Archive:  Year 4 - May 19th, 2009 "Taking the Plunge"

There is an odd face-off taking place between my hammock and myself.  It is difficult to explain, but in light of every possible chance to do so, I have not laid in it yet this summer.  The hammock, and all of its unique relaxing opportunities is one of my favorite touchstones of summer.  There is rarely a summer day when I am NOT in my hammock.  The thought of it has been, at times, all I cling to in the depths of winter; and when it comes out of storage it is a monumental day!  

This spring, however, instead of a victory dance, I’ve been stalking around it like it’s a bed of spiders.  It took me weeks to even hang it properly from the davits off the back of the boat, where it has hung two previous summers.  And then, finally, when it was prepared and in place – I still didn’t get in.  

Bottom line, I’m afraid of it.  

I don’t throw phrases like ‘I’m afraid of it’ around lightly.  I am rarely spooked.  Which is to say, when fear grips me, it is quickly trumped by my pride to overcome it.  An I-aint-got-time-to-bleed sort of mentality that is as much my greatest asset as it is my greatest liability.  Comes in handy when you’re cliff-jumping for bragging rights; kicks your ass when you do shots because someone dares you… 

Oddly, I find myself more often gripped with fear – paralyzed with it, in fact – in what might be considered mundane circumstances.  The carwash, for example.  I cannot, and have not, driven through an automated carwash since 2001.  I am not generally claustrophobic – I work part-time in a cave and sleep in a boat cuddy – but something about the automated carwash is pure torture for me.  Always has been.  One of my earliest memories is losing my shit in a carwash with my Mom and my two sisters, who were shocked because ‘losing my shit’ was not common for me, even as a child.  

In my early 20’s - having finally managed a reasonable adult’s relationship with the carwash - a few friends and I had a misadventure in one that involved cookie dough, cops, and a soapy high-speed get away that rivaled Willy Wonka… 

It was the last straw, and even after a good effort, I have not been able to drive through one since.  Regardless of the unreasonable nature of my fear, it is very real.  I have managed car ownership with old school hose-and-bucket cleaning methods, long durations of an unusually dirty car, and falling on the mercy of very close friend who agree to drive the car through a wash for me.  Even in the passenger seat I don’t come out looking particularly cool. 

Similarly, I am also afraid of riding a bicycle on a road with cars.  I cannot do it.  I have tried, I wish I could, I envy (and want to hit) people who do.  A workout that respects the planet and saves money!?!  Once on a bicycle, however, and actually riding down the road, I totally panic and will pedal as fast as I can – as if I am fleeing a rabid army – to my destination; or I take every available path of least resistance and quadruple my commute…. Still terrified.  

For the sake of ego, let me remind the reader that without such fear I – with some frequency – drive my house, dog, close friends and everything I own down the Mississippi River.  Drowning, homelessness and bankruptcy linger over every journey and it has never shook me to abandonment.  And yet, on a bicycle, something about scraped knees and blown tires will render me pale and shaky before you can say ‘on your left.’  

Also in defense of ego, it should be noted that the hammock hangs over open water and requires a certain ‘fall back and let go’ in order to get into it.  On countless occasions I have done just that, collapsing into it thoughtlessly – often holding something precious.  Then, one day near the end of summer, I fell back into it – as I always had – but was bounced back out, thunking into the stern of the boat before tumbling into the water, jeans n’ all.  Not hurt, but wet and humiliated, I don’t remember it rattling me at the time… 

But now.  In flip-flops, on a hot day, magazine in hand and nothing to do but stretch out in perfect comfort…  I stand there staring at it, immobile.  All I can think about is that one scary and unpredictable plunge – now trumping all the glorious ones – and I go sit on the bow instead, where it’s perfectly lovely.

I have consciously argued every reason to stop worrying and just do it – including the fact that even if I do fall out again it’s no big deal… at worst, it’s another mildly amusing story.  And yet, so far, it has been insufficient to actually get me up on the edge of the deck, leaning back, and letting go.  

I was rattled, it turns out.    

I’ve let go and hit the ground a few times before the hammock.  I was in gymnastics for years in elementary and middle school and fell off all varieties of high and precarious surfaces.  I finally threw in the towel when I returned one summer as a comparative Amazon to my fellow gymnasts, noticed the increasing distance between me and floor, and took guitar lessons instead.  Years later, in college, acting classes are notorious for the ‘Trust Fall’.  A team-building activity that requires one to, literally, fall backwards over your heels, like a plank, into the reliable arms of a colleague.  It is with the utmost respect to my fellow actors that I charge their arms are many things, and that reliable is not one of them.

And the thing about falling back and letting go is that you can only slip through, uncaught, a limited number of times before you resign, instead, to the safe and perfectly lovely alternative.  

Why fall if you don’t need to?  Why risk a plunge when your feet are on solid ground?

Ironically, when speaking in metaphor, my leap is assured.  But when literal, I am as stuck as any coward.  

For now.  

I will, of course, get in eventually.  One day soon the sun will be too high, the breeze too perfect for me not to risk the potential dangers.  I will climb up, lean back and let go.  And then, either recline in smug amusement, or splash down in a tangled heap, forced to start over trying again.  

… but not today.

Next Post: July 1st, 2009 "Making Independence"

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