Monday, November 23, 2009

Fear of Falling

I've always been overly cautious. In the wintertime, I walk the sidewalks like a ninety year old grandmother. My body hunches over, my knees stiffen. I rake the ground with my eyes searching for any potential peril.
My timidity has even been caught on tape. We have a video of me at a swimming lesson in 1996. In this video, I'm wearing a pink swimsuit with one ruffly strap and big purple flowers everywhere else. Amid the splashes and screams of other children echoing around the pool, you can hear my mom asking me questions as I doggy paddle and struggle to keep my chin above water.
"How do you like swimming lessons?"
"I...." The water laps up over my mouth and I gurgle incoherently. "I don't know if I like it..." Gurgle.
When I talk you can see that I have one front tooth. My enormous glasses are still on. They are dappled with water droplets. It's a miracle I can see at all.
The teacher takes my class to the deep end of the pool to dive off the board and I refuse to go. You can hear my mom coaxing me on the other side of the camera, occasionally adding a side narration to the camera itself,

"COME ON JOS! YOU CAN DO IT... she's not very excited about jumping in. Look at the way she's just standing there... YOU CAN DO IT, JOS!"

At this point I'm standing at the edge of the diving board. I look skinny. Terrified.
I would like to say that I faced my fear and jumped. I would love to paint a picture in your mind of a young girl, triumphantly throwing off her enormous glasses, raising her arms into the air and gracefully swan-diving into the pool while everyone cheers.
However, this is not what happened. Eventually I exit the diving board via the stairs, looking completely defeated and pathetic. I stand, dripping and awkward, and look at the water.
"That's okay, Jos. Maybe next time," my mom says.
While the other children cannonball themselves into the water, I gingerly sit on the side and then gently scoot into the pool-- both hands safely anchored to the wall.

I've never been one to put myself at risk. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Though I never suffer from broken bones or bruises, I've never jumped off the high dive or kicked a soccer ball more than five feet for the fear of falling.
It's a lose-lose situation.