My post from Murderati today: CLIFF JUMPING? HELLS, NO!

Back in January of ’09, I wrote  a post here called Cliff Jumping – not about actually jumping off of cliffs, but about seizing your dreams. About not letting fear get in the way of your career. About taking chances.

I’ve been feeling rather hypocritical about all that lately. You see, while I take chances all the time in my work, real leaps and bounds, in my personal life, I don’t.

In fact, I’m a bit of a scaredy cat.

Say it ain’t so, JT!

Oh, but it is. I’m afraid of heights, spiders, clowns. Speaking in public - one that I managed to conquer. I hate staying by myself overnight when Randy is out of town. I don’t like scary movies, or scary books. I will steer clear of anything that includes the words “nerve-wracking” “surprise ending” “spine-tingling” or “the last five minute will blow you out of your seat.”

I’ve never been a big fan of being scared, but there’s more to this. It’s becoming almost phobic. Something deeply rooted in my psyche. And the worst part is, when I get frightened by something, it manifests, and then I start to dream about it. And the dreams are a thousand times worse than anything I can experience in real life. Which starts a really bad pattern of not wanting to go to sleep because I don’t want to experience the dreams, then having to knock myself out with Ambien and the like to get to sleep, lather, rinse, repeat…. Unhealthy, to say the least.

When I start down this unhealthy path, I realize this, recognize it for what it is, and try to move on. But last year, looking at this phenomenon, I started to see a pattern.

The more cliff jumping I do in my business life, the more reticent I get in my personal life.

I am getting quirky.

Maybe it’s age. Maybe as you get older you have a tendency to pull back, to be careful. To allow your rational mind to say no instead of hells, yeah, bitches. Let’s roll! Or maybe it’s more than that. Because I didn’t used to be this way. This sense of must control everything started about ten years ago, and with it came the fear.

I don’t know. All I can say for sure is I don’t want to be scared anymore.

Which involves, as you can imagine, some desensitization therapy.

Last year, when I did the autopsies, and managed to get through it without fainting, falling down or throwing up, I realized something. If I can watch people being cut open, I can handle just about anything.

When Randy and I went to Santa Fe for Left Coast Crime this spring, we drove north and stayed overnight in Taos. I adore Taos. It’s a funky, eclectic ski town, filled with art, cool shops and galleries, amazing food, and really laid-back people. I first went with my parents to meet the artist R.C. Gorman, ten or so years ago, and fell in love. So I wanted to show my man, and during our explorations, we found ourselves out at the Rio Grande Gorge.

And the Gorge has a bridge. A bridge without any safety controls. No nets or wires or anything to keep people from going over the edge.

Now, ten years ago, with my parents, my dad could barely get me to agree to get out of the car. I most certainly wouldn’t go anywhere near the bridge. He, fearless, strode out into the middle, took pictures, and came back, obviously exhilarated.

I was just feeling blessed I didn’t get anywhere near it.

Being afraid of heights is a little different for every person who experiences it. For me, I get vertigo. Bad vertigo. And experience this bizarre desire to fling myself off the edge and see if I can fly.

Which wouldn’t be a good thing.

But in my newfound recklessness, I decided I was going to go out there, come hell or high water.

Or steep drops into the abyss…..

So out we went, me clinging to Randy’s arm like a limpet. The first glance down I nearly threw up. Literally. Everything started to spin, I felt dizzy and nauseous. It was awful. But I kept walking.

And I discovered something really amazing.

Once I have a chance to orient myself, the vertigo stops.

It took about five minutes – yes, I stayed out there that long. Standing in the middle of the road, mind you, until the very end, when I edged closer to the railings, and actually looked over into the gorge.

I was still nervous, but at least the urge to fly receded.

Here’s proof that I really did go out there.  

Fast forward to this week. Randy and I went to the Harry Potter park at Universal Studios. If you know me at all you know I am a huge fan of all things Potter. I had some seriously high hopes for the day. We went in, and I was giddy with excitement. You see, there are roller coasters. And I had decided that come hell or high water, (or steep drops into the abyss…..) I was going to ride them.

We started at the castle itself. I’ve heard amazing things about this. You tour Hogwarts, seeing all the nooks and crannies of the castle, Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, meet the sorting hat. It takes 45 minutes to wind your way through. And then you get on a ride that is called the Forbidden Journey experience.

I don’t know what I was really thinking, but as usual, I was wrong. The castle part was… meh. It had some cool stuff, but it wasn’t a 45 minute tour through Hogwarts in the way I was thinking. (That was my reaction to the whole park, actually. There was no charm. But I digress.)

And then came the ride.

And that’s when the wheels came off.

All throughout the lines were big signs and warnings: if you experience motion sickness, you should not go on this ride.


I loved the sign... but it had me a little worried. I do get motion sickness. Always have, ever since I was a kid. But I ignored the signs. There were kids all around me. How bad could it really be?

I don't know what I was thinking. I expected something like the old Disney Haunted Castle ride. Boy was I wrong.

We got seated, they tucked us into the carriage, we went sideways, Hermione blew some powder at us, and poof, we were off.

Almost immediately we went upside down, tilting backwards. The screen in front of us started to move, come to life, really, and the next thing I knew, we were flying.

I had to shut my eyes.

I had to shut my damn eyes.

It was like IMAX, where you are literally in the scene. I got queasy immediately. Didn’t even take a heartbeat before I knew if I didn’t shut my eyes, I was going to boot.

I tried opening them a few times, and caught glimpses of the amazing technology. But the ride is a gyroscope, so add gyroscope to the already unbalanced feeling I get from IMAX and you have a recipe for sure disaster.

I didn’t barf, but I also didn’t get to see 85% of the ride.

And I was so mad at myself.

This wasn’t fear. I wasn't afraid of what was happening. This was a bona fide physical reaction. I’ve always had motion sickness problems. Like reading in a car – hell, looking at the email on my iPhone while riding in a car makes me nauseous. Strangely, I don’t get sea sick. Ever. I love boats. So if anyone has a medical answer for that, let me know. Because I want to go back and go on that ride, and experience the whole thing.

Didn’t get on any rollercoasters either – right after we left Olivanders, it started to rain. And I mean pour buckets from the sky rain. They shut down all the rides.

So we left, taking with us my new wand, and a queasy bellyful of regret, which was part fury at myself, and part that second butterbeer (which is very good - like cream soda with butter)

Oh well. You can’t win them all, right? I conquered the gorge, but a children's ride undid me. 

So tell me, when’s the last time you were terrified?