I am frightened of a lot of things. I have got much worse as I have got older and especially since having my daughter. I am fearful not fearless. I cannot cope with hearing about bad things happening in the world. I don’t watch the news and only read the local newspaper. I cannot watch the soaps or dramas. I can’t bear to see how awful human beings can be to one another even in fiction. I am scared of anything that could bring harm. Heights is probably the big one that most affects my day to day. My daughter knows how frightened I am of everything. We make a joke out of it as she soars high on roller coasters with my Dad or my nieces and nephews and I stay a quivering wreck at the bottom waiting for her safe return.
So last year when my friend asked me to loop the loop in a tiny plane over a local airfield, I was not keen. As well as fear, I suffer with motion sickness and have thrown up on planes, trains, automobiles, (and boats!) many times in my life. But it was for a charity that is very close to my heart. A local woman who has turned the death of her young daughter from cancer into a legacy of helping those less fortunate financially who also have a child with a terminal illness. As a woman who has lost babies in pregnancy I understand barely a fraction of this woman’s pain and she remains to me one of the bravest people I have ever met. So I agreed.
It was horrific. I had terrible diarrhoea that morning showing how my whole body was gripped by the fear. I laughed and joked for the camera before the flight but my face was white and my eyes wide. I wasn’t fooling anyone. We took off and I remained silent. The video was rolling inside the cockpit and the pilot chatting away to me. I said only nine words: “Get it over with” followed after the loop by “I’m going to be sick”.
I wasn’t sick although when the official video came out from the charity they had very kindly cut the footage of me dry-heaving into a paper sick bag! One of the organisers contacted me a week or so later with a message in a book she had been reading:
“Something happens to your self-esteem and self-confidence when you set yourself a scary task and get through it.”
Is it true? She asked me. Fuck yes it’s true. And I guess it’s easy for me because I am scared of so many things but I believe in doing one thing every day that frightens me. Doing something that leaves me exposed and vulnerable and uncomfortable and challenged. And if you are important in my life I will try and get you to do the same. Once you get into the inner circle I will learn your fears and I will make you confront them. Sometimes whether you want to or not. And that makes me a very difficult person to be close friends with. And an almost impossible person to love. Who wants to face their darkest fears? Who wants to look fear in the face? We would much rather live a comfortable life pretending our fears don’t exist. Well, everyone would it seems except me.
There is one girl I know who loves me because she tells me every day. And she loves me not because she is my daughter but because she is fearless.