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B is for bathophobia n., fear of falling from a high place

When I was young, maybe four, my family took a trip to South Dakota. We were headed out for a Suess family reunion, but along the way we did some sightseeing. We saw the Badlands and Mount Rushmore, and at one point I remember climbing a tower. The view from hundreds of feet must have been spectacular, but I don’t recall it now. I only remember the climb. And though the open stairs showed me just how far from earth I had ascended, I was always confident the metal rails and platforms would hold me.

Twenty-five years later, I went on another vacation. Last summer when Dan and I headed west to see the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak and Seven Falls, I realized something. I’d become more appropriately unnerved by heights. To make it up the 224 steps at Seven Falls, I had to talk myself down from my crazy and focus my gaze upward. In the years following 1984, it seems I had lost my confidence in the strength of  railings and steps, probably because I had packed on another hundred pounds and learned about a little thing called gravity.

When I did make it to the top of Seven Falls, I was overcome by the feeling that I had truly accomplished something. That is, until I realized I had to come back down the steps. Of course the climb was easier! I could look at the summit, ignoring my absolute elevation in favor of my relative elevation. On the way back to earth, however, there would be no denying reality. To make sure I didn’t trip over my own feet, I had to gaze downward.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m probably a 5.7 bathophobe. While my first instinct is PANIC!, I can always steer my thoughts to a more productive end. And that’s why, despite my scaredy-cat potential, I found my high-elevation vacation to be so enjoyable last June.

Writing in a new genre or taking on a huge client can sometimes inspire those same feelings of panic, making bathophobia the metaphorical cousin of atychiphobia. To survive in the freelance world, it helps to be of sound mind.

So B is for bathophobia.

Do you ever have to talk yourself down or placate your own crazy?

See what A is for.

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