Our direct urge to control the unknown can really limit an experience. How far is it? What awaits us in the darkness?
There can be no greater anxiety provoking nor mentally strengthening an experience for a control freak than wandering through a cave. The pitch black encasement that nearly suffocates the frightened pushes you to look deep into the shadows of your own mind. You can’t see where you’re going or where you’ve been. It’s all black, interjected by large rock fangs and fist-sized spiders. There are no signs saying how deep you’re buried, how far you are from the surface or how much longer it will be of this haunting wander. Just yourself, your mind and other explorers that would only e irritated if you succumbed to your fears and panicked.
Each time I wander deep into a cave and see the stream of natural light beginning disappear, I freak. Surely, there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of… Except your own mind, and that’s more terrifying than any bat or grim reeper.
It’s the unknown that sends my heart racing and my breaths quickly gasping for humid air. You have to put all of your trust in the unknown. I’m confronted with the option of going back alone or continuing on with the group for who knows how long. Our Lao guide doesn’t speak English. The thought of Wandering alone, lost with a flashlight that couldn’t illuminate a coffin doesn’t seem any “safer” in my own mind. So after a small panic attack, I apologize, try to laugh it off and continue. This is when I recruited the handsome German surfer to hold my hand (tightly) for the rest of the exploration.
The whole while as we walked forward to who even knew where anymore, I repeated in my head, “buck up and just do it,” and “just one step at a time,” and “there is absolutely nothing to be scared of. You’re fine.” And it worked. Thoughts truly do become behavior. Instead of looking ahead at the shrinking hole of total darkness, i stayed focus on the rock in front of me, the light grey stalagmite icicles beside my head. Eventually I made it to the end… And I was almost enjoying it!