Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Red Dress Playlist: "C'mon Get Higher"

A while back, I started a self-improvement project, inspired by Jenny Lawson, the Great Bloggess. To read about the origin of my project, look here. For the short version, each week I will set out to conquer something that is holding me back from being the person I want to be. A relationship, a memory, a fear. . .anything that makes me less than I am. I will attack each challenge wearing my red dress as a cape for inspiration and as a symbol of the superheroes we all are inside. My goal is to undertake the daunting task of taking one crazy, neurotic, and mentally unstable woman and molding her into a productive member of our crazy, neurotic, and mentally unstable society.

My friend Alex is an engineer and a male.  As such, he is a very linear thinker who believes that every effect has a cause and every problem has a solution.  Nothing makes him lose his shit faster than if you tell him something occurred “for no reason”.  As such, Alex has made it his personal raison d’etre to help me to conquer my irrational fear of heights.
“Were you in a plane crash or something?” Alex has asked me. “Fell off a building? Was assaulted by a Harlem Globetrotter?  C’mon, Jen.  Nobody is afraid of something without some predicating traumatic event.”

But I am!  I am terrified of heights for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  And it wasn’t always that way. I mean, when I was a kid I used to climb on top of our garden shed and do upside-down swinging knee drops from a 15 foot cherry tree, but back then it wasn’t called “extreme sports”, it was called “being a fucking idiot”.  But I’m not totally inhibited.  In fact, just the other day I was at Taco Bell and ordered my Burrito Supreme with the FIRE salsa!  I live life on the EDGE, yo!
I tried to explain to Alex that anxieties develop over time as a result of stressors in our lives.  As we age and experience more things like illness, death, divorce, and reality TV we can begin slowly acquiring such compensating phobias as fear of heights, fear of snakes, fear of public humiliation, fear of closed spaces, and fear of leaving home.*
*Got it, got it, need it, got it, need it.
Sadly, this argument wasn’t powerful enough to assuage Alex’s disapproval, so he decided that I would “get over that shit” by having him and his lovely wife Gina take me rock-climbing.  “You’ll love it!” Alex grinned. “Rock climbing is just like hiking!” Yeah, sure. . .hiking with crippling fear of death and dismemberment as your body careens from the side of an 80 foot wall.*
*And while we’re on the subject, comparing one activity I hate with an equally unpleasant one does very little to state your case.
I’m not totally oblivious to rock-climbing.  This is Portland, Oregon after all, where 90% of the population tools off in their Subaru Outback every weekend to dangle off the side of a rock or some other hippy-dippy, weekend warrior bullshit like that.  And the health club where I used to work had the notable distinction of housing one of the largest indoor rock walls in the Pacific Northwest.  But although I worked at the club for a little over two years, the closest I came to the rock wall was walking past it on the way to get a smoothie and yelling “Tell Darwin I said ‘hi’!” at the assholes rappelling down its sides.
As I did not wish to humiliate myself in a former place of business, I agreed to meet Alex and Gina at their rock gym across town.  The first thing I noted when I walked in was the smell.  It was like chalk. . .and incense. . .and ass.  I briefly pondered making a trip to Target and returning with enough Febreze to spray the ever-loving shit out of this joint, but Alex had a mission, and within ten minutes I was harnessed, tied, and being wrenched up a wall by a 90 pound hipster in a Che Guevara tee shirt.
At first I was OK. . .I was focused. . .I was zen. . .then I looked down at the distance separating me from the ground I so dearly love and I began howling like a beagle at a Yanni concert.*
*You know what’s apparently hi-LAR-ious to a room full of hipsters? A 41-year-old white chick dangling from a rope and flailing like an epileptic at a laserlight show.
“Just relax!”  Che Guevara tee yelled to me. Yeah, well, I’ll tell you what, Patchouli McTreehugger, when my pasty ass is dangling 75 feet above terra firma then “relax” is just NOT in my fucking vocabulary, ‘kay?  But I did manage to at least keep my shrieking to a minimum, and after ten more minutes of psychological warfare, I was slowly lowered to the blessed, chalk-stained earth.
Did I overcome my fear of heights.  Not quite, but I did learn a few things. 
1.       Rock climbing is not about strength, per se.  Sure, being strong helps, but what is more important is proper technique, balance, flexibility, and clear focus. If your arms and legs are shaking like Michael J. Fox after a quad-shot latte, then the strength of your upper body won’t mean jack squat.
2.      The concept of extreme sports like rock climbing and naked bungee jumping is just another component in the vast conspiracy contrived to make me feel like I'm aging faster than a tuna sandwich in a glove compartment in July.
3.      My friends are assholes.
Do I think I’ll be returning to the rock gym?  Not a chance in hell.  But I may see if I can still do that swinging knee-drop thingy.  Never know when you might need to bust out a bad-ass ninja move.


