Don’t Let Fear Stop You (part 2)
I have always had a fear of heights. The kind of fear that makes my palms sweat and heart palpitate anytime I’m standing near the edge of anything moderately high or higher like bridges of any type, or looking out windows above a certain floor, and of course observation platforms, and road side points of interest. Each of these places has been a source of anxiety and fear for me. Why do I fear them? I’m unsure. I just know that each of these places brings about a feeling of emanate death, of falling to my death, an irrational fear of “What If?” That’s why the following story is so significant.
There I was, standing on a small wooden platform high in the mountain jungle outside of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The tour guide assisted me with the required gear, a climbing harness that wrapped around each thigh and cinched tightly about my waist; large wet leather gloves on my hands and a darling helmet on top of my head. The tour guide explained that these slimy, wet gloves would be my breaks, “just push down on the line” he said as he effortlessly hooked up the carabineers from the zip line cords to my harness, giving me a fairly large wedgy. My legs were shaking, my jaw ached from clinching, and every muscle in my body was balled into cement orbs. But……there I stood determined to follow through, determined to conquer my fear, determined to cease its power over my life. I examined the two safety lines running from tree to tree. They looked strong, sturdy and secure, and that was comforting.
I watched my husband and sons lunge with joy off the platform and zip to the next platform. The guide said, “be sure to look around as you go down, the scenery is so beautiful.” When pigs fly, I thought. Through chattering teeth I quickly explained to him how scared I was, he smiled compassionately, then said “get ready” and gently pushed me off the platform. I screamed, closed my eyes then quickly opened them because “What if I fall with my eyes closed?” I fixed my eyes on the platform ahead while cramps started burning in my right arm and hand from the force I was putting on the line with my breaking hand. I think I could have won the “Slowest Zip Liner Ever” contest, but hey, I was moving. Touch down, I landed on the platform at the other end of the zip line in one piece, now just five more zip lines and two repels to go!
Yes, we were doing the Extreme Adventure, not the wimpy little zip line anyone can do; I’m doing the EXTREME zip line adventure. The next tour guide unhooked my harness and pointed my shaking body towards the next platform, “just follow the trail” she said. My husband waited for me to get close then hurried down the path happily anticipating his next thrill. I walk quickly behind him chanting “I am brave, I am brave, I am brave” over and over again to the trees, leaves, wild animals, God, and myself.
After three zip lines the trail winds its way to a metal grid-work platform suspended 200 feet above the valley floor by metal cables attached to the giant trees above. I could see others in our group hesitantly walk across it, only a few are allowed on the grid-work platform at a time. Ok, I said to my husband, “this is too much, I can’t do it.” I felt my stomach knot up even more than it was; which I didn’t think was possible. My loving husband said, “Yes, you can, just go out there”. Then he confessed to being a little freaked too. In fact, everyone in our group was intimidated by walking across the grid work, backing up to the edge then willingly taking a step off, backwards into a self-controlled free-fall.
My husband went, my boys went, in fact everybody but one other fearful soul and me, had gone. The guide said “come on ladies you gotta keep moving”. I eased out onto the grid work feeling it sway gently as I walked, I reached out to hold onto the rail but it was just a thin cable that gave way under my hand and offered no true stability. A gasp escaped from my mouth but I stayed focused on an object straight ahead, unable to look off to the side or down. I moved taking tiny steps, kind of doing a side-step-slide kind of movement while suppressing the feeling of tears just waiting to be released. I looked at the guide as he hooked up my harness and said with unmasked terror in my eyes, “I can’t do this will you please take me down”? He says “sure, just turn around and backup to the end of the ramp, get a little closer, I’ve got you” then he let go and I started to drop; alone. Of course, I’m dropping slowly because I know how to use the right hand break, and I use it the whole way down, stop, go, stop, go; once again deserving the title of Slowest Moving Free-Fall Ever.
When my feet hit the last platform of the Extreme Adventure zip line I was thrilled, exhilarated, and felt profoundly alive. I felt reborn and renewed. I had faced an old fear and had not allowed it to keep me from a new life experience; I was and still am empowered by this experience. Throughout the day I had encountered deep fear and at times felt certain I couldn’t continue, but because of the tricky guides and very little sympathy from my family, which at any other time would have upset me, I DID IT. I’m grateful to all for the tough love they gave me.
When I did the Extreme Adventure I was approaching my 50th birthday and was honestly feeling a bit bland and afraid I had nothing more to experience. Although I had no way of knowing it beforehand this adventure reminded me that I have so much more in life to experience and to give. That age 50 can be an age of open doors and new experiences, of giving in new ways, and an age of hope. I know I have much more work to do.
I do believe it pleased God to have one of his children overcome a fear and to be reminded that there is much more to be done in her life.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
II Timothy 1:7
Debora Shelford Hobbs