I love my bunch of writers. I love how we’re different and yet so similar. I love how we agree to trade cilantro for bacon. I love that we’re funny. And serious. I love that we span all interests, decades and walks of life.
We say: yes.
One of my greatest fears descended upon me last weekend.
And I lived to tell the tale.
(Okay, not barely).
My friend and I went over to a neighboring city on Saturday to see another friend perform in a play. The outing was all planned – park here, walk there, a little theater, a little dinner. No boys allowed. She graciously drove us since I assume that whatever direction I’m facing is North (sad, but true) and can’t find my way out of a paper bag. Everything went swimmingly. She pulled into a parking garage and tucked the car into a nice, out-of-the-way spot. Merrily chatting away, we headed over to the elevators and punched the “down” button.
We got stuck in there.
For 75 hours (5 minutes).
It was disgusting and terrible. There is something so profoundly awful about being stuck. I want options. I want to be able to leave whenever I darn well feel like it. So I’ve never liked elevators. Or bridges. Or airplanes. Or that field trip the teacher took us on when I was in fourth grade, the one where we toured a silver mine.
All kidding aside, I went into panic mode approximately 4 seconds after my friend and I realized that we would not be exiting as scheduled. We looked at each other, then at the doors. Words like, “what” and “seriously” slipped from our mouths. She punched the service button or whatever it is, the one that lets you talk to the person with the power to send someone to save you.
Some kind of conversation took place between my friend and the magical man. I just called into the intercom, “Please hurry!”
Then I gripped the rail, the brass one that’s bolted to all elevator walls the world over, and said, “I’m freaking out.”
My friend, bless her, patted me on the arm and told me a funny story about her daughter. She deals with anxiety, too, but managed to keep it together long enough to distract me. I’ll never be able to thank her enough for that.
Some popping and creaking and wondering if we were going to die later, the smallest of cracks appeared between the doors and we could just make out the shape of out rescuer. I yelled, “Get us out of here!” His response? “Give me a minute!”
With no buzz or fanfare, the doors opened and we were met with the blank expression and navy-blue uniform of our skinny, bespectacled, possibly teen-aged savior. He waved us out. We said thanks. I probably should have hugged him. It probably would have gone on too long and I would have creeped him out.
We laughed about it for the rest of the day. We joked that the play had better be good, after all we’d gone through just to get there. When the last notes had faded, the bows made, the clapping finished, the artisan pizza reduced to crumbs, the sweating glasses drained of cucumber water and beer – it was time to go back.
She talked me into it. Talked me into getting back on that thing. Said I could punch her if we got stuck again.
I would have laid aside every one of my pacifist convictions and done so.
But it was fine. We were fine.
Nearly a week later, I mull. I stew. I fret. I get upset thinking about what could have happened. What might yet happen if I ever set foot in an elevator again (which is debatable). I conjure up frightening scenarios. My heart races and the sweat beads on my forehead.
While I will continue to use the stairs whenever possible, I realize that this fear of elevators could keep me from experiencing life. Maybe already has. Not just elevators. Fear of so many things. Stepping aside. Staying behind. Melting into the background.
Saying the timid “no” instead of the courageous “yes.”
I can’t take a trip to the East Coast next year without flying. (Not in a reasonable amount of time, anyway). I can’t tour the buildings and see the views without elevators. I can’t drive around my own town without bridges.
Sometimes the fears come. Sometimes what we dread happens.
Somehow you live and you just keep going.
And I see: What makes a woman – what really shapes her into the best version of herself – is not the times when she falls down. It’s not when she cries or feels afraid.
It’s when she says “yes” and dares.
It’s when she gets back up.
And if she comes up swinging, so much the better.
Yep, longer than five minutes.