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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Today On A Ladder ...

Again, I'm staying with older relatives, so I try to do what I can around the house to help them out. The damn light bulb in their garage burns out with a strange frequency. I think someone is using their garage at night for raves or book club meetings because it seems to wear out about every two weeks, and they hardly ever leave their home.

So once again, I move their two cars out onto the driveway and locate a step ladder. Now, to most of you, this probably seems like an easy chore ... five minutes and forget about it. It will take me at least a half hour to screw up enough courage to climb the ladder. I'm afraid of heights, especially just being a little bit off the ground. I would feel safer on top of a skyscraper looking down than a few rungs up on an eight-foot ladder.

When I say I'm "afraid" of heights, I'm probably overstating the situation. Like many people, heights make me uncomfortable. But lately it has gotten worse. I watched a TV show where they showed a rider-point-of-view show from the front of a roller coaster. My stomach noticeably backflipped. And another nighttime drama showing three men repelling down the side of a building made me vomit a little in my mouth. Maybe it is a full-blown fear.

Fears, by definition, aren't bad things. Most fears are considered normal human reactions to potentially hostile or dangerous situations. Fear instincts ... that feeling of fight or flight ... are millennia-old emotions designed to help us deal with life. Fears are tied to and heightened by our emotions, so maybe my creative nature and overactive imagination help make my discomfort with heights a bit more "physical." Maybe I need a leather couch and accompanying therapist twice a week. The world will never know.

Phobias, one the other hand, are intense, persistent, and often prolonged states of fear usually focused on one or more specific things or concepts. Many phobias are considered by medial professionals and mental health experts as a type of anxiety disorder ... sometimes to the point where they become disruptive, even crippling, to living a normal life.

And the list of phobias is both lengthy and comical ...

Aviophobia is a fear of being in an aircraft, and is believed to combine facets of other common phobic conditions such as acrophobia (fear of heights), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces and entrapment), and agoraphobia (fear of leaving "safe" places). I call it common sense.

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns, and I hear people talk about having mild to serious cases of it all the time ... just like musophobia (fear of rats and rodents), dentophobia (strong fear of dentists), agliophobia (fear of pain), and lygophobia (fear of darkness). And most times, the people who mention these fears tend to talk about experiencing them as children ... although I know a woman - a former co-worker who is probably around 45 years of age - who gets clammy and slightly nauseous if you even talk about mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, or whatever. One day, we put a sound-activated rubber rat in her desk drawer while she was at lunch. She had to leave work early because she lost control of her bladder ... seriously. Dorleen, I'm eternally sorry ... but I chuckle out loud every time I tell that story.

There are some very odd phobias ... at least to me ... like barophobia (fear of gravity), somniphobia (fear of sleeping), alliumphobia (fear of garlic), testophobia (fear of taking tests), and disposaphobia (fear of getting rid of things). I guess they could cause disruptions to a lifestyle, but they just seem like excuses for being clumsy and falling down a lot, not going to bed when told, avoiding co-workers offering spicy foods, not studying and doing poorly during exams, and not cleaning your house ... respectively.

Then I found the fears that just seemed ridiculous ... what I like to call the "Stupid List." It's a long list, so I'll just mention a few ...

Melophobia or the fear or hatred of music ... I know everyone has types of music they like and dislike, but the hatred of ALL music. Imagine Christmas with no carols. Cars with kids and no sing-along CDs. Life without "Glee."

Ostraconophobia or fear of shellfish. Now, I loves me some crab and shrimpies, but to fear them ... like the lobsters breaking through the rubber bands on the pincers and attaching. I don't think so.

Xyrophobia or the fear of razors. I can understand how some people could be put-off by slasher movies or the whole unfortunate Joaquin Phoenix phase, but I can't see any crippling effects.

Mageirocophobia or fear of cooking ... I once had a girlfriend who should have claimed this because she was just a lousy, lousy cook. She wasn't much of a girlfriend, to be honest.

Coitophobia ... again, see previous girlfriend reference and then we shall never speak of it again! But come on ... seriously?!

Allodoxaphobia or fear of opinions ... I truly hope it exists and it can either be created in a contagious form and harnessed to shut up half of Capitol Hill .

Potophobia or fear of alcohol ... right next to the Three Little Pigs, get-rich-quick schemes, penis pumps, and other assorted myths.

Paraskavedekatriaphobia or fear of Friday the 13th ... strangely enough, my maternal grandmother was born on a Friday the 13th in October, and almost a dozen relatives waited more than three years before visiting to meet her because of their superstitious heritage. A few even left a room if the "baby" was discussed. Go figure.

POINT OF RANT: I fear only a person's actions can define the lines between discomfort, fear, and phobia ... but can someone help me down from this ladder?

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