what was going on to which he replied, "We are going to jump off of a 35' cliff." Why would anyone want to jump off a 35' cliff? I wasn't sure I believed him. "You can wait here if you want." he said and he was gone. Curiosity got the best of me and I followed them up the hill. As I climbed the winding trail I could see laughing swimmers coming back around toward the boats. At the top was a narrow spot at the end of the trail from which one-at-a-time each individual in the party jumped down to plunge into the pond 35' below. I stood for a few minutes on the ledge trying to convince myself I could do this. They all survived. What was my problem. So once again I convinced myself I was standing on the ground. I closed my eyes, raised my hands out like Jesus on the cross and peacefully stepped forward. The breeze was fresh as I descended and the feeling was elating. As my feet which were tightly held close together with toes pointed to minimize the impact, my body entered the water. Age had turned my upper under arms into flabby folds of skin that met the water like a slap from a board. I managed to keep my mouth shut in spite of the shock. When I retell the story for humor and impact I amplify the effect of the event by saying the pain in my arms from the impact caused me to open my mouth and gasp, inhaling the river. After which, I emerged belching and sneezing river water. Didn't happen that way but listeners laugh longer and that always makes my heart laugh. I survived the jump.
I worked for a commuter airline once. My fear of flying was overcome by the knowledge of how much goes into checking a plane before take-off. It also helped to get to know the pilots. Why would a pilot get on a plane that he didn't believe would fly? They wouldn't. Fears overcome.