Sunday 27 April 2008

Full of hot air or not

I am facing one of my fears finally.

After two days of positive and inspiring messages I had convinced myself that I was ready to go on that balloon ride. Even though I'm tall I have this fear of heights. Go figure. In fact when I am in a multistory building my feet start to twitch if I go near the windows - instead of walking away, I want to do the opposite - and jump out the windows (and no, I normally do not have suicidal tendencies). It's just one more odd thing about me.

I usually get pushed by others to do things (and no I don't mean out of fourth floor windows). I mean to try new things and take risks. When I think about it, if it wasn't for others I may not have ever done a great deal. I never volunteer for things. I was not born with the brave chip.

For instance my fear of heights has been all consuming at times. Two years ago, I was on the Isle of Capri with a friend. Great, relaxing holiday until........she decided she wanted to go on the flying fox up and down a cliff face. I didn't. She said, "just come and wait for me while I go up then". Except, when we went to the entrance, they just pushed me on to the chair, shut the gate and I was off. No time to jump. Now when I originally thought of the Isle of Capri, I imagined soft white sandy beaches and blue oceans. A safe landing. Oh no. Its all cliff faces and rocks. High cliffs. The only consolation was there were lots of churches in case I needed the last rites at any stage.....and a burial. My shoes ended up over some poor Italian's vegetable patch and I screamed all the way up to the top and refused to come back down without having sedatives and a bottle of gin first. My advice is never look down. Ever. My friend was hysterical and crying - with laughter. She will never let me forget it for the rest of my life. The only upside was that I had a great excuse to buy a pair of wonderful Italian shoes (and I did feel great afterwards even though my clothes were drenched with sweat)..

Sometimes, the fear of humiliation overtakes my fear of heights. Once I was on my way to a management course in another city. I really didn't want to go. It was raining and a bus picked us up from the airport. Except not long after the bus collided with a tram stop. The driver was badly hurt and the passengers thrown about like clothes in a dryer. The only way out of the bus was through the window. Even under those circumstances I balked. I did it but just because there was no choice. And it wasn't even too far off the ground. I remember the CEO of the company sent us faxes saying how sorry he was to hear about the accident and, given we had been chosen for our management potential, we would get to go on another course soon. I wrote back and told him if this is the way he assessed people's management potential then I had clearly failed...I said he could have the dizzying heights of a management career on his own and stick any future courses. Thank goodness he just assumed it was the painkillers talking ...... let's say he never forgot me, I never had to do that course and nor did that crash do anything to resolve my fears of heights. It just gave me a new fear of buses (kidding).

In fact, I have seriously prayed that heaven is on ground level on a flat and even surface. And that I don't have to have a pair of wings to get in. No, the other option doesn't sound entertaining either because I don't do darkness and searing heat well either. But, just in case the only way to heaven is up, I know I have to conquer my fear of heights once and for all. How embarrassing if I can't get into the pearly gates because I was too scared to take a leap of faith.

So it's D day. It's not like I am talking about bungee jumping or sky diving. I mean it's only going up in the sky standing in a wicker basket with a balloon over your head. How hard could it be? I'll let you know.


I DID IT and I learnt some things I will never forget.

One, you have to get up incredibly early to catch a ride because the early hours are the calmest time of day for balloons to do their thing. Two, you have to be sure that the cane baskets you ride in are not made in Taiwan and are actually wicker (and I was caught trying to find the Made in..... sticker) and three, you also can't be scared of fire (because that is one big flame keeping the balloon aloft because they need a burner to heat the air in the balloon until it is hotter than the air outside the balloon) and four, and most important, accept the glass of champagne they offer you in flight because it can calm the nerves. If you can't loosen your hands from their tight grip on the side of the basket, or around the neck of the man standing next to you, kindly ask another passenger to pour the champagne down your throat. It's medicinal. And compulsory.

Most of all I realised that this was my kind of flying; serene, unique, an aerial nature walk. You don't feel any wind because you are moving at the same speed as the wind. I guess most of all I learnt that you should never look down to test the ground before taking your next step. You have to keep your eyes on the horizon and, with any luck, you will indeed find the right road.

I think I am learning to feel the fear and do it without being pushed to take the plunge. We are like ants in the overall scheme of things, and we really have to learn to get over ourselves and focus on real issues. Next, I might scale the Sydney Harbour Bridge....well sometime....or other.... I am sure there are lots of years left in me to give that one a go. I don't think you can see me in this picture - I'm the one on the floor of the basket hanging on to someone's ankles (just kidding...sort of).


  1. Wow, that must have been a blast for you. I'm glad you were able to relax and enjoy the ride because it is such a fascinating way to see your city. We have a very large balloon festival here in Plano every year and the course, before it was changed, used to take the balloons right over my house just after lift-off. I always knew they were there because of the loud blast from the burners, so I would go outside and look up and they were barely above the treetops yet. So cool. Congratulations for doing something like that which your mind rebels against; it sure makes you feel good, doesn't it?

