sometimes "you just don't want to" is a perfectly good reason (or, my fear of heights remains wholly intact)

A couple of days ago, Marcus' brother suggested we go visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge.  

Now, I've been to Vancouver many times, and I distinctly remember visiting this bridge as a child.  In my memory, this bridge was a Swinging Pathway of Death & Doom:  suspended thousands of miles in the air*, over raging hypothermia-inducing waters (possibly also filled with carnivorous animals with a hunger for West Indian Tween).  The bridge swung wildly over an abyss, and while my family blithely tripped along what I was certain were rotten bridge floorboards, I stood on terra firma in fright.

"Come on," I remember my cousin Randall urging me, from about a third of the way along the bridge.  "It's no big deal."

I tentatively took a step onto the bridge, and Randall laughed maniacally, and began rocking the bridge backwards and forwards.  Panicked, I stepped backwards onto the ground, and vowed never to return.

But now, here we were back in Canada again, with Nathan and his family, new Vancouver residents, telling us excitedly about the bridge.  "It's fantastic," said Theo, Nathan's 11-year-old son.  "We have to go."

"You've been?" I looked at Theo incredulously.

"Yup.  It's amazing."

"Well, fine, we'll go," I said, "but no way am I crossing that bridge."

"But Auntie Karen," urged Theo,  "crossing the bridge is how you get to the most interesting part."

"What part is that, then, the bear-infested woods?" I sniffed.  "No, thank you.  I'll not be going."

Theo looked disappointed, but I was steadfast.  

On the drive over, however, I began to reason with myself.  After all, I hadn't been there since I was a child -- surely there had been improvements made?  Surely the bridge wasn't actually "suspended" anymore?  Surely, my memory of how deep the cavern was had been coloured by childhood, and now, as an adult, it wouldn't seem nearly as treacherous?  Surely, I -- a grown woman who has traveled extensively, who has taken a ride in a hot air balloon, who has flown in sea planes, who has been SCUBA diving with barracuda, for heaven's sake -- surely I wouldn't still be intimidated by a mere bridge?

I was dead wrong.  I was completely intimidated.

"Yeah, sorry, that's not happening," I mumbled.

"Well, of course you don't have to go," smiled Marcus, kissing my forehead.  His sweetness was interrupted by Theo and Alex, however.

"Whatever man, I'm going," exclaimed Alex, and she bounded down the stairs behind her cousin, onto the bridge.

Marcus smiled and shrugged, and with his brother, he followed behind the kids.

It's then when the guilt started.  "Karen," I thought to myself, "you're always telling people that they need to take a chance.  Leap, and the net will appear, and all that.  Don't you want to have this memory with your family?  With your daughter?  Clearly, the bridge is totally safe.  I mean, you're a lawyer, for Christ's sake -- would they let all these people on the bridge if it wasn't totally safe?"

I looked at Becks, Nathan's wife.  "I'm going," I declared.


"I'm going," I repeated.  "I'm going out on the bridge."

"You know, you don't have to ..."

"I know.  But I'm doing this. I'm going.  And I'm doing it now."

And I ventured out on the bridge.

At first, it wasn't so bad.  I mean, the bridge didn't feel too horrible.  And I thought that maybe if I moved a bit quickly, I could make it across.  I walked in the centre of the bridge, with my arms on either railing and called out to Marcus.

"Marcus! I'm coming!"

He turned around, and grinned, and pulled out a camera and took a photo.

I made it to Marcus, about halfway across the bridge.  I smiled as I hung onto him, and looked around, to take in all the scenery.

And then I looked down.

"Oh, bloody hell, I can't do this," I muttered.

"What?" cried Marcus.  "You've done it!  You're halfway across!  You've done it!"

"No, I haven't!" I said, as some teenagers went running by, causing the bridge to swing crazily.  "I haven't done it! I'm going back!"

And I immediately left him, quickly making my way back to where I started.

And you know what?  I don't feel the least bit horrible that I didn't go all the way across.  I'm not even relieved that I at least tried.   But I do feel ... vindicated, I guess.  My memory was right:  I was terrified of the bridge, and I am terrified of heights.  And I'm okay with that.  I know that as long as I never stop seeking adventure,  I can test myself in other ways, by doing other things -- there's no reason to get over my fear of heights, it can just be a part of who I am.  You know, like how I love stinky cheese, but hate peanut butter.  It's no big deal.

(Just do me a favour, though, friends:  remind me of this 30 years from now, if someone tries to get me to go over this bridge again.  Because that bridge is just wrong.)


*  It's actually only 230' above the floor of the cavern.  And as far as I know, there are no carnivorous beasts living in the river below.  And the scenery is admittedly breathtaking.


Song:  Bridge over troubled water, by Simon & Garfunkel