I’m a total hypochondriac with a long list of phobias. I blame this on my mother being a nurse. When I was younger, I’d say “Mommy, my head hurts, I’m cold, and I can’t stop sneezing.” She would pull out her large, white book of maladies and disgusting anatomical charts and respond, “Well, honey, it sounds like leukemia, but it’s possible you have the flu.” She was basically the inventor of WebMD. Throughout my growing up, I became afraid of spiders (no longer because I learned you can hit them with a shoe and then everything is okay) and snakes (I have a clear memory of my dad brandishing a shovel at a harmless garter snake to please me while I hid in the pickup truck). As an adult (can you call yourself an adult with this many phobias?!), I’ve also added to the list, heights and the deep sea. Both of which I was forced to confront on my vacation to the Philippines.
Four men, baked brown by the sun, sat in plastic lawn chairs beside the trail to the beach. They called to Kasey and I.
“Hey, you want to zip line? Zip line, mister? Ma’am?”
Kasey was pumped.
“Let’s do it! You want to, Hannah? It’s only 500 pesos. I’ve never gone zip lining!”
Well, they asked nicely, I thought. Plus, I felt superior to Kasey because I’d already been zip lining in South Korea and Mexico.
“Oh my god, you have never been zip lining? You’ll love it. It’s so fun,” I said smugly. “I’ve done it before, but sure let’s do it.”
Now that we were sold, the men quieted down and one led us on a path into the forest. The path started going straight uphill and didn’t quit. The Filipino man was in flip-flops and didn’t seem to be breaking a sweat. Kasey was keeping up with him and slightly breathing hard. Much further back, was me, a short and stout little teapot just trying to make it to the wooden zip line platform I could see at the top.
“Hello ma’am”, greeted a young Filipina, who smiled sadly at me as I tried to catch my breath. She gave us chairs to sit in, next to the platform. We were pretty high up, overlooking the ocean and the small island that was connected to the below beach by a sandbar. This was much higher than any zip line I had ever done. She helped me into my harness, while Kasey signed a paper stating that we wouldn’t be mad if we died. We both walked up the bamboo steps and I gulped. The lines headed down and disappeared somewhere on the island.
“Kasey, oh god, this is where I doubt my decisions. Why are we doing this!”
He smiled wickedly.
“This is awesome!”
I did not agree. Soon, the Filipina girl’s hands were on me.
“Sit down. Relax. Feet out. You ready?”
She kept saying things to me that I was not accepting. Wasn’t I going to get a tutorial on this? I was not prepared for this!
Without waiting for a response, she pushed me out into the air. My mind went blank. It seemed to go against reality that I somehow was floating above a beach from a tiny rope. All around me was blue. Blue sky and blue sea. Without realizing it, I was breathing like I was in a Lamaze class. My thoughts began to collect and I tried to take in how beautiful it was. The platform on the island came into view and a Filipino guy came on a harness and pulled me onto it. My legs were shaking and Kasey was delighted from his experience.
“Let’s do it again!”, he cried.
Lucky for my Jello legs, we didn’t end up zip lining again, but we did go snorkeling. Kasey had originally wanted to snorkel with the largest fish in the world, the whale shark, but we found out it wasn’t the season. We had to settle for normal-sized fish, which was fine with me. I love swimming in the ocean, but I don’t get why people want to dive down and look at what is under the surface. Have you seen some of the shit scientists have discovered down there? It’s downright freak show. I’d rather stay above the surface where the sun exists, than go to the deep, dark world of cold-blooded monsters. You want to look at fish, get an aquarium.
As a science teacher, I should probably have a more loving and intrigued approach to sea creatures, but I can’t help it. There are things down there that haven’t even been discovered yet! While that may excite many; it terrifies me. But I wanted to push myself and make Kasey happy, so I put on my uncomfortable snorkel mask and jumped into the water. I looked over and Kasey and his attached GoPro and gave a thumbs up. All around me, fish darted about. My first instinct was GET THEM AWAY FROM ME, but I subdued that and tried to observe them in their habitat. Once I calmed down, it was actually really lovely to see rainbow-colored, black and white, and silver fish swimming by, as if I was a part of their world. As long as I didn’t look at the drop-off (I mean, has anyone seen Finding Nemo?), then I felt okay. Suddenly, I spotted a small squid. This was incredible and like nothing I’ve seen. I was stoked to show Kasey, but as I turned in circles, I saw that he was gone and all I could see was shadowy water.
This was my nightmare. The squid now seemed threatening. Like, if there is a squid, then surely there is a shark nearby. This is the problem with phobias. They are not rooted in logic. I wanted to get away from it. I lifted my head from the water and couldn’t tell where Kasey was. The water was too choppy, so with fear in my heart, I swam as fast as I could back to the boat. Once on, I still didn’t see him and the boat’s motor was already running. Soon, I spotted him all the way out by the jagged rocks. I waved my arms and he made it back, just as the boat started to pull away.
I wish I could be like Kasey and be so crazy interested in the ocean life that I forget the time and almost miss the boat, but alas, it still unnerves me. I’m grateful that we did lots of snorkeling on our trip though, because now I feel more comfortable with it and grew to enjoy it. As for heights, they scare me, but once I tackle them, it’s pretty exhilarating. With practice and some gentle pushing, phobias can start to go away. Until you pick up a new one.
Google “sand fleas”. This one’s for you, Mom 😉