Tainted Fibers said...

I am afraid of heights and do not apologize for it. I have a fear of bridges as well. My fear of bridges is legendary in my family, especially when it involves ME DRIVING over them. My son was in marching band. We were driving to Indy for national competition, husbeast was getting sleepy, he asks me to drive. Daughter and her friend are in the back seat dozing, when we switch drivers. My daughter wakes up, punches her friend and says "Wake up. Mama's driving over this bridge. This oughta be good"... Kids.

chemgirljaime said...

I've been trying to help my bf who has a fear of heights overcome his fear.... I keep wanting to take him to the suspension bridge in town .. but he refuses to go. I'm also of the thought that you have to stand up to your fear to be able to conquer it.

you should have taken pictures ...sounds like you had an ...interesting time.


Jen said...

FIBERS - Fortunately I don't have bridge issues as you can't swing a dead cat in P-Town without hitting a bridge. I'd be freakin' screwed.

JAIME - There wasn't a chance in HELL I was going to have a view of my fat ass in a harness immortalized for all of history. No. Fucking. Way.

Phoenix Rising said...

I never used to be scared of heights --- I'd shimmy up the farm silo, to the top of a Willow Tree (which, by the way gets very slim and unsteady the higher you roam), dangle my feet out of the window of the haymow on the second story of the barn... Now, well, I crawled to my seat in the front row of the balcony of the theatre last week. I practically pass out crossing bridges... I'm pretty sure this all started after my (ugly) divorce and subsequent (ridiculously insane) child visitation/support court hearings. That being said, there is no fucking way I'm climbing up a cliff. Just sayin'. Kudos to you!!

HeatherRose said...

See, you did it all wrong. The whole point of rock climbing is to go with an ex boyfriend and be the one on the ground so that you can 'accidentally' drop him and leave him dangling 10 ft from the wall and 15 ft off the ground. Just watch out for that part where he considerably outweighs you so you both end up swinging in mid air. Whoops.

Jen said...

PHOENIX - I didn't become so neurotic until I married my ex. Years of abuse can set you up with some pretty hefty PTSD.

HEATHER - Oh shit. Why do I fear that your story is autobiographical? ;)

Anonymous said...

Good for you for facing your fears. And good on Alex for making you.

Next stop . . . small dark room full of snakes!! :D

Chillin'Villain said...

When you're young (and stupid) your pre-frontal cortex has not fully developed. This means that most people have not reached their full capability for rational thought until they hit their mid-twenties. You can tell Alex that this is the reason for your fear of heights for when you were young you were inherently stupid, and now you are very wise ;-). Also, any particularly emotionally damaging experiences can have a profound effect on a person's psyche leading to unbased or irritional fears (Much like PTSD). If one does not encounter a potential fear in a non-threatening way on a regular basis, they can develop a fear based on not integrating or knowing the consequences of a potentially risky behavior. There's your proof.

Enough of my chatter...I glad that you were able to confront your fear of heights!!! Many people would not have had the strength or courage to have done what you did :-)

P.S.-How'd you think last night's eppy went? I'm pretty sure that I'm still not breathing after watching that promo!! Holy Crap!!!

Jen said...

