Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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GUEST COLUMN: Fear itself

I recently heard someone talking about an "irrational fear". That would be something without good reason. So I took stock of a few of my fears and decided that I am quite rational. I have a fear of heights, I think it is a valid fear. It doesn't petrify me, I do fly, and will go to upper levels of buildings and the like. But given the choice of standing on firm ground or being on some "amusement" ride many feet in the air, well I will stay put right here.

I have recently seen a TV commercial for a new ride at a large amusement park in the Dallas area, Arlington specifically. It is a tower that is a "record setting" four hundred feet in the air. As if that is not enough it spins you around tethered to the device with simple chains. I can easily say that this was not a good way to entice me to visit this specific park.

Now I don't mind flying. I do admit there are some times when I do feel a bit of fear coming up, but it is usually when we are close to the ground, during takeoff or landing. When we are in the air I am actually amazed at the view and enjoy seeing the ground from such a great vantage point. I have never been big on high places, but tolerated it most of my life. That is until the day that I had a life changing event. (The change in my life is that I don't tolerate heights any longer.) I was trimming a tree for a friend, I was quite high, but safely, atop a ladder, and had a running chainsaw. At some point I found myself falling. There is no way to describe what happens, it seems both slow and fast at the same time. I did have plenty of time to discard the running chainsaw, look around for things to grab to slow my descent, and think about the potential injury awaiting me at the end of the incident. On the other hand there was no time to do much more than panic as parts of the ladder, tree limbs, and potential items to grab went zooming by at tremendous speed. Then there was the sudden stop, no sound, no stars, not much intense pain, surprisingly. I would like to put the height of the fall measured in stories of a building, but it was more easily measured in feet.

I found that one of the legs of the ladder collapsed, causing the fall. My chainsaw was actually still running, I am quite sure that I am not the first person to drop a chainsaw from such a height. I was able to get myself to the doctor for a quick exam, revealing no serious injuries, I realize that I was lucky or blessed, or both. I still do ladders, but I am not at ease, I am overly careful, and usually looking for a way out of the job.

What about other irrational fears, how about the fear of spiders. I don't really fear spiders. I will often attempt to relocate a spider as opposed to just stomping on it (I do stomp the poisonous spiders). I don't really want a spider crawling down my neck. If I walk into a spider web and feel something on my neck I tend to jump around like a scared teenage girl. I don't consider that fear, just an unfortunate reaction.

As I have stated in the past I tend to like snakes. I have never had a fear of them, but I know a lot of people do fear them, and will overreact upon seeing a snake. I have a healthy respect for snakes and know how to treat them if they are nearby. Yet some folk, even in Texas, get squeamish just looking at a picture of a snake.

Overall, we all have our issues with certain things. Irrational would be a bird with a fear of heights, or a dirt-dauber with a fear of spiders (since that is what they eat), or perhaps a mongoose with a fear of snakes. Fears are a part of our lives. Regardless of the sticker on the back of the teenager's car that says; "Fearless". They have fears too, fear of parents being too controlling in their life, fear of not fitting in, fear of wearing the wrong style or brand of clothes, or perhaps the greatest fear of all, being in a place with lousy cellphone reception.