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Jordan Heron - The Vanity Card Series

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#022 - UP, UP AND AWAY

Parasailing was a big disappointment.

I need to clarify the previous statement by saying that it was exhilarating. But I wasn't after exhilarating. I was after terrifying.

I am afraid of heights. Climbing ladders just gives me the willies. Standing at the edge of a gorge or even a roof makes my knees weak. It's a burden, especially for someone who's trying to renovate a barn by taking a floor out. Just thinking about being 12 feet up a ladder working on a wall makes my stomach churn.

It's not the heights, per se, but the fear of falling. Usually, an irrational fear. I have never fallen off a three foot wide sidewalk, but if you put that sidewalk ten feet up in the air, I couldn't walk along it. I can't walk off the end of a diving board four feet in the air.

Airplanes don't bother me. I've never fallen off or out of a plane. But I've never fallen off or out of a tree or ladder either, and still they terrify me. Go figger.

Anyway, for whatever odd reasons, by brain has something against heights, sometimes. I think there are two things you can do with weaknesses: respect them or challenge them. I don't mean it's either/or. Different situations call for different reactions.

For me, because of my fear of heights, I have taken courses on rock climbing and rappelling. I have gone bungee jumping, once from a crane (the CNE), and twice from a bridge (Nanaimo, BC). Terrible fear accompanied both of these things, but I managed to get through them, and - to a larger degree than I expected - to enjoy the experiences.

This past Christmas Day, on the island of Aruba, I found myself on a beach with $60 not doing anything in my pocket. There was also a sign that said "Parasailing $60". A sign from God, a portent, during a season filled with religious significance. I could not deny my destiny.

For those few who don't know, parasailing is where they attach a special parachute to a rope that's on a winch on a boat. Once they've got the parachute inflated (by facing it into the wind and making the boat move - which, in this case, was a comedy unto itself), they attach you to the 'chute and reel out the rope. 850 feet of rope, so they said.

Wow - that was high. How high, you ask? Well, when I got back to the boat, I asked the guy and he said 250 feet. Now, I just did some math here. Assuming that I was up at a 45 degree angle, and it sure felt like that, the height would actually be 600 feet. Allowing for exaggeration on my part, perhaps I was at about 37 degrees, the angle of a 3-4-5 triangle, using 3 as the conservative short height. That puts me at 510 feet.

So, I don't know how high it was, but it was REALLY high, and it was a lot more than 250 feet.

So here's the conundrum:
It was awesome.
And it didn't frighten me in the least.

What the hell? Maybe it was the fact that I didn't feel I could fall, being strapped into a nice harness. Maybe it was the fact that I thought that being over water was safe, even though my conscious brain said that falling into the ocean from 250 feet plus was NOT going to be a pleasant experience. I just don't know.

I guess I don't really understand my own phobias.

I highly recommend trying parasailing. At least once.
But not as a challenge for those afraid of heights.
It just wasn't that scary.

06 January 2010

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