MISTY -Small, dark, snaky room? Ummm. . .yeah. . .never gonna happen.

CV - I am going to DIE waiting for mext week's episode!!!! Still gasping after the promo.

Bexstar said...

Girl you is so brave! Unfortunately the laws of chubby/gravity disallow me to participate in such dickflappery as rock climbing. But go you!! x

Andrea said...

I guess my fear of heights is in direct correlation to how steady and safe I perceive what I am standing on to be. It is also not getting better with age. Ferris wheels as a kid--hell yeah...now? I don't even want to watch someone else on them...especially the folding to move to another town tomorrow types!

Sheila said...

I fuckin LMAO to tears on this comment...“Just relax!” Che Guevara tee yelled to me. Yeah, well, I’ll tell you what, Patchouli McTreehugger, when my pasty ass is dangling 75 feet above terra firma then “relax” is just NOT in my fucking vocabulary, ‘kay?" GF you are so brave. I'm not especially afraid of height because I don't get high enough to worry about it. I'll just stick with the weinermobile TYVM...

Stacey said...

You should sign up and do Kiss Me Dirty with a group of gals I'm running/obstacle-ing (Yes new word) with in September. Its just mud and tires and walls and all that good jazz- but women only in a 5K event!

Brett Minor said...

I am not scared of heights, but I will not just walk up to the edge of something high like I used to. I don't trust my balance and strength anymore. Plus, I think somewhere along the line, I became aware of my mortality.

Jen said...

ANDREA - I crap my pants every time my short people ride the Ferris Wheel. I don't need to see my offspring that high off the ground.

SHEILA - The Wienermobile is definitely more my speed. humans were not meant to be suspended in the air.

STACEY - That sounds awesome! I'd love to!

BRETT - I am such a dork that I trip over my own feet. Me? Near a cliff or building top? It won't end well.

lazysubculturalgirl said...

I used to do that swinging knee-drop thing too, off the parallel bars. Over concrete. I miss being a badass oblivious kid.

I don't have a fear of heights. I AM, however, phobic about public humiliation which means that Alex and Gina's method would totally work on me. I would spontaneously get over my fear of heights to avoid embarrassing the Che Guevara t-shirt. I'm sorry us humiliation-phobes are ruining shit for the rest of you.

Tiffany said...

Awesome. I can flip off anything as long as there's a foam pit beneath me and my brains won't splatter everywhere. But put me on top of something taller than I am with a hard surface under me, and I get crazy dizzy. I've decided that it's not the hieght or even the ensuing fall that I'm afraid of. It's just the inevitable slat at the end of the fall.
But if my brains splatter, then zombies will come.
Was that not a friggin' AWESOME episode?! And did she grab him to kiss him in that promo?! Rediculous fangirling going on here!

Jen said...

BEX-Some say brave, others say fucking insane. Only time will tell.

Jen said...

ANDI- I could use a healthy fear of public humiliation. Then maybe I wouldn't be such an asshole all the time.

TIFFANY- She TOTALLY kissed him! SQUEE! I'm gonna lose my mind waiting 'til Monday.

Wily Guy said...

And yet, no pictures? I was exciting a way cool, cape wearing, spiderman lookin Jen on a wall.

And yes, smells like feet all up somebody's butt.

I'd almost rather hit up the laser tag joint with the teenage boys...

I'll be posting a video of my assault (how bad would that have been if my comment had gone before the ault) on the Willis Tower...you'll have a coronary fer sure.


WeezaFish said...

Brave lady! And you're right, nothing ages me more than an attempt at extreme sports or something 'young', Sheesh, I thought I was still young, when did that happen? I'm going snowboarding, sod this getting old rubbish.

Anonymous said...

They have a rock-climbing wall at the kites-and-weird-shit store DSM and I go to at the beach, and she ALMOST had me convinced to do it last time (I used to go caving and all that ropes-and-helmets shit anyway). Then I noticed that everyone else doing it was apparently, well, 7... whereas I, alas, am not. Nor do I wish to plummet to my death accompanied by the sound of children laughing.

