On our very first trip to Key West (8 years ago already!), DadJovi convinced me to climb up the Key West Lighthouse. Sure, I’m not that afraid of heights. Should be no problem.
Yeah, it was a problem. A big one. The climb up and the view from the top were fine. It was the trip down that did me in. It’s nearly 90 feet to the bottom, walking down a spiral staircase with uncovered sides. That means the whole way down, you’re looking the whole way down. About 10 steps down, I started to get the shakes so bad. Then I started seeing black spots. It was my first panic attack in life and it was a doozy. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of memories from the trip down. It was that bad.
So clearly there was no way we’d do it again this trip, right? Wrong. How do I let my husband talk me into these things. I approached my old nemesis the way riders approach horses who’ve thrown them — slow, steady and very apprehensive.
And, to make matters worse, not only did
DadJovi we decide to give it another shot, we took our 3-year-old to the top with us. Seriously, who let us have a kid? And double seriously, shouldn’t the park service have stopped us or something? But she was ready to climb.
And off she goes …
Luckily, the views from the top are pretty spectacular.
Then came the really hard part — the trip down. DadJovi and I had already agreed that he’d go first, holding E’s hand the whole way down, and I’d come right behind them. E. had other plans. In no uncertain terms, she was NOT walking down holding his hand. “Mommy’s hand. I want to hold Mommy’s hand!” And trust me, I was not about to risk a pre-walk of death tantrum so I agreed. Gulp.
So this was the plan — I told E. that we were going to take it very slowly. I’d take a step. And then she’d take a step. I held onto the railing (which, if I haven’t mentioned has a circumference of about 1 inch. I’m not lying. It’s the world’s thinnest railing) with my left hand and her hand with my right hand. And about five steps down, the massive sweating started. But I knew I couldn’t let go of her or the railing to wipe my hands, so I kept going. It went like this.
“Mommy takes one step. OK. Now, E. you take a step. Good. Very good. Mommy takes a step. E takes a step. Slowly, let’s go slowly.”
About 15 steps down, I started to panic. I felt the shakes starting again. I started seeing the spots. I couldn’t breathe. So I told E. we were going to stop for a moment. And then, I took as many cleansing breathes as I could muster without losing my balance. Even though I hate yoga, I do love its breathing and ability it gives you to temporarily meditate the pain go away. It got me through labor. I thought to myself that if I could survive that, I could do this. I wasn’t going to do anything to risk this precious life (too late, I know. I should have had THAT foresight before I headed up the lighthouse).
So, down we went. Step by step. At one point, E. started complaining that I was hurting her hand because I was holding it so tight.
But using our little mantra and having her repeat “one step for Mommy, one step for E.” the whole way down kept her and me focused on our task. She did amazing. She listened so well to me, never trying to speed up or get down the stairs faster. And she has nerves of steel. No fear. Kids. What do they know?
Finally, we were done. And then the panic attack really kicked in.
So after I caught my breath and dried my tears (oh, yes, there was crying at the bottom), we carried on with checking out the rest of the Lighthouse grounds. While Mommy tried to get her shit together, E had a great time exploring this fabulous old banyan tree.
We then headed into the lightkeepers’ home (it took two families working at the same time to keep the lighthouse running). They have a really great kids room where E. got to read some books, color some and play with flag magnets that showed how flags can symbolize letters.
And it gave me more time to keep sucking in those deep, cleansing breathes. Panic attacks don’t just evaporate, you know.
And I got proof that the steps ARE dangerous.
Sadly, they didn’t sell “I Survived the Key West Lighthouse” shirts in the gift shop (you’re welcome Lighthouse workers for that idea — it’s gold!), so this blog will have to do. But trust me, next time you come across a lighthouse, you may want to just admire the view from the bottom, unless there’s an elevator. Would that be so hard? Or rappelling ropes? Work with me here, please!
She is a beaut though, no?