Friday, February 24, 2006

Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions, Part Something or Other

Whew! Good thing my Internet deprivation lasted but a short time. Any longer and I might have actually taken up knitting or something.

I still owe you some answers, huh? Today we call on the lovely Gina. What's your question, dear? Oh, right:

Using the complete works of Charles Dickens as a resource, how do you feel about the rise of the miliary-industrial complex in post WWII America? OK, well, if that is just a bit too involved, how about one of your proudest moments? (excluding the births of your children)

Well, Miss Smarty Pants, I COULD answer the first question if I really wanted to. Since we all know I'm the lazy sort, though, let's skip to the second.

I have two moments to share -- one professional and one personal. Neither is particularly noteworthy, but what can I say? I live a quiet life.

In 1995, my boss, mentor, and very close friend died of a heart attack while jogging in the early morning hours before work. He was 41.

In addition to dealing with my deep grief I was also thrust into a tumultuous situation at work. Our staff was already smarting from the burden caused by two unfilled positions; now, it was essentially up to me, another editor who had even less experience than I, and one brand-new editorial assistant to sustain the editing and production of our twice-monthly journal.

I had only the most tenuous grasp of how to do my boss's job. I knew I needed to assume a leadership position -- something I'd never done before and was quite scared of. Somehow, the three of us managed to keep everything afloat for 6 months, until a new managing editor was hired. We missed no deadlines and made few mistakes; no readers or authors would ever know how flimsy the operation of the journal was for a while. I'd never worked so hard or put in so many hours at work. And mourning all the while.

The next year I had another chance to face down a fear. On our honeymoon in Hawaii, Jeff and I decided to visit Haleakala, a dormant volcano on Maui. At sunrise. And then ride bikes down the mountain.

Which would have been utterly delightful were I not completely terrified of heights. Even while gingerly gazing out a window of a tall building, my stomach churns and I'm beset by dizziness. Why I thought a bike ride down a freaking 10,000-foot-high mountain would be an enjoyable part of our honeymoon itinerary is to this day still unclear.

Not to mention the fact that we'd have to get up at 3:00 a.m.

Watching the sun rise across the crater of the volcano was truly awe-inspiring.

I couldn't really enjoy it, though, since I was in the throes of a near-panic attack over the bike ride looming ahead of me. I even contemplated asking the tour guide if I could ride back down the mountain in the van in which we drove up.

But I persevered. I was the second in the line of bikers, right after the guide (Jeff was at the end, of no help to me once we started). I tried to look only at the switch-backing road in front of me instead of at the precipice to my side. I said to myself, "It's never going to be any higher than this; from now on it's only going to get lower."

I didn't hyperventilate, I didn't crash, I didn't fall over the side. I did, however, ride so slowly at some points that the guide had to pull us all over for the express purpose of telling me to stop braking so much.

Once we got closer to the ground I was much happier.

I'm still afraid of heights, and I'd never attempt that bike ride again. But I'm pleased with myself for not backing out of a scary situation.

(Hey, I told you I lived a quiet life!)