|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
I spent last week up on very high ladders painting the outside of a building. I have no fear of heights, but being up on a ladder is different than being 30,000 ft strapped into an airline seat looking down on the plains of Iowa or 102 stories up in the glass encased observation tower of the Empire State Building gazing over Manhattan. When you climb up a tall ladder carrying a paint can and brush, it seems as if you are climbing forever. When you look down, you realize that one little misstep will hurdle you down to a parking lot where you will probably break every bone in your body. If you are painting a wide area you are usually able to lean on the building to steady yourself as you paint. If you are painting trim, as I was, leaning on it is not an option. If you are painting over your head you have a tendency to lean slightly backwards, clinging to the ladder just in case you are leaning back farther than you think you are. I wasn't afraid, but I won't lie and tell you I was comfortable.
The worst moment was when I had to use the ladder that extends independently on either side for stairs. I refer to this as the 'ladder of death'. Even though it makes perfect sense and is obviously well constructed, there is something wrong about a ladder that is on a staircase. The whole time I was on it I could hear my mother's voice telling me not to touch a hot stove, not to stick anything in an electric outlet, and not to put a ladder on a staircase and climb it.
I've worked on scaffolding before on a staircase when I helped restore antique hand painted wallpaper. I was a lot more comfortable that time. For one thing, scaffolding is wider and there was a nice, friendly rail behind me. We were pretty high up, 12 or 14 ft, but I was never worried about it. I had a cotton glove up to my elbow on my left hand so I could lean against the wall and steady myself while painting detail without damaging anything. I never even thought about being way high up in the air on a staircase. Just goes to show you how powerful the illusion of safety can be. If I had fallen off of that scaffolding I would have bashed my brains out on a marble staircase.
There is a guy I work with who is terrified of heights but has been on scaffolding and ladders far higher than I have ever been on, despite his fear. I find this terribly brave and really admire him for it. I have spent my life determined to conquer any fear that have, and have forced myself to go to auditions, tackle interviews, jump from a plane, and fondle snakes, all to that end. I know that doing things in the face of real fear is not easy and requires an incredible amount of focus and calm. After he had set up the ladder of death for me he climbed it himself to make sure it was steady and safe, and he did it without shaking, babbling incoherently, breaking into a sweat, or crying like a little girl. I was grateful and impressed.
The worst part about being on a really high ladder is the fact that you have to climb up and down it what feels like a thousand times in order to move it from point A to point B. I'm a tiny person with a limited reach so I had to move it fairly frequently. You can keep your expensive gym and stairmaster, try climbing up and down a tall ladder all day. I was painfully aware of the workout I got the next morning when I woke up.
I am the kind of person who groans at the thought of a systematic workout or going to a gym and sweating alongside a bunch of people I don't know. On the other hand, if you were to ask me to help you plant trees, stack firewood, shingle a roof, or hike 10 miles, I would do it without hesitation. Working out strikes me as a deadly bore, but hard physical work doesn't bother me one bit. I'm not entirely certain why that is, but I think that it probably has to do with being productive and actually accomplishing something that you can look at and feel good about. I realize that some people feel that way about their own bodies, but I like to feel good about something that I can see that isn't about me. If I can stand back and look at that excellent paint job, that beautiful tree, that neatly stacked wood, or that gorgeous flower bed, it is all worth it. If I can stand and look at an awe inspiring view after a 10 mile hike, the blisters and sore muscles are worth it. It's all how you look at it, I guess. Either that or I'm just really stupid.
Just to show you how truly crazy I am, after spending a week climbing on ladders and scraping and painting trim, I spent the weekend lying on the ground on my back undercoating my car, touching up scratches on the finish, washing and waxing it for the winter, and on my feet for 3 hours cooking meals to freeze for my Mom. I also crocheted a scarf for my daughter. Thankfully, no one asked me to go on a 10 mile hike. The Energizer Bunny may keep going and going...but he looks a whole lot better than I did at the end of my week.