I’m not much of a daredevil. I’ll ride a few roller coasters in the summer and maybe glide on a sled once a year if we get enough snow, but other than trying a new recipe from time to time with ingredients I have to google, I’m not big on taking risks.
So imagine my profound reluctance when I found myself teetering on the edge of a drop-off where I was supposed to move through a ropes course of varying levels. Along with the rest of my family and much like the Armor of God, I was fitted with a helmet on my head and a harness on my chest and Velcro-strapped shoes on my feet. Our preparation for this derring-do consisted of a brief informational video and instructions on how to attach the specialized clips to the cables throughout the course. During our practice session, we stayed on the ground, so that was easy-peasy. I kept telling myself, “I got this. No big deal!” as I fastened and unfastened and refastened the clips along the line. Then we got to that first step…
If I had taken the time to really read the pamphlet for the adventure park, I would have seen the following description under a picture of a smiling, helmet-clad girl: Look up! Your best friend is at the top of an obstacle course in the air with different levels. Reach the last one at 118 ft high! But, alas, I didn’t do much research before strapping in.
Back to that first step—nothing to hold on to, just one wooden square tied with white ropes to another wooden square and over and over until you made it to the next platform. My brain told me that I might slip, but I wouldn’t fall since I was tethered to a thick overhead cable. But all my other organs—heart, lungs, eyes, and bladder (gulp)—told a different story. I turned to look at my daughters standing behind me, waiting for me to go so they could go next. Then I looked at the park employee and said, Nope. The twenty-something staff girl replied with a Why? Then she proceeded to quickly leap across the wooden squares with the grace of a gazelle. After she returned to my side, she encouraged me to try it. I glanced at my daughters again and read the doubt written on their faces. Doubt that any of us should do something so reckless. Then I grabbed my harness with both hands, took a deep breath, and stepped out into the air.
Spoiler alert: I am not writing this from my hospital bed where I lay helpless in a full body cast using the one finger that didn’t have a broken bone to painstakingly type this out, one letter at a time. We made it all the way through the course without more than a blister or two. As we worked through the course, I began to realize that my fears lessened a little more each time I completed another section. By the end of the hour or so it took us to finish, I would even say it was fun.
Looking back on that high-up adventure, I wonder at the notion of facing fears and attempting difficult quests. I would never say “Try everything.” Common sense and cautionary tales charge us to be smart. Besides, you don’t have to eat fire to know it’s hot. But there is something about getting accustomed to and even comfortable with what initially scares us. It’s like spreading fresh mulch. When I start, I try to use the shovel and the rake to move the strong-smelling clumps where they need to go without getting myself too dirty. But, after a while, I’m covered in the stuff—it’s inside my shoes and on my knees and all over my arms. You get past those early feelings of disgust and just get to work.
For me it was more than just facing my fears of falling from such a height. It was also about those dear daughters standing behind me, watching me as I showed them what could be done. I realized at that moment that I’ve been doing that very thing in one way or another for the more than 20 years since I first became a mother. I haven’t always succeeded but I’ve tried to look at the sometimes frightened faces of all four of my beloved children and say, “Okay. This is scary, but I’ll be right there with you. Watch me and then let’s do this together.” My movements aren’t often as graceful as a gazelle, but they’re packed with honesty and a hope that my kids will eventually do it better than me.