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Archive for April, 2008

heaven and hell

This is where I vacationed as a child for many, many summers. It’s my aunt’s summer house in upstate, NY.

I had a lot of fun there as a kid, doing things I thought I hated – swimming, boating, hiking, getting shot at with bb guns by my cousins. Ok, I did hate that part. But I have mostly fond memories of spending summers in the woods.

The last time I was there was 2005. We hadn’t been to the house in many years and I was looking forward to detaching from my everyday life – no cell phones, no internet, no noise, no traffic or work. Just connecting with nature for a few days, enjoying the quiet, hoping to get some sense of tranquility.

Instead I found that things change as you get older. Your life shapes your outlook on everything and things you once thought were wonderful become frightening.

The quiet that was so comforting as a kid had become claustrophobic. Laying in bed at night looking out the window to complete, utter blackness, I felt like I was suffocating. I’d listeng for anything besides the occasional sound of a bat slamming into a window. Nothing. Just blackness and an absolute quiet that was deafening. It was like existing in a void. I would get up, walk out to the deck and look up at the stars. Take some deep breaths. Look out into the darkness and see the outline of the lake and think about the depth of it in the middle, the way it stretches out far and wide to the right. The vast sky. The darkness. The openness.

It might seem weird to be both claustrophobic and afraid of wide open spaces, but when you think about it, it’s one and the same thing. And when those two things collide – the suffocation of the darkness and quiet, and knowing that there is nothing out there for miles around – well, it wasn’t a very good combination.

I think my fears tend to be heightened or diminished by things that are going on in my life. That was certainly not a very good time. The loneliness I felt while laying next to someone who neither understood more fears nor cared about them made it even worse. I spent three restless nights upstate flitting between panic attacks and nightmares.

When we finally got home – and I mean minutes after walking in the door – I had a full blown anxiety attack that necessitated a ride in an ambulance.

Anyhow, to make a long story even longer, we are going back upstate this summer. I’ve faces most of my fears and conquered a majority of them since 2005. My life is different, my outlook is different and I am not so afraid of the deep darkness that awaits me up there. I want take the boat around the lake without thinking I’m going to capsize and drown. I want to hike in the woods with my kids and explore the trails and take a zillion photos of every speck of nature I see. And I want to sleep outside on the deck and be amazed at the amount of stars we can see, and do that with someone who appreciates the beauty of it and also understands that I might be a little afraid.

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