The fear of a feeling we love |

The fear of a feeling we love

Once, I was standing on top of a high rock about to jump into the river. It was too high for me. I didn’t want to jump. It may have only been 15 feet tops, but it might as well have been a thousand. I’m not afraid of heights, per se. I can look out of an airplane and walk across a glass bridge without having a coronary. But there was something about jumping.

I was afraid to jump. It’s not that I thought I would die. I might land wrong and get hurt, but I knew wouldn’t die. I could recover from hitting the water too hard, or even breaking an arm or whatever.

I was afraid of the feeling of falling — that dysphoria that makes people scream on roller coasters and in turbulence. I knew that it would launch a terrifying sensation in my physiology. I would seize, my body would instinctively tighten and I would flail wildly, reaching for a stability that did not exist as I fell through space.

Fear was going to tell me I was going to die, as I was plummeting toward the earth, as my labyrinth detected a rapid acceleration to roughly 9.8 m/s2. Fear was going to tell me I was going to die, and somewhere I would believe it, in the face of all that I knew to be true.

The funny thing is that I was afraid of something I love. I love that feeling, the sensation of falling. It’s Splash Mountain at Disneyland, where you forget to breathe but then you fall so long that you have to take a breath, and then you lose it again. It’s when your gut rises into your throat and you think you’re free-falling even if you’re not, and you ride the dualistic wave of complete terror and incredible exhilaration. It’s knowing you have never really been so safe as when you are free. We pay for that feeling, we stand in ridiculous lines in the sweltering heat for it. We jump out of airplanes for it. Or off rocks…

I loved it. But I was still afraid.

I love him. But I am still afraid.

I am afraid to jump, and trust again.

When we fall in love, it is because we first jumped. In some way, we took a risk. We said yes. We started a conversation, we reached for a hand. When someone we love and trust slights us, whether that slight is real or imagined as many are, we step back. We find ourselves on that rock, inching back from the edge until we are so far from it that even if we did jump we couldn’t get to the fall.

I’m here on the edge of that rock again, after having been slightly slighted by my lover (or whomever) but imagining it to be much more, licking a wound that’s not bleeding but every once in a while squeezing it to see if it will. Maybe one drop?

I’m finding myself thinking about stepping back. Just a little. But man, I really do want that breathless fall. I want to splash and swim and play in the pool underneath, maybe sun myself a little on the beach, and then shriek and giggle and scamper up the rock to do it again.

And again and again, because falling is just that good. And you can just get better and better at it, if you can learn from the bruises that will inevitably happen instead of shrinking from the possibility that they might. Maybe, if you can dare to make that next jump back into trust, leaving the trespasses against you where you said you’d forgiven them, you just might keep jumping, and falling in love forever.

If Felix Baumgartner had given in to his claustrophobia when secured into his flight suit, he would never have had his world record breaking jump. From space. In a Vanity Fair article entitled “The Man Who Pierced the Sky,” William Langewiesche notes that “Baumgartner had performed a beautiful feat, not merely by going supersonic but by taming the spin as he did so.” He refers to the effort of Baumgartner to control his body in the tendency to spin in free-fall, as doing so at a particular rate would trigger a stabilizing parachute and keep him from breaking the sound barrier, which was his intent, goal and desire.

I opine that it is our failure to “tame the spin” of our minds, letting thoughts and fears pull the stabilizing parachute on our relationships, giving us reason to give in to our fears, perhaps devaluing ourselves and our partners, indulging abandonment issues, or putting up walls to protect ourselves. We can keep ourselves safe, that way. But we won’t break the sound barrier of Love.

We can create our own epic awesomeness if we can get past our fear of falling, make the jump and tame our spins by not letting our fears pull us back from the edge of space. Or rocks. Or a conversation. We can stop fracturing our fairytales. We can do this by daring to be brokenheartedly disappointed. It’s how I’m going to love.


I have started a group on in which I am hoping to get readers together for casual introspection and exploration of Semi-Consciousness. The first Meetup will be from 5:30-6:30 p.m. April 20. We will discuss topics of and inspired by my columns and others in a relaxed, friendly group, and hopefully find support in each others for our journeys. If interested, please go to for more information.

Mari Rose Hale is a Glenwood Springs writer. She blogs at Semi-Conscious appears monthly in Body & More.

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