Conquering my fear…well, sort of?

Hallelujah! I survived another week. How did you fare? I hope you made it to the other side intact. Why else would you bless me with your presence, of which I’m extremely grateful.

Before I get started with today’s post, I would like announce the books I have lined up to review next month. I’m so excited I can’t wait to tell you. First up, I have Mitch Lavender’s book, Find My Baby. In it, we meet Zachary, an IT security professional who along with his wife, plan to adopt a child from the Ukraine, Unfortunately, a cyber-criminal with a grudge against Zachary kidnaps the child and holds it for ransom. My review will go up August 4th, but if you want to check it out, you can always follow the link.

The second book is Back from Chaos, by Yvonne Hertzberger. Back from Chaos is the first book of the Earth’s Pendulum Trilogy, which follows Klast, a loner whose destiny it is to heal Earth’s wounds and restore balance to the planet. I will post my review on August 18th.

Now, on with the show. I took a spontaneous trip to the DFW area last weekend to visit my best friend, Amy. Not much happened on the trip, though I did find myself trying to herd an alpaca off the highway last Friday. That was an interesting experience, and a topic for another time.

A fear of heights is illogical. A fear
of falling, on the other hand, is prudent and evolutionary.
~Dr. Sheldon Cooper – The Big Bang Theory~

Me and Amy posing for a cheesy souvenir photo. Photo by cheesy souvenir photo taker.

Me and Amy posing for a cheesy souvenir photo. Photo by cheesy souvenir photo taker.

What really made the trip interesting for me had to be the trip to Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas. The tower stands tall at 561 ft, and was completed in 1978. Dealey Plaza, the site of the Kennedy assassination is about 1000 feet away. Reunion Tower boasts two restaurants, Cloud Nine Café, and Fifty Six, an award-winning fine dining restaurant opened by celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck.

Did I mention it’s 561 fear-enducing feet tall?

I have a fear of heights. As with most phobias, I know the fear is not logical, but the knowing in no way mitigates the fear. On the drive to the tower, I could feel myself becoming overwhelmed by anxiety. Once we arrived, I balked and I wanted flee the scene. Amy assured me that if I didn’t want to go through with it, I wouldn’t have to. Knowing I was in control allowed me to continue.

The reason for my trepidation is simple. Back when I was in high school, I went on a band trip to San Antonio. While there, we visited the 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas. I entered the elevator and rode to the top, blissfully unaware of how I would react once we reached the top.

Me and Amy after arriving to Reunion Tower, to meet my doom. Spoiler alert, I survived.

Me and Amy after arriving to Reunion Tower, to meet my doom. Spoiler alert, I survived.

Well, not quite unaware. As we ascended, my panic seemed to rise with the elevation, and when the doors opened, I found myself almost immobilized with fear. I somehow managed to step out of the elevator. I don’t remember much of the experience  other than having to endure the stomach-churning anxiety and the cruel taunts from the other band kids. Never before had I been as happy to be on solid earth.

Fast-forward over twenty years, and the memory of that day come flooding back. I steeled myself against the inevitable desire to flee. I knew I would have to face my fear. If I were to have left at that point, yes I would have felt immediately better, but I would have reinforced my fear. No, I had to immerse myself completely.

After enduring more cruel taunts from the bitch at the ticket desk – which makes me wonder why do people think making light of someone’s phobia is funny? – we joined the line to the elevator. Soon enough we were on our way to the top. In a way, those 68 seconds seemed to last an eternity, but the steady stream of trivia delivered by the elevator operator helped focus my mind on something other than my anxiety.


Posing calmly for a photo on the outside balcony of Reunion Tower. Only over 400 feet above Dallas. No worries. Photo by Amy.

With a calming breath, I walked off the elevator, determined not to let my fear get the best of me. I felt the familiar waves of anxiety, dizziness, shortness of breath, but I refused to succumb to the panic. When Amy suggested I take a seat, I kept walking, stubbornly refusing to lose the battle. Soon, I began walking around the floor, looking out the windows. After a few minutes acclimatizing to the height, I opened the door stepped into the open air of the balcony, where I stood briefly at the edge to have this photo taken before retreating to the relative safety of the inside wall.

After returning to the inside of the observation deck, I played around with the interactive screens, watched a ten minute video of the JFK assassination as told by the last surviving member of the Secret Service detail to have ridden in the presidential limo that fateful day. Then it was time to go down. We spent about thirty minutes at the top, but again it felt like an eternity.

Is this the face of a scaredy cat? Um...yes. Yes it is. Behind me is the inside wall of the observation deck of Reunion Tower. Photo by Amy.

Is this the face of a scaredy cat? Um…yes. Yes it is. Behind me is the inside wall of the observation deck of Reunion Tower. Photo by Amy.

The ride down was excruciatingly long. The operator first went up one floor to the café level, then back down to the floor below, before taking the 68-second journey to the ground floor. At one point, I squeezed Amy’s shoulder out of fright, possibly leaving her bruised. (Sorry, Amy!)

But I survived. The ordeal turned out not to be as bad as I had expected. I did experience nausea, light-headedness, and other unpleasant feelings, but I also had a fantastic view of downtown Dallas at night which I enjoyed. I faced my fear, and though I’m in no way over it, I didn’t let it hold me back! I’m also in no hurry to repeat the experience.

