Monday, March 31, 2008

Thanks for beating it out of me, really

I used to be scared of the dark, and heights and water, and planes and boats, and snakes and spiders, and death and God, and being alone. I can see how all these fears relate to mortality, which is quite typical, but my fear of death concerned other people's lives, not mine. My fear of God was rooted in the sense that I was a spiritual outsider and possibly subject to purgatory---that I wouldn't become a believer until it was too late and I'd have all eternity to regret it. My other phobias were pretty straight forward.

During the past few years, I've addressed most of them, and now they're manageable. It's not that I'm impervious to them, but they no longer make decisions for me. Exposure therapy, it does wonders.

I would like to thank the catalysts for my ongoing rehabilitation. I am now better able to enjoy the world and its unsettling little components.

Thank you, Dad, for your patience. Thanks for sitting with me on the front porch to point out, one-by-one, shadow monsters in the yard. Remember how you first asked me to describe them in horrible detail, and then to say what I thought they really were? A wheelbarrow? A bush? The neighbour's dog on the loose? You knew my eagerness to please you would outweigh the grim satisfaction I'd get from entertaining this common childhood fear. Instead of making me feel silly for being scared, you made me feel proud for being clever. Your good killed my evil.

Thank you adrenaline, rash decisions and mob mentality. If it wasn't for you guys, I'd never have felt pressured to tackle suspension bridges, then zip-lines, then three-storey jumps and Tarzan swings, or to rappel 50 metres straight down into a waterfall from a trap door in a swinging bridge. Actually, thank you Costa Rica for providing your irresistible playground. My hysterics are worth enduring, for all your gorgeous challenges. Thank you also for letting me survive it all. My knee healed quite nicely.

Thank you Pacific Ocean for your tough love. Pummeling me with your raging surf, and holding me under like any bullish sibling would do---until I realized worse things could happen than breathing salt water---well, it worked. With a little mutual respect, I think we can really develop our relationship. I'd appreciate it if you could try a little harder to leave my bikini on, though. Thanks.

Thank you foreign lands, perfect weather and serendipity. Without your cooperation, I wouldn't have been moved to tears while flying over the Andes at sunset, nor would I have seen the rugged Alaskan ice-scape, or the notorious DariƩn Gap. I'd have no concept of Mexico's vast deserts, or the endless sea of light that is Buenos Aires at night. You might want to work on the sludge seeping out of Manila's port into the turquoise Philippine Sea, though, and the silver layer of smog over Montreal.

As for boats, I'd like to thank you for never capsizing or completely sinking---or subjecting me to the folly of drunken captains and their useless waterlogged life jackets---off Southeast Asian shores, into shark-inhabited Central American waters, or along Canada's homicidally frigid Atlantic Coast.

Thank you to Earth's less attractive creatures for showing me you usually mean no harm. To the rest of you, just take my blood and your poison and fcuk off.

Anyway, thanks to you, the unlikely American couple I met in El Salvador, for inviting me to join you snake-hunting at night in Parque El Imposible, and for your contagious enthusiasm. When you handed me the coffee snake you'd found, I didn't want to hand him back. A big thank you also goes out to the giant rock-dwelling spiders for scattering when I jumped from boulder to boulder up the river, while we searched for boa constrictors. Thanks to the batteries in my head lamp, too. I don't know what I would have done without you.

As for death, I suppose you, the random Honduran gunman, had a lot to do with my understanding what it feels like to be in mortal danger. So, thanks, I guess. You really freaked out my companions, but you helped me realize that either bad things happen, or they don't. I'll not waste time worrying about the plethora of what-ifs. It's so much more fun to celebrate the that-was-crazy-holy-shits.

And, as for being alone? Thanks Bolivia for hosting me in a moment when no one in the world knew where I was, not a single worried relative, not even me. Thanks to my apartment, filled with my stuff, and to my bed with room to spare. At the end of the day, you're always here to hold me. Thank you to the men I have dated in the past for stepping in, and stepping out again, with either grace or grit. Thanks to my friends, family and lucky encounters, and all that awaits me, because I have never really been alone, and know I never will be.

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