A handshake with heights…


The other day, as we were about to leave from the gym after a workout, Prabhaker pointed to the wall-climbing section. We went over and observed the walls and admired a girl climbing up and down the wall. Clearly, and as Prabhaker informed me, it is not about the legs, but the strength of your arms that it takes for this sport. He casually asked me why dont I try it out. I have always found it a good practice to  avoid saying “no” instinctively. So here I was, all set with the suspension cord (or whatever it is known as – but a real life saver to me!!) belted around me after a brief 7 min crash course and “dos” and “don’ts” of wall-climbing from one of the instructors.

I, like many I know (comfortingly so), suffer from acrophobia! But I had chosen to try it out (why in the world!?!). I climbed half of the wall, halted and laid my eyes below. That was it! I had a strong spasmodic sensation. I knew this feeling; in water parks rides with those crazy heights or in those nightmares as if falling off some tall tower in some endless pit! Phew! Prabhaker was constantly observing me and was trying to push me to go further up. But I gave up. Now that wasnt the end of it! This decision entailed the “part II” – I had to come down! For that, I had to let go of my grip on the wall, push myself away with my feet  suspending myself in the middle of … nothing! The cord (controlled by “hydraulic system”) would bring me down without jerks, the instructor had said . But I could NOT get to doing that. There was a constant battle in my mind. I was trying to tell myself that this is a reliable cord based on “scientific” principle, that I wont fall and die, that people have been doing this ever since the gym had ‘wall-climbing’, that people have been ‘wall-climbing’ even before this chain of gyms started, that even if I fall the floor had a thick layer or rubber shaves that would cause me no harm… Oh my endlessly “creative” mind!

As I was processing all this, it was a long period of my “mind -time” but a few seconds otherwise. I looked down at Prabhaker, heard his words echo “just let go, push yourself away and do not look down”. I ordered myself to obey, and I let go! One baby step towards facing my fear that was sitting there for three decades! Yes, the cord did hold me and I plunged vertically down, with two little pauses, and I touched the earth! Prabhaker smiled at me  with a sense of appreciation and applause.  “You did very good for the first time ” he said. Made me feel good, especially as I felt he meant it. I was so glad deep down to see how Prabhaker encouraged me. It seemed like he cared. That he understood I had this fear and that I must face it in order to get over it.  He didnt rule it out saying something silly as ” why are you scared like a little kid” or “come on, be a sport” or something.  This kind of genuine concern is rare, like a very close friend or a sibling or a parent would display. It helped me. He pushed me to go again. And I conceded, albeit with instinctive reluctance somewhere deep down. This time it was a little more. Then again I went telling myself, I am going to climb naturally, like a …er… monkey (whatever works, you see)!. I didnt look down this time around and went further up. Every climb brought me face to face with my fear as I reached a height. And each ride down, I dared, and let go (as if I had a choice!!).

Jokes apart, the danger wasnt outside, it was rather inside. Our fears, phobias, limitations, issues – be it anything- are nowhere in circumstances or people, as we might often attribute them to; they are all in our minds. The wise thing to do is to know it. To face it… head on!

Next time (sometime!), I know, I am going to myself volunteer to go wall-climbing and offer to extend a friendly handshake to my phobia. Acrophobia.. here I come!

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