Have you ever had those stomach lurching dreams as you seemingly fall through endless space, only to be jolted awake? They say it comes from anxiety that builds up in real life and overflows into your dreams.
Yet this is one thing some people experience when awake. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty much what a panic attack feels like. As a naturally anxious person, I understand and have learned to cope with these emotions. But, why do we fear to fall?
I could attribute it to that time when I was four and almost broke my neck falling head first down a steep flight of stairs. I can still remember the feeling of my stomach soaring up into my mouth and the horror that there was nothing I could do to break the fall. It was inevitable.
Are we really afraid of falling or are we afraid of being completely out of control of the outcome? It’s so interesting that the physical stress from falling down can match the mental anxiety of a situation where we feel like everything is going wrong and there is nothing to do to fix it. My body doesn’t really seem to know the difference.
There is a lot of potential for falling in my future. Shoot, it’s here now. I’m not really sure the fear will ever truly go away, just as the possibility of tripping down the stairs ever really does.
When I was in England, we went to Warwick Castle and decided to climb the main tower with an old stone staircase. The staircase spiraled upwards and upwards with nothing stopping you to fall straight down if you happened to trip on the steep steps.
I froze half way up. I was hit with the old feeling of, “what if I fall?” I felt like gravity was clinging to me, just waiting to bring me crashing down. It took a solid five minutes (possibly longer) until my companions were able to convince me to keep going up. Even though I was so terrified and had to battle my thoughts, I knew I would be even more furious if I didn’t get to see the top of the tower. I had read about castles my whole life, especially this one. I couldn’t go back. I had to know what it felt like to be up there.
Image found on Google
With my upcoming trip to NYC for six weeks and the anxiety slowly beginning to creep in, I found solace in what Elizabeth Gilbert had to say about fear in a recent Facebook post:
“I’ve always been a shaky person, ever since childhood. (It took my poor mother years to teach me how to swim, because for me, “swimming” meant “clinging to your mother’s neck and howling in mortal terror.”) The world makes me terribly anxious. (Or maybe I make IT anxious.) I grind my teeth at night so hard that I just cracked a perfectly good molar a few months ago: Even in sleep, I am not relieved of my fears!
There is no fear you could possibly imagine that I have not experienced — especially in regard to creativity. Basically, my body is made out of 60% water, and 19% fear.
The only reason I have ever been able to create anything, is because the remainder of my body is made out of CURIOSITY. That’s right: I’m composed of 60% water, 19% fear, and 21% curiosity. Curiosity always wins by a nose! Thus, creativity has a chance to thrive within me, despite my many terrors.
So that’s my prayer for you all — not that you will become fearless, but that you will always be SLIGHTLY more curious about the world than you are frightened of it. Because the victory of curiosity is the fertile field where exploration, invention, transformation and creation will all begin to grow.”
So I’ll keep climbing and growing despite my fears. New perspectives are always worth it… and sometimes we even learn to fly on the way down.
The view from Broadway Tower. Different tower than my story, but similar steps.