One thing I’ve become somewhat obsessed with in my recovery is facing down specific fears. Public speaking is one example. Now I do that often and with ease. Today I scratched something else off the list.
I’m in Toronto for the SecTor security conference, and before buckling down to work I took a couple hours to walk around and clear my head. Looking up, I saw the tip of the CN Tower, which looks a bit like Seattle’s Space Needle. It looked like a short walk, so off I went.
Now, I wouldn’t say one of my biggest fears was height. I remember going to the top of the World Trade Center in NYC 17 years before terrorists tore it down. That was before my fears came to the service as an adult.
But being up high was something that gave me pause. It used to be that the thought of having to go on an airplane would send me into an anxiety attack.
I’ve also been to the top of the Empire State Building, but that’s a wide enough structure that I could handle it.
But the CN Tower would have scared me away a few years ago. Something about its needle-like structure shooting straight up to the heavens would scare me. Given the thinness of it, I wouldn’t feel as secure as I’d be atop a wider building.
True story: In 2007 during one of the Black Hat conferences in Las Vegas, I was walking around with friend and former colleague Rob Westervelt when we saw the much smaller replica of the Space Needle. Rob wanted to go up. I didn’t, but I kept it to myself.
As we got closer, my anxiety level rose. I managed to talk Rob into doing something else. When Rob reads this, it’ll be his first inkling that I was having an anxiety attack. He shouldn’t worry about it, but he will anyway.
So this morning I decided to vanquish this fear and up I went. It’s truly beautiful up there. It’s stupid to think I used to fear such stunning vistas.
It’s funny when I look back at the last year and all the old fears I’ve smashed into rubble.
Fear of public speaking? I do it all the time now, for work, for my 12-Step meetings, at church and on the recent Cursillo I was on team for.
Flying? I do that all the time now, too. And I love looking out the window and seeing the vast world below me, with sun, clouds and sky mixing into colors that are downright heavenly.
I also used to have fear grip me at the thought of work or family gatherings.
Long road trips used to paralyze me with anxiety. I always had a fear of getting lost and never finding my way back.
This year I’ve taken the whole family on the five-state drive down to Washington DC — twice. The first time, we got a private tour of the White House West Wing for our efforts. That’s a rare experience that fear will deny you.
I still have my fears. They just don’t control me anymore.
And every time I do something small like climbing a tall structure, the fear loses a little more of that grip.
Life doesn’t suck. Seize it.