An ocean of fear

by DaniGirl on May 26, 2010 · 14 comments

in It IS all about me, Ottawa to Nova Scotia 2010

So as I mentioned, we’re starting to count down to our Nova Scotia vacation this summer. We’ve got a beautiful seaside cottage booked that has all the amenities I could possibly want or need, save for one: the bed doesn’t have any seatbelts or restraining straps. Not for the toddler, which will be a separate challenge, but for me.

You see, I have this deep and primal fear of wide open spaces and deep water. And seriously, does it get any more wide open or deep than the ocean? Gulp. It actually makes me a little squeedgy just thinking about it, being right there next to all that wide open blue-ness, with only a thin wall and tiny strip of road between me and the abyss. My chest is a little bit constricted, and the back of my knees are twitchy as I type. Honestly, I can’t even use the satellite view on Google Maps to scope out our cottage rental without feeling a lurching sense of vertigo.

I’ve always had this fear of wide open spaces. When I was a kid, I read every single book in the public library on astronomy, but almost never went outside and actually looked at the stars, because every time I did I had to dig my fingers into the grass to hold on for dear life, lest the earth fling me up into the endless vortex of space. When Beloved and I first got married, we had a little red Sunfire and I loved that car because I could sit in the driver’s seat with my seatbelt on and look at the stars through the moon roof, strapped in and perfectly secure. You might be laughing, but I’m serious!

It’s not just the night sky, though. You know those really big satellite dishes, not the consumer cable ones but the really big mothers? Yeah. They make me feel a little squeedgy, too. Something to do with them broadcasting out into space, I think, although there is absolutely nothing logical about this particular phobia — it’s as irrational as it is deep-seated.

The fear of deep water I may have come by through nurture instead of nature. When I was a kid, I jumped out of our little 16 foot boat to retrieve an anchor that had come loose from its line. Growing up in southern Ontario, it was my experience that any body of water in which you could see the bottom must be relatively shallow, so I jumped over the edge expecting to thump into the sandy bottom under about four feet of water. Unbeknownst to me, the perfectly clear water was closer to eight or ten feet deep, and I plunged in way over my head without touching the bottom, startling myself out of at least a year’s growth.

And it’s not just about swimming, either. When I flew to Europe in 1995 and again in 1999, I had to spend a lot of time telling myself, “We’re still flying over Labrador. Still flying over Labrador. Still flying over Labrador. Don’t look, don’t look. Still flying over Labrador, it’s all good.” *pause* “Okay, flying over Ireland now, flying over Ireland, I’m sure we’re flying over Ireland by now.” For the whole flight.

This spring, my folks went on a two week cruise from LA to Hawaii and back, and while I envied them the experience of visiting Hawaii, there’s no way I could do it. The cruise, I mean. The idea of being on a ship without *any* land in view? That’s so never going to happen. I can’t even stomach the idea of flying into Hawaii, because it’s this little tiny island in that vast sea of, well, sea. It wouldn’t take anything to slip off the edge of the island and sploosh, into the drink. *shudder*

So why the hell am I so hell bent on visiting the ocean that I’m willing to subject the entire family to 36 hours trapped in the car so I can spend a week not sleeping without tying myself into the bed for fear of the sea sucking me out into its murky spaciousness? For the same reason I always loved astronomy as a kid, I think. Like a moth drawn to a lightbulb. Because what terrifies you also fascinates you, and what repulses you is also compelling, at a fundamental level.

Plus, I don’t like to be afraid of things. I’m stubborn that way. While there’s no way in hell I’m ever going on a ship across that ocean, or even a big boat that carries me out of sight of land, I’ll choke down my fear and hold my breath to stand ankle deep in the surf. And try really hard not to shudder in front of the kids.

I have three kids, so not much scares me. Snakes, blood, heights, enclosed spaces — no problem. Bugs give me the creeping heebies, but what scares me on a truly visceral level are things that are deep, and vast. Like the ocean.

What freaks you out?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Coco May 26, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Really big spiders.

2 Mary Lynn May 26, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Heights freak me out. I can’t even watch a TV show where someone’s way up high without getting knots in my stomach. Even cartoons will do it to me. The scenes in Up where Russell’s way up in the air make me flinch.

Every now and then I push myself to get past my fear of heights. I’ve been up the CN tower and the Empire State Building. I didn’t stay up either for very long. After a while my knees started to buckle on me and I knew I had to get back down to the ground.

3 mudmama May 26, 2010 at 8:17 pm

You know, I’m kinda laughing cause I live in Nova Scotia and have never ever been in the ocean over my head! Seriously.

