05 September 2011

Facing Fear

As I might have mentioned in a prior post or two - I am an admitted worrier. I worry so well that I even worry about it. I come from highly evolved worrier stock on both parental sides and while I might not always have been quite as expert as I am today, four M-men later, the genes were there to develop.

And develop them I did. I can always find something to worry about – it is one well that never runs dry. I worry about everything from whether someone like Rick Perry could become President of the United States to whether my boys are going to find jobs when they graduate. It doesn’t matter that I’m jumping ahead here and first have to worry about them getting into good universities or passing their IB – a pro worrier such as myself can jump back and forth between present and future, long and short term worry without the slightest effort. I still have left over worries from the boys’ toddler days to the point that even now I can only boil water on the stove’s back burners.

Nonetheless, I’ve made some limited progress. Rarely, if ever, am I concerned that my sons could choke on toys with small parts. Problem is – no sooner is one worry eliminated than another appears – with three boys the possibilities are endless, and they haven’t even started driving yet.
Currently, my sons’ skateboarding provides major cause – with some justification. It has already resulted in one broken M-bone. We argue about it pretty incessantly,

Thus, I was shocked when my eldest pointed out something so obvious; it hit me like a looming vert ramp. (Skateboard lingo.) Last June, when I was once again pointing out the relative safety of staying home and studying versus riding a speeding wheeled object down concrete steps, he turned to me, fed up, and said, “Mom, you are only afraid of us doing things you don’t know how to do yourself.  You never worry about us skiing, for instance, because you ski.”  

I had to admit he was absolutely right. Although, don’t get me wrong, I have not the slightest intention of ever, EVER getting on a skateboard so as to eliminate this particular worry that causes my sons so much angst.

I did, however, attempt something else this summer. Something so brave, I am not only exceptionally proud of having tried it, I still have difficulty believing I did. In an effort to conquer worry, fear, sheer terror in the face of untried sporting endeavors, I agreed to take the boys canyoning while we were in Switzerland.

For those who don’t know, canyoning (known as canyoneering in the US) involves a technical descent of a canyon or gorge, using a wide variety of techniques, such as jumping, leaping, sliding, hiking, swimming and abseiling. In our case, it was down a magnificent granite canyon with glacial waterfalls and stunning views. The force of the freezing water is so immense as to leave one breathless. I can’t say I loved it, although now that it’s over I love the fact of having done it. Overcoming the sheer panic of leaning all the way backward over high cliffs and roping down to land or to leap into raging water is amazing. It was utterly terrifying and totally exhilarating at the same time (at least for me – for the boys only the latter.)
In retrospect, all I can say is that it certainly managed to put a lot of my other worries into perspective.  I don’t intend to ever go canyoning again, although I’m sure my sons will. But at least when they do my fear for them will not be magnified by the unknown.  And in the meantime, if they want to go skateboarding, I hope they have a great time (as long as they remember to wear their helmets and make sure they bail before a slam.)

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