Mandy said...

I am so terrified of heights. And depths. In Florida we have lots of springs (duh) and I refuse to swim in them. Not only because they're fuck ass cold (my big toe don't go in for less than 80 and these mo fo's are 72 year round brrr) but they are also a big ass hole in the ground. Some of the springs go HUNDREDS of feet deep. (And if you think about it? That's still a fear of heights because you're 100 feet ABOVE the bottom of the spring *shudder*)

We also have lots of SINKHOLES in Florida. Sinkholes are the opposite of springs- they suck you down and springs (allegedly) spit you up. Now, sinkholes can get full of water like a bathtub, but the second that tree limb dislodges itself into the aquifer, it's like pulling the plug on said bathtub. If you think my ass is gonna jump in a sinkhole of death because "It's FINE. It's not gonna suck you into the aquifer" then I want whatever these people who DO take such risks are smokin'. According to my mom, the science dweeb, it is naturealogically (<-- totally just made that word up) impossible for a spring to reverse flow and suck you into it.

I beg to differ. I had a dream when I was but 5 years old that such a thing happened.

I don't do springs.

I don't do sinkholes.

I will, however, do a nice Olympic sized swimming pool OR the Gulf of Mexico. Both are clear as a bell, all the way to the bottom and easily reach 80+ degrees by June. And in the Gulf, clear water means I can see the sharks a'comin for me.

The End.

Jen said...

SCOTT - They wouldn't even let me wear the cape because they said it would get in the way of the harness. Boo, Portland Rock Gym!

WEEZA - Oh God, I tried to teach my short people how to snowboard last year. I looked like Rosie O'Donnell attempting to tightrope walk. It was not pretty.

HOODY - My shawties LOVE to climb and I take them to the bouldering gym and watch in abject horror (and jealousy) at their badass Spidey skillz.

MANDY - My fear of heights is only eclipsed by my fear of being trapped underwater. That is a whole different episode of Dr. Phil that I can't even ponder at this point. ACK!

Ally Gregory-Moore said...

Good for you! And just think, rock climbing skills will be super useful during the zombie apocalypse.

Leauxra said...

So I have a theory that the best rock climbers are the ones that ARE afraid of heights... they won't be out there doing stupid shit, they'll just be doing it right.

Same goes for most things... the best exterminator should be afraid of spiders because they can freaking zero in on a bug at 300 yards.

This is why I am so good at hiking. I am afraid of everything... wind, trees, animals, getting hurt, uneven surfaces, open spaces, closed spaces, insects... everything.

Jen said...

ALLY - During the Apocalypse I'm counting on my mad archery skillz (Katniss has nothing on me, yo) and my .357 Smith & Wesson. Aim for the head.

LEAUXRA - Your theory makes sense. Maybe that's why I'm a good runner; I'm constantly terrified of dogs off-leash, rabid squirrels, and creepy guys in windowless vans.

Mandy said...

Drowning and Burning. My 2 fears. Probably because both involve some soft of suffocation. *shudder*

We'll go on Dr. Phil together one day. He'll have a heyday with us.

Angie said...

We had to learn rappelling in high school. My biggest fear was getting my t-shirt caught in the metal hook and having it sucked up over my head exposing my boobs to the world. That didn't happen... but the fear of heights has. I can fly and go into tall buildings and hike, but looking over the edge of a cliff or watching anyone else looking over the edge of a cliff is enough to cause near hyperventilation. Major props to you for confronting your fear!

Jen said...

ANGIE - What kind of demented high school did you attend! I would have faked cramps to get out of it...like I did every other athletic endeavor in high school.

mark said...

I've been rock climbing once and it wasn't on some gym wall, but out in nature under the blue sky with imminent death lurking in the shadows below. I loved it and considered taking it up as another hobby but the wise words of a trusted friend swayed me otherwise: "Every rock climber knows a dead climber." Ain't that the truth? Here's to trying it once and having the good sense to say, "That's enough for me."

Jen said...

MARK - a DEAD climber? Oh yeah...that's comforting.