Life is fraught with all sorts of real dangers, and I face them all every day. But I also suffer from acrophobia, the fear of heights. And I can tell you for a fact that it is not a real thing. It is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to get up on a ladder and paint the house. It makes it difficult to walk next to the railing in any balcony. And yet, I have proof that is a phony fear, a goofy fear, an all-in-your-head sort of thing. Not only do I face it and overcome it (I have been able to paint the house), but I love the window seat when riding in an airplane. Looking out the window after take-off is an adventure better than any video game. I love to fly. That irrational fear is a different irrational fear.
And yet, acrophobia paralyzed me once in a panic attack. We were visiting Arches National Park in Utah. My wife thinks it’s rather funny to watch me cringe when she can walk up to the edge of a cliff and look over. She wanted to take a picture of the Princess when our daughter was only five, and she had her backed up near the edge to take the picture with a big deep hole behind her. I strenuously objected, and would’ve gone out and grabbed her, but I was paralyzed with fear, and I realized I might very well pitch us both over the edge. In spite of my objections, the picture was taken. The Princess even jumped up and down a couple of times before she left the edge. I was curled up in the passenger seat of the van after that with my hands over my eyes and shaking like someone was electrocuting me. The wife got a good laugh at my expense, and my suffering was entirely too real, though no one else in the car believed it. (Yes, that certainly made it better, didn’t it?)
But life is like that. In so many ways we live our lives on the very edge of the metaphorical cliff. I have six incurable diseases and I am a cancer survivor. But I am not taking my four medicines any more because of the cost and what health insurance refuses to pay. I can’t even afford the copay at the doctor’s office as often as I really ought to be going. Climate talks in Paris are trying to solve the global warming crisis, but scientists report things like the methane gasses from the melting permafrost, and we realize it may already be too late. The world may become a boiling ball of heat and acid rain like the planet Venus because so many corporations for so many years put profit margins above environmental protections. We may succeed in snuffing out life on earth, so I am seriously not alone being on the brink of a plummet into the permanent darkness of non-existence. But what can you really do? Do you stop living? Do you curl up in a fetal ball and quake with fear?
I choose to dance. I have proven time and time again that I can overcome that irrational fear. It does not have to rob me of joy and make me suffer. It is all a matter of the choices we make. I do my best to recycle and plant growing things that make oxygen out of carbon dioxide. I do my best not to get sick. I choose to do what I believe is the wisest thing to do in the face of the deep dark precipice. I choose to dance.