Fear of Heights: Adventures in Conquering It

Lately I’ve been photographing a lot with my BlackBerry. It doesn’t have a very good camera, but it’s a lot lighter than my Canon DSLR. I carry it with me everywhere, so it’s the camera of choice for spur-of-the-moment photography.

One of the themes of the 12 Cities, 1 Year tour is conquering fear: of not being settled, of living in all these different places, of not having a steady job. And, for me, minimizing my fear of heights. I don’t have any ambitions to conquer it; I’d rather go to the bottom of the ocean than the top of a mountain. But I do want to wrestle with the fear a little.

In Portland, Todd and I lived in the SE neighborhood, and if I wanted to get to the credit union, I had to cross the railroad. There were two bridges I could take; the one pictured below was definitely in need of renovation. It leaned to one side, and some of the boards were rotting. It wasn’t in any danger of falling down, but I wouldn’t want to jump up and down on it. Portland bridges, Portland photosAs I crossed it, I was breathing hard, saying out loud, “You can do this.” Luckily for me, a train didn’t pass by underneath while I was crossing.

On the North Steel Bridge near Portland’s Rose Quarter, it was a different story. A much sturdier bridge than the one shown above, the Steel Bridge has lanes for walking and biking, driving cars and riding buses, and riding the light rail. From the Rose Quarter side, it looked intimidating to me. But once I got out over the water, I felt rather protected by all the concrete. Walking across didn’t bother me too much, at least not until I reached the middle section, made of metal. For some reason that unnerved me.Portland photos, overcoming fearThe railroad ran underneath on its way to who-knows-where.Beth Partin's photos, train under bridgeNorth Steel Bridge had a different vibration depending on what was crossing it at any given time. But the view from it was spectacular, even on a cloudy day. That day I was thinking my fear of heights masks a desire to leap off the bridge and see how long it will take to hit the water and how it will feel. I always feel safer walking above water than walking above land. I guess my brain figures water is softer, but of course that depends on how far above it I am!The Broadway Bridge crosses the Willamette River to the north, and on the other side of the river from the Rose Quarter is this marina, serving some riverside development in NW Portland. NW Portland marinaI tried to get a picture of every kind of transport crossing the Steel Bridge, but I was most interested in the light rail. Here two trains, going in opposite directions, pass each other. The pedestrian/cyclist lane is wider than it looks here, but nevertheless I kept checking behind me to see that no cyclists were trying to get by.light rail crossing Steel Bridge PortlandAnd here, at the NW end of the bridge, I saw the tail end of the Portland Marathon.Portland photos, Portland Marathon

I don’t honestly know how much of an effect these experiments have on my fear of heights. It has definitely worsened with age, but I find that when I do confront it in some small way, I can “Keep Calm and Carry On” through the fear. Sometimes it isn’t so bad, sort of like a fizzing in my stomach, and sometimes I feel quite lightheaded.

In any case, I dislike being afraid, so I will go on challenging myself in these small ways. Don’t expect me to start climbing mountains or building high-rises, though.