I never understood what fear was as a kid. We were invincible until we hit our late 20’s, early 30’s…or until we had our own kids. Right? Then fear was all encompassing. I cannot believe what a fraidy-cat I became once my kids were born, and how annoyingly overprotective I could be.
As a child, I was willing to do anything and try everything. Nothing seemed to faze me because I didn’t know any better. But with experience, we know what’s ahead of us and what the possibilities are. Ignorance IS bliss.
In grammar school, I would always want to be the lead in our school plays. I had no problem getting up in front of an audience and acting out a role. I couldn’t wait to be in the limelight. (I don’t know how I was able to memorize lines back then. Nowadays, I have to look up someone’s 7 digit phone number 8 times before I can finally finish dialing it.)
I didn’t mind giving oral reports in high school. Piece of cake. But for some reason, once I hit my college years, fear set in and froze me from deep within. Getting up in front of a class of my peers tormented me for days prior to the big speech. I kept writing it and rewriting it hoping it wouldn’t sound stupid and hoping no one would ask any questions. It was like those dreams where we are standing naked on stage for all the world to see. And although my body may not have been naked, my soul was. And I didn’t like it one bit. Communications was probably not the best major for a person who feared public speaking. [Ya think?] I would try to speak on subjects I knew first hand thinking it would give me more confidence. I would stand at the podium and do all I could to not have my legs give out from under me and keel over. I tried to keep the thought of projectile vomiting out of my mind. But my voice would crack and I would shake so badly, that one time my grip on the podium was so tight, it started tipping over, and the guy sitting directly in front of me jumped out of his seat to push it back upright. Thank god for him or I would have face planted in his lap. I’m sure he was also saving himself from a little nut crushing. Talk about humiliation. Fortunately, I was concurrently showing a short film to complement that speech, distracting them from what just happened to me. On the positive side…I didn’t pee in my pants. And to my surprise…I aced the assignment.
I have turned down certain jobs just so I wouldn’t have to do presentations. I remember sitting in the conference room at my office one day, and I had recently accepted a management position. Each week we would have phone meetings with our clients. I said to my supervisor, “If you make me speak in this meeting, I will quit. I swear”. Luckily she knew me and liked me (and didn’t fire me), and all she did was have me introduce myself. That, alone, made me break out in huge red blotches all over my chest to match the colorful flush of my bright red face. And it was only a phone meeting. Could you imagine if it was in person? I’d most likely be passed out cold, sprawled out on the conference room table. I decided I wasn't cut out for management.
People have suggested taking a public speaking course. Seriously? Do you NOT have to get up in front of people to learn to publicly speak? What about fear of speaking in public do they not get? So why would I want to take a public speaking course if you have to speak in public to learn to speak in public? Geez….
I am claustrophobic. Claustrophobia is horrible. It pops up in places you wouldn’t think it could. For instance…during various sexual positions. [On the bottom, for example.] That tends to ruin the mood…don’t you think? Trust me…it does. Obviously, elevators are a huge problem. I’ve only been stuck in one once…but it was the most crowded elevator I had ever been in. It was at my daughter’s college on moving-in day and I have to believe every student attending her school was packed into that particular elevator. I’m sure the weight limit was far exceeded, as was my composure. I looked over at my daughter, [as if there was anything she could possibly do], and said, “If you don’t get me out of here, I will pull every piece of hair out of your head, in chunks. If you don’t get me out of here I will cut you off from every single dollar I was ever going to give you. [Like that was a big threat with all my millions]. If you don't get me out of here, I will....” She looked at me and said so serenely and quietly and so melodically…[that I wanted to shove my fist down her throat…] “Mom, calm down. Everything will be fine. Nothing is going to happen. MOM….BREATHE” as I was starting to lose consciousness. When I came to, I was sitting on the floor leaning against the wall in her room. I lived! I was no longer a sardine. I made it out. I have no clue how but I did. Needless to say, I get many a great workout climbing stairs now. I only need resuscitation from too much aerobic exercise, instead of from hyperventilation.
I never understood how people are able to walk into a room full of strangers and immediately assimilate. I walk in, pivot around, and walk right back out, not knowing what to do with myself. I was never able to just go up to a group, or even just one person that I didn’t know and say, “Hi, I’m Jaime”, (in one of those annoyingly perky little voices,) for fear that they would look at me with a “who the f**k cares” attitude. And then what? Then what do you say? I have no problem talking to a person in line at the market…you can always talk about the food you’re buying and what you’re pigging out on or complain how slow the line is moving…but at a gathering, where there may not be a commonality, how do you begin a conversation? “So…what’s your sign?”, “You come here often?” “You want to get in my pants as much as I want to get in yours?” So I basically either hang out hugging the wall or avoid those situations altogether.
Heights make my stomach churn. If I have some protective wall or railing I’m usually ok, but there are times I look down over the banister in my house and get nauseated, worrying I’m going to fall over. I walk down the middle of the hallway just so one of my hallucinatory ghosts doesn’t push me over the side.
There was a time I couldn’t wait to learn to ride horses. I thought since I would have reins and a saddle to hold on to, I should be ok with the whole height thing. Who was I kidding? But I decided I was going to take riding lessons because I always loved horses and riding seemed so beautiful and liberating. A couple of friends and I went to Pepperdine University, where they were giving lessons, and where the terrain was spectacular. I asked for the smallest horse so they gave me one slightly larger than a pony. Probably smaller than a merry-go-round horse. But whoa…that was still quite a ways off the ground with no pole to hold on to. My first conquest…I got on the horse. Yay! That was a huge accomplishment. Then…I got off the horse. Then I told myself ‘suck it up and it will be fine…get back on the horse, you big wuss.’ [great pep talk] So I did. The instructor (who was a retired army drill sergeant) told us to give the horse a kick to get it going. Well…not on your life bub. I ain’t kicking no animal. So I sat in the saddle and rocked my body back and forth hoping the horse would understand what I was telling her to do. As she sat there, not budging an inch, the instructor kept yelling at me to give her a kick. “NO, I won’t kick her.” He then marched over on his horse and hit me on the head with his crop. “Now kick the god damned horse.” Just short of shitting in my pants, I gave her a little, teeny nudge and off we went. He must have been one helluva drill sergeant .
I was quite pleased with myself that I was actually on a horse, riding. Well…I wouldn’t exactly call it riding. We couldn’t have gone any slower unless we were at a complete standstill, but that was good enough for me. We were walking on the trails and they kept getting narrower and narrower and my heart kept beating faster and faster. You have got to be kidding me. These were beginner trails? Ants couldn’t stay on these trails they were so narrow, and they wanted our horses to? It wasn’t long before my heart sank down to the pit of my stomach on its way out my ass. My horse’s back leg kept slipping off the trail and I was losing my balance. I proceeded into panic mode, but I gave it a couple of more feet before jumping off and running for my life. I was outta there. But before I left the grounds, I grabbed the crop out of Satan’s hand and broke it in half over my knee. I’ll teach you Mr. Svengali, drill sergeant, horse kicker guy.
After that experience…I decided to play it safe in the horse arena.
I won’t go into the other phobias I have or I may as well just make this into a book. But to sum it all up, here’s my list. I was amazed at all the classifications of fears:
Glossophobia speaking in public
Topophobia stage fright
Claustrophobia confined spaces
And we all know I have this…I believe I’ve mentioned it just a few times…
Mageirocophobia FEAR OF COOKING (LOVE this one!)
Good thing I don’t have this:
Logophobia fear of words (or you probably wouldn't be reading this right now)
But this is my favorite…even though I’m not afflicted:
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia fear of long words…I’m still trying to pronounce it.