Feeling Fear

Have you ever been so afraid that you can practically feel the fear coursing through you? So terrified that if feels as though your heart is about to burst out of your body?

The sounds around you become muffled as your pulse beats in your ears. You hone in to your breathing. You close your eyes and try to, unsuccessfully, calm yourself with reason.

This is how I felt 56′ in the air.

I have been trying to learn how to  take risks and put myself out “there”. “There” is ever-changing; a new friendship, a new skill, a new experience. It can be so easy to stay the same person year after year. You get in a rut or a comfortable spot and you forget to live a little or you have a dream but you feel as though it’s too big, too lofty so you don’t even try.

In October we took the kids to Mall of America. I’ve been to the gigantic consumer’s paradise numerous times, but they had recently revamped their whole amusement park. It’s pretty impressive now, in my opinion, and I highly recommend the trip. While doing some research for our short stay I read that Nickelodeon Universe had installed a 56′ ropes course in the park.  I got very excited and became determined to tackle this four-leveled monstrosity.

Fast-forward to me 56′ up in the air standing on a 3′ wide platform, trying to muster enough courage to step-out onto two wobbly ropes, with only one loosely hanging stabilizing rope, just beyond my reach.

I looked down to little ant-sized James and shook my head back and forth. He gave me a big smile and two thumbs up. “Easy for him to say” I grumbled to myself, “he’s not up here…and he’s scared of heights!”

Amelia had joined me on the ropes for three levels and then decided she’d had enough. Conveniently the third level is where you get off of the course and go down a massive spiraling slide. While I was dropping her off a guy began removing her harness and I asked him how many people make it to the gangplank, he told me about 60%.

Have I not mentioned the gangplank? Oh yes, it’s this 4′ long x 1′ wide plank that you walk out on with no sides and nothing to hold onto! At the end you pull down on a rope and a big horn blows to signal that you’ve made it. This was my goal. Get to the horn. But first I had to walk across two wobbly little ropes and in order to do that….my feet had to move. I had to take two steps out and grab the overhead rope. I knew as soon as I had that rope in my hands that it would be fine, but when you’re 56′ up in the air, it feels like the biggest distance, the biggest risk. What if I put all my weight onto the ropes and they wobble too much? What if I lose my balance? What if I panic half-way?

As I stood on that platform I contemplated turning around and calling it quits, heading back down to the slide and getting safely to the ground. I didn’t want to be so high anymore. I didn’t want to be this freaked-out.

Then I thought to myself, “Half-way home I’m going to regret it. I’m going to wish I’m right back here at this very moment, feeling this fear. But instead of turning around and picking the safe route I’m going to wish that I had stepped-out and taken the risk.”

This ropes course excited me for two reasons; I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted to set a goal for myself and follow through. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very good at giving-up. I start things and when they get hard, I don’t finish them. I’m tired of that.

So I shuffled my toes off of the platform and stepped out with one foot, then the other. In a split second I had the rope in my hand and I was moving across the 20′ stretch to the next platform. When I got to the gangplank I looked down. There was a crowd gathered and some people were pointing at me, way up in the air. I looked straight ahead and marched forward. I did it!

Sure, it’s a silly amusement park “ride”, but I conquered it and I am damn proud of that fact.

It was as though this little blip in my day was a physical testament to my desire to overcome some of my fears, to take risks and to walk into the unknown.

It’s there a chance of failure? Yes, but there’s also a chance of success and I’ll never know until I step off the edge.

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