Once on the ground, we visited the gift shop, stopped at the Starbucks for a drink, and I was forced to pose for more photos. I hate taking pictures. I’m so not photogenic! I let my nerves calm down before walking back to the car and riding around downtown Dallas, then heading back to the house and a good nights sleep. I survived.


My reward, a hot cappuccino to calm my frayed nerves. Reunion Tower is lighted up behind me. Photo by Amy

Book Review: Winter Howl

This is the third monthly installment of Book Reviews. This month I’ll be reviewing a novel by my friend, Aurelia T. Evans. Being that she is someone I know, I risked not being able to be completely impartial, so from here on out, I will not do a review for a book from an author I know. As for Aurelia, you can find her on WordPress or on Facebook.

© 2012 Posh Gosh

© 2012 Posh Gosh

For this month’s book review, I have selected an erotic novel, Winter Howl by Aurelia T. Evans. Let me be totally honest and say that erotic fiction is not a genre I’m all too familiar with, but be that as it may, I jumped right in, and quickly took a quick cold shower. Who knew erotica meant sex? Okay, I did, but still…wow!

The story follows Renee Chambers, proprietor of a no-kill dog sanctuary nestled on the borders of Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. The sanctuary, founded by her parents, is a shelter where all dogs, except those of a violent disposition, are accepted, and cared for. They also created an adoption program to help find loving homes for their charges.

What they didn’t expect was to find themselves playing host to guests of a different nature. Renee stumbled onto another world when she found a puppy who shifted from a wolf-like dog into a young girl, around the same age as Renee. The family took her in, not knowing what to do about the fact that they had canine shape-shifters in their midst. Ultimately, they came to an agreement; that they could stay, as long as they helped out with the care of the sanctuary.

Many years, later, after the deaths of her parents, Renee is now in charge, helped out by an unlikely group of shape-shifters, all who live on the ground unanimously. Her best friend, Britt, who happens to be the young pup that introduced the family to the shape-shifting world, lives in the house, along with her boyfriend and a few others that provide help in return for a place to live.

However, it is Renee that is the focal point of the narrative. Renee is an agoraphobe, – from the Greek αγορά meaning gathering place or market; and φόβος/φοβία, -phobia or fear – and has trouble going out in public, relying on Britt, who assumes a role as a service dog.

Her social anxiety has manifested in such a way that she rarely interacts with people off her property, and it has led to a de facto celibate lifestyle. The shape-shifters, Britt included, live with a different set of moral and ethical behaviors, including sexually, and Britt helps Renee develop healthy bonds with people, including slowly introducing her into the joys of sex.

This is all disturbed by the appearance of Grant, who turns out to be a werewolf. Werewolves and shape-shifters are natural enemies, and the enmity is evident as soon as Grant arrives. Renee, as owner and executive of the sanctuary, has the ultimate say as to whether Grant stays or leaves. Opting to give him a chance, it is through him that Renee experiences her first, true taste of sexuality, raw, over-powering, uninhibited. Through him, she relinquishes control, much to the dismay of Britt and the rest of the shape-shifters in her care.

At first glace, I thought this book was primary a sex novel, tawdry, cheap, but still highly arousing. What I missed, but soon realized to my satisfaction, is that the story is actually a look into the group dynamics of an insular group. It also illuminates the struggles of a person suffering from an anxiety disorder. (Geek side note: Sometimes it’s diagnosed as a feature of a Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia (300.21 DSM-IV), but can also be diagnosed as Agoraphobia Without History of Panic Disorder (300.22 DSM-IV-TR). Note: There is a fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-V 2013, but I’m unable at the moment to locate a copy.)

It’s fascinating because you can gauge the internal struggle our heroine faces as she tries to live her daily life, and as she takes the first tentative steps into sexually intimate relationship, first with Britt, and then with Grant. There’s also the dynamic between the core group of and the outsider.

It begs the question, why would a woman like Renee, who is quiet and reserved and is not one to take undue risk, go for a man like Grant? Why would she abandon control, giving it over to someone who is obviously dangerous, and quite possibly homicidal? Then there’s the helplessness and betrayal that is felt by the core pack on the sanctuary, especially Britt, who looks to Renee as both a friend and a lover.

It’s easy to dismiss the book as solely a sex novel, but it’s so much more. The book is about the dynamics of a woman and the company she keeps. It’s about how a person suffering from anxiety tries to cope, wanting to gain more from life as she yearns to break free from the prison of her safe little world within, and discover the world without, in spite of the costs and the risks.

Looking at it from that perspective, the use of sex is not gratuitous but a deliberate vehicle to push the bounds of our character. The loss of innocence/virginity is seen as a rite of passage in our society, and in exploring that side of her womanhood, she discovers a little more about herself, and those around her. 

Aurelia does such an amazing job weaving her story that it’s easy to overlook what really is at stake. What are we willing to sacrifice in order to live our lives? What are we willing to lose in the pursuit of interpersonal contact, including and especially that of an intimate nature? Why does it seem that we are willing to risk our safety to be with someone who is an obvious threat when there is someone closer to home, one who is infinitely more wholesome and a better fit?

My verdict? I recommend this book, as long as you are not puritanical in nature. It is well written, well thought out, and leaves you anxious as to what will happen next. And the straight and lesbian sex is nice as well. It’s definitely a good read. Check it out on Amazon!

List of Book Reviews
August’s Review – Minutes Before Sunset
June’s Review – The Last Death of Tev Chrisini
Winter Howl © 2012 Aurelia T. Evans
© 2013 Joe Hinojosa