Getting By — With a Little Help from My Friends!

A little part of me says, Nah, don’t post this, they’ll think you’re weird.

But a bigger part of me says, Hey, go for it! Bet a lot of people will feel the same — And anyway, what’s so bad about weird? So I’m listening to the big guy.

The most recent time it happened was the other morning, when I went to the dentist for one of my three-times-a-year-or-you’ll-lose-’em cleanings. The dentist is very nice, and all her hygienists are very nice, but the office, that’s another story. It’s located in what was once upon a time a flourishing silk mill, dating back to the late 19th century when someone had the bright idea of importing silkworm cocoons and starting a new industry right here in Northampton/Florence (two identities in a single town).

Anyway, the operative factor is that the brick building was once a mill, a factory structure with high ceilings and steep staircases once of iron, now of steel. Most of it is two stories, but where the dentist is, in kind of a little tower, there are three stories, with very steep staircases going up to the top. That’s where the dentist is, on the top floor. There’s a teeny elevator that goes up there, as well as those two steep staircases. So what’s the problem?

Well, among my quirks and foibles lurk some phobias. Two of them are a fear of heights, and claustrophobia. Do you begin to see where I’m going with this? Not yet?

The claustrophobia means that the teeny elevator is O-U-T. A bigger elevator, preferably one with a white-gloved operator (like in department stores in the olden days when I was a girl), or a huge spacious one for transporting oversized canvases in a museum is sometimes possible. On good days.  But this one? It’s like a coffin standing upright. No way.

Okay, what’s the problem with the stairs? I’m well used to taking stairs.  I tell myself it’s healthy exercise instead of having to admit it’s really about fear. But I told you this was a factory with high ceilings, so the three flights, which are divided so they’re actually double flights, are REALLY long. All right, so that’s even healthier exercise. Not a deal breaker. No, the finishing-off touch is that the tower is mostly glass-sided. Floor-to-ceiling glass-sided. The effect of this is that every other bend, when I come around to face this glass wall, visually I might as well be standing on the side of a mountain. Fear of heights, remember?

For some reason, that morning was really bad. Vertigo hit me even before I put my foot on the first step. Going up was bad enough, but as anyone who suffers from fear of heights and/or vertigo will tell you, coming down is worse.

As the hygienist poked her way among my teeth, and the dentist smiled at the antique filling beginning to crumble in my lower left, I was busy thinking of how I was going to get down and back to my car. Ask one of the receptionists to go down with me in the elevator? TOO embarrassing. But the stairs! How was I going to manage the stairs! And then I thought of something I’d done once before. It’s a long time ago now, but I never forgot it. I’d been sunk pretty deep in the blues, and feeling lonely and powerless to do anything about it. So I went for a walk (doing something is better than nothing, right?) and as I did, I found myself calling upon strong women I knew, strong women far away who were my friends. And suddenly there were these women, one by one,  striding down the street with me,  from the four corners of the earth a whole host of strong women, I could see their faces just as clear as clear, and I was no longer alone, but walking with a phalanx of admired powerful women.

It was amazing. An experience I never forgot. So that morning the thought once again came to me. I’ll call upon help! Who will I call upon? One of my oldest friends, who is just my age, and still goes climbing mountains. No fear of heights for him! Who could be better to climb down with me, encouraging, offering to lend me a hand. So I called upon him, on his clear head and his strength and his encouragement, and he lent it to me, and I strode down the stairs and down to solid ground and back to my car. Grinning.

As I said, I’d understand if you called me weird. It wouldn’t bother me at all, because, you know —- whatever works! The Beatles must have known, one of their most famous songs is really about this:

And here’s a gallery of a few of those friends, with whose help I manage to get by:

This entry was posted in Challenge, Etcetera, Friendship, Loneliness, Personal Essay and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Getting By — With a Little Help from My Friends!

