Unsure footing

My mother is afraid of heights. I have many memories of Hilary, Dad, and I climbing to the top of a cathedral or spire in a European city, and looking down from the top to see my mother’s small form waving up at us. I might be turning into her, as I’ve been feeling woozy when at a height lately. I’m feeling the beginnings of vertigo. And not just the vertigo of identification I get when I look into Gracie’s eyes.

I have written before about the sensation of feeling insubstantial: it comes to me most often when I’m crossing the Charles River on a run on a windy day. I feel like my connection to the physical earth is tenuous, like I might be simply swept away. I’ve felt that way a fair bit lately, but it hasn’t been windy.

Over Memorial Day we were in New Hampshire with dear friends. On Saturday morning we climbed through a gorge called Lost River. We’ve done this before. The area has an elaborate system of wooden bridges and ramps and you climb through the rocky gorge. There are a series of caverns you can walk through, though I don’t, because they scare me. For the first time, I had several moments of dizziness as I walked up and down the steep wooden stairways, or looked over into a gorge. I’ve felt this way in passing before, but never for extended periods of time like that morning.

And recently Grace and I were swinging next to each other at a playground near our house. At the top of each arc, I felt my stomach hop slightly, almost as though it was catching its breath, traveling a parabolic arc. I felt something turning over deep inside of me, some fundamental unease that echoed the vertigo I felt at Lost River.

It strikes me that both sensations are manifestations of the same basic lack of connection to the earth I’ve described before. It’s almost as though gravity’s hold on me is loosening, as though my footing on the earth is simply not stable. I suspect this may have something to do with the earthquake rumbling through my soul. I don’t know exactly why now, or when it will end, but I know I like it better when east and west are where I expect them, when up and down stay where they should be. I am deeply uncomfortable when the basic corners of my physical place in the world seem fluid rather than fixed.

9 thoughts on “Unsure footing”

  1. This is so profound Lindsay. I’m amazed that though you are feeling a sense of unease, and things aren’t quite right, but it’s amazing how deeply you recognize it and are willing to excavate it. Though you may not see it, you are miles ahead just in doing so.

    I also wanted to say that I think I can relate. While I wouldn’t say that my own feeling has been one of vertigo, I’ve felt my own feeling of nearly tumbling over the side of a cliff. It’s quite real. It’s as if I’m going to lose myself. As if my mind is on the verge of opening up and spilling out and I’ll lose everything inside. I feel it so deep inside of me and it has rocked my core.

    So hugs to you my friend, as you continue this journey. Know that we are here for you. xo

  2. AS always, I adore your ability to, as Christine puts it, excavate. It is this skill, this ability to look within and actually see, and then share with us, that makes you so profoundly lovable and so amazingly talented.

    I, too, suffer from physical vertigo. Started about 2 years ago. Don’t like it one bit. I’m truly sorry to hear you’re experiencing that…interestingly, the first time I started experiencing it was on the downward steps of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

  3. Lindsay,

    I found you through our friend Lauren at Embrace the Detour.

    I’ve stopped by a couple of times to enjoy your beautiful, poignant, heart-felt writing.

    Several themes resonate with me…especially your feelings about loss and change. I, too, am grappling with these issues, although for different reasons and at a different stage in life.

    I thought of some of the things you’ve articulated when I published a post this morning called “Grace’s Place.” (http://www.margeryraveson.com/2010/06/graces-place.html)

    I too, have a Grace.


  4. I can see you swaying there at the top. And on the ground. The east and the west, top and bottom not quite where they are supposed to be. And I know what you mean. I often find (in retrospect) that I’ve felt this way during times of impending change (or great stress–but that’s less romantic, of course). I hope you find your way to a more comfortable place, and I know that you know that, often, the more challenging the journey the more rewarding the destination.

  5. I can also relate to this, and as usual, it is most elegantly written. I cannot imagine putting myself through that system of bridges and ramps; the one time I did such a thing (in Tennessee) I was semi-terrified, and required to keep the stiff upper lip so my kids wouldn’t be frightened.

    Oddly, I am not afraid of heights, but I don’t like lack of substantial structures from which to appreciate them. I also find that I still enjoy seating myself on the floor. Much like a child. I feel grounded – literally – and find the connection to soil or grass or carpet to be important to me. A reminder that we can find grounding, almost anywhere. And that connection is stabilizing.

  6. It kind of blows my mind how your words lift up like your tummy on a swing. It’s as if I can’t quite grasp them, they are that big and that beautiful. I can comprehend only glimpses of the enormous truth and grace here.

    Maybe that’s true with heights and gravity and life, the feeling you’re having. It’s all so much, like it’s just going to swallow you…us. I’d like to believe that it’s so much love and beauty and if you were to take it all in, it would kill you with its greatness, you know?

    I don’t know if I’m making sense, it’s past my bedtime and my words are hard to form…but yeah, I get it.

  7. Wonderful writing again Lindsay. You write like lace. Isn’t your talent in translating your fears into words also one of your powers?

    What an inner journey you’re going through. It’s not easy. But it’s grand. And I believe it’ll be fruitful. Not fruitful like blossoming flowers but like giving birth to a child. Painful, traumatic but nourishing and transforming.

    Your writing helps me delve into my own subconscious. Sometimes it’s so powerful that I can’t keep on reading. I have to stop and go back to it again after a couple of hours. I relate to you about the physical vertigo. I have it, too. I’ve found out that it’s related to my inner vertigo, which I have because I’m scared of losing control. Maybe we just have to release our ropes and let go on an inner level and ease the need for control (and of self-control).

  8. I can really relate, from the physical to the metaphysical. Sometimes I like to imagine dropping to the very center of the earth in my mind’s eye, imagining a little superball that turns only once in 24 hours (rather than that thousand miles per hour rate up at the earth’s surface).

    When I think about spinning around the sun, and then the sun rocketing through space on the outer edges of a galaxy, and then our galaxy spinning around… I can get dizzy just sitting here at my lap top.

    I remember learning that even many astronauts get air sick, that gave me a little comfort too. The scientists said that we get queasy when the blood gathers in our middle, so we can try to get the blood out to our hands and feet… things I think about when I’m not in a rocket but just sitting in my kitchen.

    Here’s to the feeling of terra firma… even if it’s in our meta-queasy souls.

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