Monday, April 22, 2013

52 Weeks of 2013 - Week 16

I had an interesting weekend. I was away with friends for a women's retreat and somehow got signed up to do an activity called 'The Leap of Faith'. The write up for it said that we would climb 65ft up a redwood tree to a platform, then jump from the platform to a trapeze swing. Nothing about it appealed to me, I am not one for heights, but two of my close friends signed up and signed me up to do it with them. I thought about it for a while and then went back and removed my name from the sign up list. This really was not 'my cup of tea'.

However, the theme for the weekend was 'I do hard things'. Deep breath. I decided to put my name back on the list, but with the condition that I would watch and make a decision when the time came. I was not making a commitment! I would be in control. I put it out of my mind.

The following day, I made sure to remind my friends (at least) a couple of times that I really was not making any promises.  I needed to make sure there were no expectations. We all had lunch together, then, far too soon, it was time to hike up to where the leap was to take place.

As soon as we arrived and looked up at the giant redwood I got a knot in the pit of my stomach. As I craned my neck back, in an attempt to see how high the platform actually was, I realized I could barely even see that high and the number '65ft' had meant nothing to me. Faced with the reality and enormity of this obstacle I was ready to bow out. I told my friends that I didn't think I would do it and that I would just watch them and cheer them on. Why on earth would I want to put myself through that? I don't like heights and this was beyond any height I knew I could stomach. Yes, I would sit and watch and cheer the others on.

Our group was around a dozen women, a few others who were there to watch and not participate, so I really did not feel any pressure (other than my little group of friends who kept checking back in with me to see if I was ready to do it). I could feel them watching, wondering, willing me on without actually compelling me.

Our guide was fabulous and made it quite clear from the start that there was no pressure to complete this obstacle. He made it clear that with the harness and belay, although the perceived risk was incredibly high, the actual risk was very low (that still did not help me). He made it clear that at any point if anyone felt they had gone high enough they could say so and he would bring them down. For some, that would be enough, just to attempt the climb and see how far they could get.

I watched, as each woman took her turn; some made it look easy, for some it was clearly a struggle. Most made it all the way and took the leap, while a couple climbed as far as they could and then, without shame, to the cheers of the rest of us waiting on the ground, they requested to be brought down.

As I sat there, so many thoughts went through my head. I knew that I had no desire to even attempt the task before me. I knew also that, at the end of the day, even if I could not complete it, I would kick myself if I did not at least try. I hate the idea of looking back with regret! But my biggest motivator was my son.

My little boy is so much like me, in my negative traits: my worrying, my over analyzing, my cautiousness and my desire to have plans in place. I want so much more for him and know he is very capable, but he needs to take risks, to just TRY.  That is my encouragement to him over and over, 'Just try!'.

So there I sat, realizing that if for no other reason than to be able to say to my son, see I tried...I had to make an attempt, no matter how poor it was. I was the last to go, the last to make the decision, I finally climbed into the harness, took a deep breath and started to climb.

It turned out the climbing itself was fine. I focused on the tree and the next step up, not looking down, listening to the women below, yelling their support, encouraging me. Having seen my initial reluctance it seemed they were all the more enthusiastic and I just kept moving...up.

It was a workout and I arrived at the little platform with my heart beating and my mouth dry, but I had completed the climb. That was when it hit me, how high I was. I stood on that little platform, inched my way towards the edge and realized, for the first time, how far the trapeze was. I would need to jump up and out to reach it.


I was completely and utterly terrified, in a way I have never been before. There was no logic to the situation. There was no reasoning. I stood there, barely able to hear whatever was being shouted from below, feelings fluctuated; blank, numb, scared and worried, distraught, disturbed. Words will never be able to describe those moments.

Time stood still. I was truly afraid. I inched forward again, knowing still, that I could not make that jump, I tried to calculate just how much I would need to bend my knees, whether I should already have my hands raised and ready to catch the trapeze, or if I should start with them low to help propel me further as I would fling them up. The whole thing was ridiculous. The voices below were shouting encouragement, but it didn't matter. Then I realized the group following us had arrived and were now also waiting and watching. My mouth was still dry and more minutes had passed.

There was no other way down, an attempt to climb down would be near impossible, yet I had to get down. I would not be living the rest of my life on that little platform. I really had no choice but to try to jump. I knew in my head that should I miss, I was securely strapped into a harness and would not actually plummet to my death, but it did NOTHING to reassure me. My brain would accept no reasoning. This obstacle was not called a leap of faith without good cause.

Somehow I willed myself, petrified as I was, to jump. I was not suddenly full of hope, I just had to force myself because there was no other option. Courage is not, doing something without fear, it is doing something in the face of fear!

I made it! I jumped and I caught that stupid trapeze and swung for a moment, maybe not exhilarated but most certainly relieved and amazed and grateful. The adrenalin was pumping as I then let go of the trapeze and was lowered to the ground. I did it and survived.

I realize in hindsight that this is all so typical of me in my daily life. I am not adventurous, I rarely take risks, I like to make sure that my chances of success are high, I like to be in control. Living this way, however, how much have I missed out on?

I firmly believe, that the natural and spiritual world mirror each other. I don't want to have to be backed into a corner until I am left with no choice but to do what is left before me...I want to be someone who is willing to try, when I sense in my spirit that there is something I should do, or say. My natural tendencies are strong and I can be stubborn, but I sincerely want to be more willing. I know it won't necessarily be easy, I know that I can't change overnight, but I hope I will look back to this day and be able remind myself and motivate myself that I can do more than I believe to be possible in my own strength. That sometimes risks are worth it.

(Thank you to my friend Susan for taking a few photos - there is proof of the nightmare.)


  1. I love this!!! I am so proud of you my friend and I wish I had been able to stay and see you make that leap. I have thought of it several times since hearing about it and it gives me a boost of happiness when I think of you making that hard decision to jump for the "stupid" trapeze:)

  2. That is so strange...I somehow was logged into an old account and posted as a younger, fewer childrened mother:)

  3. Ha! I love both versions of you, feel free to comment as whichever :) I felt so inadequate trying to write it all in words, but it is a (looooong) moment that will never leave me! Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. I love you and am SO proud of you.

    and I love your writing, your descriptions make me feel as if I were there, and yet I also realize that there is a side of my wife that I don't always get to see.

  5. Love you SO much! I'm glad that you are such my opposite in this, my crazy adventurous husband :) Feel free to remind me of this next time I'm having a nervous breakdown over something...