My High Adventure
Inching across a cable umpteen-something feet from the forest floor in the second phase of the course, I was in full-blown terror mode. Tears streamed down my face unabashedly while my hands shook violently on the cable above. Instructors half my age had to coax me from station to station employing their best positive reinforcement training to keep me from descending into a panic attack. Or should I say, further into a panic attack.
I was balanced on a cable beneath my feet like a tightrope that I was supposed to walk across while my hands were on another cable above my head when I had my epiphany.
From my vantage point, I could see that the instructors gathering below to discuss the blubbering idiot woman on the second phase. They were all but rock-paper-scissoring to see who would come save my ridiculous heiny from the contraption.
There was no reason why I couldn't do this. Little kids sometimes do the ropes course. Plus, I was harnessed in by not one, but two safety lines. And all this shaking and crying and freaking out were just plain embarrassing. I got mad. I decided that I could not let this course beat me.
Adrenaline coursed through my limbs. My arms shook from the exertion. I looked a lot like a fly caught in a web struggling to free itself with jerky desperate moves. My fingers and forearms ached from gripping the overhead cables with all my strength. But I finished the second phase without hurting myself, falling, or peeing in my pants.
Next was the telephone pole/trapeze snatch. Many people had attempted it by the time I got there and few had succeeded in grabbing the trapeze. With my newfound determination, however, I was confident that I would not only climb to the top but that I would snatch that trapeze like a circus performer.
The time for tears was behind me. All that was left of the doubt and fear that paralyzed me in the trees was an ache in my muscles. I balanced myself on the telephone pole and focused on the rhythm of the trapeze swaying just out of reach in front of me. I waited until the right moment and then leaped.
I don’t think I realized I grabbed it until I heard the uproarious cheer from my fellow participants who had gathered to below to watch. I was elated. I couldn’t smile any bigger or swagger any prouder after they lowered me down. But I still had one last phase to complete: the Screamer.
I was one of the first ones to drop in a free fall off the super tall platform. Not first, mind you. I had to make sure that I wouldn’t scream louder than the other people and embarrass myself. When I was sufficiently satisfied that I wouldn’t shame anyone I knew, I harnessed up.
I stepped out to the edge of the weathered planks, staring down at the wood chips sprinkled below to give us the illusion of a softer landing should anything go awry. The point of the exercise was to surrender to your fear. I had done that back on phase two, so I knew I could handle it. As instructed, I crossed my arms and fell back into the abyss.
The free fall was exhilarating. I could still feel my stomach drop and my panic rise, but I could also feel the sunshine and the wind surrounding me. As the safety gear yanked me up in an arcing bounce, my High Adventure was complete. As the course had intended, I had overcome my fear.
But it did more than that. I also felt confident and proud that no matter what challenge life threw at me, I could survive it. It might not be pretty or executed exactly how I imagined but I would manage, perhaps even triumph.
I certainly wouldn’t say that I’m not afraid of heights anymore, but I can tell you that I accept my fear for what it is, an obstacle to overcome. Because of that I wouldn’t change my High Adventure experience.
That being said, I probably wouldn't sign up to do it again either.