I have an irrational fear of pike. So lakes scare me…I swim in them but I fear opening my eyes under water lest I’m confronted by a pike.

4 Janet May 26, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I’m scared of lots of things. Snakes tops the list, followed by enclosed spaces. But my most irrational fear is of those little rubber finger puppets shaped like monsters. My big brothers used to chase me around the house with them making terrible monster sounds. I saw a bin full of them at a toy store a few months ago and let out a huge gasp!

5 Amber May 26, 2010 at 11:11 pm

I live in BC, not far from the ocean, so thankfully I’m cool with that.

But snakes? So, SO not cool with those. The way they move is just … unnatural. Even garter snakes freak me out.

6 Hilary May 27, 2010 at 5:26 am

Oh, I know what you mean. I have always had a fear of the sky and space – I can’t lie back on the ground and look up at the neverending sky – I’m overcome by the most overwhelming sense of panic. And it was a big step for me to go to the planetarium for the first time. I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would want to be an astronaut – and go OUT THERE??

My fear doesn’t extend to other large spaces, but I can definitely see how it would all be related.

7 smothermother May 27, 2010 at 7:16 am

love love love the ocean and wide open spaces. not so fond on closed small spaces. have you been to the paries?

my deep seated fear? spiders. totally phobic. not so good when you live in an old house. i have to check each corner of the room every night before i go to sleep. you know, just incase the dangle over my head and fall into my mouth while i sleep. you laugh? how do you think this fear started? i kid you not.

8 Finola May 27, 2010 at 11:56 am

I’m afraid of fire. I don’t enjoy campfires, and I really worry when the kids are roasting marshmallows on one. Oh, the fretting.
And house centipedes, but I think everyone is afraid of those!

9 Anonymous May 27, 2010 at 1:49 pm

What IS a house centipede, I asked? Oh! I said when Google answered. Those fragile million legged bugs. They eat on spiders, bedbugs, termites, cockroaches, silverfish, and ants, so I’m not scared of them myself.

I don’t like sac spiders (the little yellow ones) myself. One bit me in high school and THAT was painful (swelling the size of a loonie).

Also not a dog person. Size doesn’t matter, even a small dog can corner me. I’m working on that though. I prefer to live life wthout being restricted by irrationalitie. So good for you going to the ocean despite fear!

PS You won’t have time to be scared; you’ll be looking through the restrictions of your view finder. Right??? πŸ™‚

10 Mary @ Parenthood May 27, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Whoops – comment above was me!

11 Jody May 27, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I’m pretty scared of the weedy patches of lakes. I’m convinced we’re going to get hopelessly tangled in them, and then sucked under.

This is pretty amusing for a Minnesota lake girl. But not unpredictable.

I’m also scared of heights. I’m convinced that anyone who gets too close to the edge of a cliff or the steep side of a mountain is no longer subject to the laws of gravity, and will get sucked sideways and down. The very thought of it gives me the shivers.

12 Anonymous May 27, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I’m with smothermother…I’m the opposite. Living in Nova Scotia, I wish I could dive right into that ocean and escape to another world. The vastness, the depth, the mysteries that are hidden beneath. I will watch every shark, whale, dolphin documentary, and occasionally find myself singing from the soundtrack of little mermaid…except I want to be where she is. Maybe we could trade places. Funny how that is. Having spent a fair chunk of my life in the beautiful city of Ottawa, i longed for the ocean. And my parents, Newfounlanders drove us halfway across Canada every summer, which included a then 8 hour crossing across the Gulf. I’ve grown to love the calming trance of waves crashing against rocks or anything. Anyway, I work for Nova Scotia Tourism and I’ve commented on your blog before. If we can do anything to help you, let me know. Curious where you plan on touring in Nova Scotia. We can find you some things to do on land πŸ™‚ I am even going to go out on a limb and say I don’t think the ocean will suck you out of your bed. I’m not sure whale watching or kayaking are going to be for you, but I do hope you are able to get at least toe deep. Let us know if you need any help with your trip. I can’t wait to read more when you get here πŸ™‚ Lots of entertainment and fun.

13 Cynthia May 27, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Oops that last comment was from me and I hit post before I filled out the fields. I’m on twitter too, cynatnovascotia. Now following you and your adventures πŸ™‚

14 Nat May 29, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Wide open spaces I’m totally cool with. I love the ocean… I love the sky… what at freaks me out? Elevators and enclosed spaces. Not crazy about snakes and … this will shock you… bugs.

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