  1. This is a wonderful story, and so well told. Thank you so much for sharing it.


  2. Lucid Gypsy says:

    You’re far from weird – resourceful I’d call it. Well done, you found coping strategies 🙂


  3. Katty says:

    LOVE this post. You are NOT weird! ♥


  4. We call them Frambly…………those friends who are part of our family.


  5. pauline says:

    No weirder than asking a deity to accompany you! In fact, your calling upon the invisible strength of others is a sensible thing – it’s how I get into elevators and climb stairs, too 🙂


  6. No! You are not weird, Judith! We all have our moments of ‘Angst’ – one or the other way…..
    You are very brave to talk about in public!
    Wish you a lot of strength whenever and for whatever you’re in need for!
    And – I’ll keep you in my thoughts, that’s what friends are for, even in the blogworld:)
    Tres amicalement und herzlichen Gruss,


  7. Patti Kuche says:

    You had me on edge just with the dentist . . . Well done you for conquering with company!


  8. Not weird at all! I think it’s a great idea and I can’t wait to try it! You’re lucky to have a good sized pool to draw from. The Beatles knew what they were talking about, and I think you fit right in there with them and the idea of friendship/support. ;/)
    Congrats on your successful adventure.


  9. Not weird at all! In fact I might try it your way the next time I’m at the dentist. I don’t have issues with heights or small spaces but going to the dentist freaks me out. Thanks for a wonderful coping strategy!


  10. suitablefish says:

    I’m weird, too! 🙂 Wonderful story.


  11. I loved this story. I’ve called upon my (long dead) grandmother in some bad moments, and it really does help!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Several people have spoken of or hinted at talking to the dead.
      I don’t know why not! They are certainly alive within us —
      I’ve called upon a beloved grandfather figure often enough, and as you say, it really does help.


  12. 2e0mca says:

    Brave stuff Judith 🙂 My dentist will tell you that I’m terribly uncomfortable in her surgery… And that’s a huge step forward from what I was like just 5 years ago. I now go roughtly every 9 months – supposed to be every 6 but it gets stretched to allow for my fears… She’s a nice person and the complete opposite of the balding ginger haired bully that all the school children suffered in Finchley when I was a child – it’s amazing that even the parents of that time remember him 😦

    As for vertigo – I can get frozen at the top of a ladder but if I give myself some time I can find my way down. The daft thing is that I have no issue flying light airplanes at low / big heights, so it’s not vertigo in my case. More a fear of ladders (which are dangerous beasts ) 😉


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Fear of dentists is REALLY common. I know for me my childhood dentists were, what can I say? Outlaws? Sadists? Power hungry? But my latter-day dentists are very very nice indeed, and have a light touch, the opposite of those ham-handed dentists of long ago. Whatever the source, fear isn’t fun.
      I do stepladders. That’s it.
      As for flying — I’m afraid of it, but not due to vertigo. Due to fear of crashing! Well, maybe it is a little bit of vertigo as what I find so upsetting is turbulence, and that may be a balance issue also. I do fly when I have to, but I confess, I take a Valium equivalent.
      Get you, flying light airplanes! How often do you get a chance to do that? Did you ever drive a railroad train? Or a bus? You have these unsuspected facets!


  13. I love this. If this is weird, bring it on!


  14. mybrightlife says:

    Wonderfully, powerfully weird in all the right ways!


  15. ristinw says:

    Weird? Not that weird! ^^


  16. 2e0mca says:

    Nothing weird about it Judith. Lots of people have a fear of heights or enclosed spaces. You’re just unlucky to have both! Heights don’t generally bother me but I absolutely hate going up ladders – which makes adjusting my radio antenna’s, cleaning the upstairs windows and clearing out the guttering a stressful experience. I don’t call on friends to help me mentally. I just grit my teeth and talk myself up and down. The first two or three ascents are the worst – I often get stuck at the top for a while as my nerves adjust to the idea of descending again. Then, as familiarity creeps in I get a bit of confidence and it becomes easier. I still leave claw marks in the Aluminium even then 😉


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