I was in Italy with my Dad and my sisters, and we had the opportunity to go into the Catacombs. Little did I know I would be learning the lesson that the only way out is through – for real.
I am claustrophobic and did not want to go into the Catacombs.
I thought about the fact that I am in Italy. When am I going to be in Rome again? I thought about how I knew I was not going to die down there. But still, it is an issue of mine. The Friar we were with told me if I am going to go into the Catacombs, these are the ones to go in. They are not as tight as other ones, and these have very high ceilings in the hallways.
I could not pass up this opportunity; I refused to allow myself to sit on the airplane days from now, regretting not having gone into the Catacombs. I also told myself just to go, and if it is too much, I can turn around and come back out.
As our group descended the steps, I turned and watched as an endless river of people were behind us on the stairs making the same descent we just made. What was I thinking? Why did I think I would be able to come back the way I came? Did I not realize we are not the only people going into the Catacombs that day?
There was no way I could get back out that way. I felt panic, but I needed to go through; I needed to keep moving. I was scared and uncomfortable, but I was down there; I was doing it.
We walked through the narrow hallways that in some areas touched my shoulders on each side. Some people in our group had to walk sideways in places. The Friar was right. The ceiling in the hall area was very high. Once in a while, there was an opening where I could see the world outside.
My New Comfort Zone
To feel more comfortable, I stayed right up in front by the priest giving the tour. As we made a turn and were walking down one of the narrow passageways, I saw the exit sign far down the hall.
I thought how out of place the electric sign was down there, but it was the most beautiful sight. I felt calm now. Straight down the hall in front of me was the way to the open air. We were almost out of here!
The priest stopped and reached behind his back to grab a chain connected to the wall. He pulled it up and attached it to the other wall. He blocked the passageway going straight. This way, the rest of the group knew to turn right to follow where he was leading us.
“Umm, excuse me, sir, turning right, but that puts us deeper into the Catacombs,” I said to the priest. “Yes, we are going into the back corner to see one of the rooms where they used to hold mass.” He said excitedly, thinking I would also be excited.
I was not.
My Beloved Exit Sign
My brain held onto where the exit was as we took each twist and turn to the ‘backroom.’ I kept careful track of just how far and how many turns we now were from getting out. When we got to this back room, we all piled in. I stayed right at the doorway. I made everyone go around me. One member of our group asked me if I could scoot in more.
I said, “No, sorry, I will die if I do.” He thought I was joking and laughed and went around me.
At this point, the priest announced we are going to have Mass down here.
“Aren’t we lucky?” members of the group said to each other.
“No,” I answered under my breath.
Mass in “The Backroom”
Once the entire group squeezed into the room, I slipped back out into the hallway. I squatted down, leaning against the wall for support. We had been down there for about 45 minutes already and had mass ahead of us. I was not listening to the priest anymore, I think my ears stopped working.
It was cold down there, but I was sweating.
My eyes were working fine – I looked down to the far end of the hall and watched as other groups walked past the opening to the passageway we were in. It was a long narrow hall, and the people looked very small as they appeared for a quick moment, like a flash.
I wondered how many groups were down here with us. More people to be blocking my way out.
My heart was pounding, and my stomach hurt now.
How long is this Mass anyway – this isn’t Easter!
Why in the world did I think this would be a good idea? Why would I put myself through this?
Spoiler: I Did Not Die Down There
Mass ended, and the group cleared the way for the priest to get back out by me and lead us to my exit sign. I learned the only way out is through – for real.
Once out, I was instantly glad I went down.
But I will never do it again – or will I?
Knowing What to Expect
Since I survived and know what to expect, I am more likely to do it again? Interesting how the mind works and how fears will control us – if we let them.
I would have missed something amazing that I might not ever have the chance to experience again if I let the fear win.
I know my fears, and I know the things that can hold me back. I have learned not to let those fears win because they lead to regret.
I think regret is more challenging to live with than fear.
Fear we can conquer; regret can have a great hold on us if we allow it.
More Out of Life
When we get to a place where we realize we want more out of life, we are fortunate we can make changes. We have the gift of choice, the gift of freedom, and the gift of freewill. All of these together enable us to control our destiny, control our own lives.
Don’t give that control to another person or to fear. We miss out on a lot that way. Life is a great adventure full of ups and downs, but ultimately it is supposed to be fun, and we are supposed to be the ones in control.