The Bard Hall gym has a terrace, which is kind of weird, it being in a basement.
The twisted geography of Washington Heights places back side of the gym atop a four-story drop overlooking the river. So while I was listening to blaring workout music, every few seconds a pleasant river breeze splashes me from the direction of the window. I wanted to go out and look down, and stare at the water a bit to cool me off between sets. While I did a little bit of supplements myself, A has been stacking creatine and nitric oxide and protein and magic dust and God-knows what, and I was a little miffed and groggy since I couldn’t keep up. I wanted the water.
But I’m afraid of heights.
I envy normal people. When they are on a bridge they can look over the side, clutching the bars, even bending their upper torso over the edge to look below. When we were at B’s party in Columbus Circle we went out to the patio – and everyone were able to easily just walk to the edge of the 20-story drop and look down to admire New York. So cool that I can’t do it.
Back in high school, I climbed on top of the MIT amphitheater with a couple of friends. Maybe it was because one of them climbs tall buildings for sport, maybe it was because the other one was really cute, or maybe it was because the first friend had the same opinion of the second as I did. At the top, the moon really looked like blue cheese from “up-close,” the girl was cuter in the moonlight, and the hardest part was getting down because I had to look down.
I was thinking and thinking about that moment and why now, six years later, I am so afraid to just walk outside. Then I laughed. A was doing skullcrushers (concentration required) so he didn’t notice . It was obvious, especially because I was in a weight room – muscles atrophy from disuse.
The fear of heights, no matter how genetic or powerful, is mainly a psychological belief. My phobia level, while it did hit the physiological zone, did not go much past faintness, nausea, and headaches. The fact that I can ride airplanes is good testimony. For tame cases like me, it is mostly a limiting belief that creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, since I’m less inclined to look down steep areas and thus less likely to overcome that fear. While the “muscle gain” from my first “set” years ago is all gone, nothing says I can’t start another set.
For the warmup, I just had to look down for 10 seconds. I felt the fainting, I felt the heartbeats, and I felt like I was going to throw up. But my mental ticker hit 10 I backtracked into the weight room, palms were sweating like crazy. The next one was 15, and the last set was 20. My knees felt like they were going to collapse (it is a crazy feeling, but I could feel the muscles go completely limp), I let go and almost fell, but my palms weren’t sweaty anymore. Weightlifting is so weird.