Fear

5am, November 26, Cat Ba, Vietnam

I find myself crippled by fear in ways that I have never experienced before.  I am not someone who has historically been afraid of risk or injury.  After I had children, I took certain precautions, such as that I wouldn’t climb on glaciers without first taking a course in crevasse rescue and without a professional guide by my side, but still, I didn’t carry much fear.  I did my best to mitigate the risks and took comfort in the fact that, should I injure myself (or worse), John would be there to tend to me and the children.

Of course, now there is no John.  I stumble around in this world full of fear that something will happen to me.  I am not afraid of the pain of an injury, not afraid of my own suffering, but I am consumed by the awareness – there is no other parent to care for my children.  In Hanoi, I couldn’t relax.  In order to cross the street one must dodge between zippy motorbikes.  I’m told never to run across the street, only to walk, because then my path is more predictable and the motorbikes can better flow around me.  There was no break from this anxiety, as the sidewalks are impassable die to rows of parked motorbikes, so even when not crossing, one walks on the edge of the street and tries to ignore the motorbikes and cars that literally brush you as they fly by.  I couldn’t stop wondering – what happens if a bike hits me and I break an arm or a leg?  Who would take care of the children?  How would they get around if I couldn’t drive?  True, I could hire more help, but that is little comfort right now.  At the end of the day, I’m alone, and there is no escaping the reality that my children are fatherless and my burdens are heavy.

I knew, after John died, that I could no longer climb on glaciers – not because I resent the types of mountains that took my husbands life, but for the sake of my children.  I still love these mountains and yearn to climb them.  The secondary loss of this passion (after the primary loss of my husband) is non trivial and will be the subject of many other writings.  Regardless, I have discovered that, even if I stop climbing big mountains, even if I always wear my seat belt, there is so much fear and awareness of the delicate balance of life.  Anything could happen, and if something does happen to me, the cost is immeasurable.  I carry these burdens as I carry my 60lb training pack.  Unlike the pack, I cannot choose to lighten my load when I am tired.  These weights of fear and responsibility are mine to carry alone.  This awareness ages me and contributes to my struggle to find any joy in life.

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