When you find yourself swinging on obstacles 50 feet in the air like one of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things from Where the Wild Things Are, the only thing to do is fall madly in love with the beauty and absurdity of life.
Just for the record, up until now I’d never been on a zip line nor had I climbed obstacles dangling in the sky while connected to a wire. I’m a 40-something year old woman (getting better with age, I hope) who is often found on the ground, walking the dog, dancing in the rain or saying things like, “Don’t make me pull this car over”. So to say that I was bat shit scared out of my tree to climb around an Adventure Park with my family and friends would be an understatement. However if I’m being completely honest, it was also exhilarating beyond measure.
A Little Matter of Trust
Zip-lines are harbingers of trust and that’s lovely except for the fact that trust does not come easy for this gal — we often battle. So, as soon as I saw my first one, I contemplated turning back. Squatting like a toddler on the platform waiting to feel like I do when sitting in a chair, I simply couldn’t believe that I would be safe sailing through the air. My mind reeled with all the creative ways I’d plummet to the ground. I looked back at my friend and knew I had a choice. Scream and run like hell off the course or take a leap of faith. I chose the latter and shockingly glided along as though I were sitting in the palm of the Universe. Feeling a bit Grinch-like, my heart filled with love. Trust had won and I opened myself to the fact that life will often catch me.
At one point, a teenage girl on an obstacle ahead became paralyzed by fear. While her family yelled encouraging words and climbing instructors suited up to rescue her, I carefully sat on a tiny platform meant for no more than two. The wind picked up which scared me and I lost focus on the task at hand (I had been preparing to climb an obstacle that looked like bicycle wheels suspended in the air). Fear began to awaken like a sleepy beast. I looked back at the kayak — yes, kayak suspended in mid-air by ropes that I just maneuvered to get here — and once again, pondered turning back. My mind whirled with all the things that have recently happened in my life — a loss suffered by my family, an unexpected cancer diagnosis of a loved one and I filled with terror. That’s when it hit me — this climb was life. When I stopped and focused on the past or worried about what was to come, fear settled in. So I closed my eyes and breathed deep — slow inhale and even longer exhale. My nervous system calmed, my thoughts centered and I became grounded in air.
Gratitude is a Magician
Moving my breath in and out was an invitation to this moment. From this height, I could see the the water on the Sound shimmering in sunlight. The sky was an intoxicating blue and I saw a turtle driving a car with a sheep in the clouds. Mother Nature’s imagination makes for the best playground. I was grateful to be here despite the fear. I knew that gratitude would allow me to not only stay in the present moment, it held just enough magic to transform fear into renewed focus.
We All Need a Little Help From Our Friends
My thoughts were interrupted as an instructor called over to the young woman, “Hang on, I’m on my way.” Suddenly, I was aware of the climbing instructors looking at everyone and I wondered if they would criticize me when I began again, thinking to themselves, “She’s no good at this.” My thoughts jumped to my recent paintings, ‘Are they good enough?’ Then to my writing, ‘Do you even have stories to tell?’ Really? I’m on a ledge in the air and my insecurity editor wants to play now?
The girl was not being taken off the course, she was being helped to the finish so it was time to move; I stood, a bit wobbly and unsure. Insecurity was trying to push me off the ledge when the words of my former teacher, Jaya, fill my mind. “If you live your life thinking about what others think of you, then you are a victim.” I remember that worrying about what others think is a prison and now I know that I want to feel as free and lovingly held as I do now on the zip line. Then I hear her say, ”Let his life mean something.” I remember how she held space for me when a friend suddenly died a few months ago. She let me cry and invited me to say all the scary things out loud. In that moment, she reminded me that I want my life and all my adventures to mean something. I could do this. I knew it. My friend on another obstacle yelled my name and words of encouragement as I stepped off the ledge and into the air. We all need a little help and, no matter what form it takes, we don’t have to do any of this alone.
All You Ever Need is Love
The last obstacle for me to climb were giant letters that spelled the word, LOVE. They were solid but unsteady; it was hard to maintain your balance and you were constantly reminded that you did not have control — sounds just like love, does it not? The fact that I had to hold onto love to get to the end is not lost on me. I was grateful for the reminder. That last zip line ride I hollered like a Wild Thing before stepping onto the platform to hug my friend. Immediately, I could feel that something inside of me was different — more trusting, more solid, more free, more excited about living — and as we walked off together, arm in arm, laughing at fear and celebrating our awesomeness, I was ready to start a rumpus.