    The story about the Isle of Capri was hilarious, but I tend to think you were just tired of that particular pair of shoes and planned the whole "scared of heights" thing so you could buy the new Italian shoes. Just kidding. Thanks for the laughs.

  2. I have heard that we came to life to fight all our worst fears and the things we most hate we need to learn to tolerate, we came to learn to be humble and pacefull and find out how high not low we can get, I always feel good for people like you that is always trying to break fear and in a safe way, and then looking for the next goal :) Your blog is awesoma as always

  3. I can completely relate to a fear of heights. I remember being frozen half way along a thin wire of a path leading down a steep cliff to a gorgeous beach. I could not move. Worse, my boyfriend just waltzed off and left me. I had to watch him frolic on the beach while I tried to find the courage to turn around without pitching over the edge. The boyfriend didnt last long after that!

  4. Matt - I'm not so sure I would say relaxed but it does feel good to do things that scare you. Funny thing is I could pick up a spider walk near a lion or tiger or whatever but am terrified of a mouse. The sound of the balloons sure is loud actually. My Dad flew in a balloon festival in Japan so they must have them everywhere now. They sure look beautiful when there are lot so them together. And what do you mean thanks for the laughs? Its my life..ha ha.

  5. Shine - what a wise person you are. I believe that too. I think too many people think they should expect a life full of great happiness and wealth. As though that is what life owes them. I think, like you said, that we are here to learn things and I really like the way you expressed it - 'We came to life to fight all our worst fears and the things we most hate we need to learn to tolerate, we came to learn to be humble and peaceful and find out how high not low we can get.' If we truly believed it we would be happier people and we would better understand when we face suffering and hardship. Thanks so much for that reminder. I may do a post on that very thought at some point and I will be sure to quote you and link to your site. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Anne - that is a horrible story - you expressed it so well. I immediately had a visual in my mind of balancing on thin wire. I think some people find it funny, other peoples fears I mean. Some boyfriend and I'm glad he failed the test and you dumped him. Good thing too by the sound of it. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Sounds like you had a great time. I've suffered from a fear of heights for some years, but recently I went abseiling - my eyes were closed. But it felt great.

    Fear can be debillitating and the only way to conquer it is to walk through it.

  8. Wow Jon, abseiling. That makes ballooning look like child's play. It looks really fun too. Maybe I should put that on my list to do. Nice to know others suffer form the same thing. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. What a fun thing to be able to do!
    I'm so glad you were able to relax and enjoy the ride. My family and I were able to see many hot air balloons take off all at once,one Labor Day and that was an amazing site.

  10. Thanks Sandyalne for visiting. They are truly beautiful to see when there are lots of them flying at the one time. You must have a go if you get the chance.

  11. That was a great post! You had me laughing and sweating at the same time. I completely feel for you. As you may know I hate heights. The bit about the Isle of Capri, gave me a mini panic attack. :) I would have screamed and cried the whole way, much like I do when on a ski lift. :)

    Anyway congratulations to you for going ahead and facing that fear! That of course is the only way to make it better. I just wish it wasn't so scary. :)

    I bet the balloon ride was stunning though. Once the champagne kicked in and you got up enough nerve to look over the edge for more than a milisecond that is.

    Some day maybe I will be brave enough to do the same!!

  12. Lilly that is fantastic! We actually saw two balloons in the air yesterday. They are beautiful! I'm sure the view was breath taking too.

    My fear... deep sea diving. I have an enormous fascination with the ocean, sea life etc... I LOVE it, but for the life of me, have almost the same size fear of it. I love the beach, would live there if possible. I love to swim in the ocean, but have this fear of the “unseen” of what is around me. We’ve been to Cancun twice and Puerto Vallarta once. Snorkeled each time but had this anxiousness the whole time. I think it’s really sharks I’m afraid of. ;))

    It’s not like you can just pick up and run if one comes your way. (lol)
    Kudos’s to you for overcoming your fear!!! What’s next on your list?

  13. MacNellyfamilyadventures - Wow you snorkelled - thats really great given your fear. I know what you mean about the ocean - I guess its all about being sensible and knowing what to look out for. Its somethign we are mindful of here. I am not sure what I will do next but have about 100 things on my list. I would really like to do a really long walk somewhere - have to think about that one some more. I want to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge - my aunty just did it and she is in her 70s so there is no excuse. Its fun thinking about things. Thanks for dropping by.

  14. Too funny, too too funny! I was cackling by the end!

    But there's a lot of truth in it too, especially where you mention not looking down and keeping your eyes fixed on the horizon. A lesson learnt by you - taught to me. Thank you.

  15. miz.eb - thanks for your comments, I areally appreciate them. I tend to worry unecessarily so I really need to look at the big picture a whole lot more. I kind of learnt that lesson.


Thanks for your comments.