Life is good. Be happy.
One of my biggest fears is heights. No matter how much courage I try to muster, I am completely unable to stop my physical reaction, which is primarily quivering and wondering how I can get down from wherever I am. What I do have on my side, though, is the ability to run into fear. I believe that turning and facing that which scares me will eventually make the scary thing go away.
That’s probably why I signed up for a high ropes course a couple of years ago. Often used as a team-building exercise, high ropes courses usually include tightropes, zip-lines and a big rope swing suspended way up in the air. The brochure made it look like So! Much! Fun!, which is why I found myself one December afternoon standing at the bottom of a 50-foot pole, looking up. Leading up to the top platform was a series of two ladders and an intermediate platform. I didn’t even think to question that they didn’t have one ladder tall enough to get me to the top, maybe it was just too high.
With my cousin Robin manning the camera, I started up the first ladder. And stopped. For a very long time. Eventually, this seemed like it would be all I could do that day. I can’t remember what propelled me to resume climbing, but I did.
After some time, I reached the first platform, which is about 26 feet high. And stopped. For another long time, it seemed like this would be all I could do that day. Then the voice of the guide on the upper platform said, “Eventually, you’ll have to make your way up to me.” Honestly, the only thing that got me up there was knowing I was more scared to climb down the ladder than climb up. Sometimes fear helps you.
Finally I reached the top platform, 35 feet up in the air. This doesn’t sound too high as I write it, but if we’d had a video camera, I’m positive we’d see that my shaking legs caused the entire structure to vibrate. I shuffled across the platform, making my way to the guide on the far side. I couldn’t even look at the zip-line I had climbed up to conquer. The guide clipped a line to my halter and gave me the okay to go. But I couldn’t. It just wasn’t possible. She suggested I might feel better if I sat on the platform, slowly edging my way closer to the line. All I could feel was pure fear.
I didn’t have quite the same physical reaction when I started my own business, but it was pretty close. After spending 13 years in a corporate life, I was miserable and wanted out. But I was too afraid to make my move. I felt safe and secure with the paycheck I received every two weeks.
I had done everything necessary to start my own business. I went to graduate school and earned an M.S. in Human Nutrition. Then I stalled, for two years. It was just like being partway up that first ladder, fear paralyzing me. Then I went to culinary school and received a degree in Culinary Arts. Now I had climbed up to the first platform and was stalled there too. The only thing that propelled me forward was being forced into leaving my corporate job when they wouldn’t let me work part-time to complete my degree. Years before the high-ropes course, I was hearing the voice telling me that eventually I’d have to make my way up to the top platform.
Finally, I did. And once I reached that summit, I felt a real sense of accomplishment. I’d worked hard to climb that ladder, go back to school, plan my business – it’s all the same. I was so proud of making it all the way to the top that I gave myself permission to abort mission and climb back down the ladder to safety. I looked in gratitude at the guides who got me up there and to my cousin who was quietly and supportively freezing her hands while taking pictures of me.
And then, I jumped.
Favorite song: Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney
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