Thursday, October 28, 2010

Going Bananas

I am afraid of heights. I realize this isn't news to my friends. And not news to my husband and family. I've hiked up mountains, rode on a ski lift (once) and now rock climbed up a wall very high in the air. That being said, nothing prepared me for my experience today.

Have you heard of Go Ape? The new hot ropes course out of the UK with zip lines and rope bridges high in the air? Well they just opened up the first version of this in the USA and its right here in Maryland, just outside DC. Acting like a monkey, you hook in to a harness and jump on a Tarzan rope or climb ladders onto tiny platforms. When I launched this year long "overcome this and that" project, I knew inside a trip to this place was going to top my list. Sure I took Project Adventure in high school. Twice in fact. I somehow convinced the administration to let me out of boring sophomore gym. I loved it. Walking trails in the forest and getting across a mini tight rope. But this took heights to a whole new level. After a safety lesson, I was whisked into the forest to the "stations."

I would say I am a pretty up front person when it comes to talking about my fears. But how do you take those irrational fears and apply a rational approach to overcoming them? How can you control your darkest fears? What happens if they actually came true? Today I physically placed myself in a controlled environment on a ropes course with a mind filled with uncontrolled emotions.

Guess what? I survived. Perhaps this is not a surprise to others out there. But certainly a surprise to me. And I have to be honest and say that I actually kind of liked it. Not all of it. And not while I was doing most of it. Station 3 was the highest and scariest experience of my life. The first step before taking the zip line down through the trees was frightening. But I also have to admit, my favorite part was the moment right after I stepped off the platform. You know why? Because there was nowhere else to go but down and nothing else to do but try and enjoy the view. And I did. Well not the first time. But definitely on the following zip lines. That's right, there was more than one!

Fear is a funny thing. You spend hours, days, years consumed with thoughts of things that scare you. Some of those things can happen, like getting stung by a bee or catching a cold. Others are less likely to happen such as being attacked by a killer shark in the ocean. Especially to those of us who aren't regular deep sea divers or surfers off the coast of Hawaii. Take my fear of heights. How many dreams have I had about accidentally jumping out of a plane or falling off a cliff. Sure I fly often and hike when I can. But we take precautions to protect ourselves. Sometimes, though, in our attempt to protect ourselves, we in turn put up a fence around things that make us feel anxious or fearful. Over time, this fence turns into a wall and often expands the fear into irrational barriers. I learned today that it was time for me to stop putting up barriers in my mind and start, one day at a time, to take down walls that only hold me back from growing into the person I am meant to be.

What can I say? October has come and gone. And now I have photos of me dangling from a rope above the forest floor to prove my success. I challenged myself and I met that challenge in a new way. While I admit that part of me hours later is still shaking a bit inside, I am also in awe of my encounter and reveling in my own courage to take the first leap of faith.

If any of you monkeys out there want to face your fears head on and join the fun, check out the discounted rates on November 14th where proceeds from Go Ape benefit a non-profit organization for at-risk kids.

November is on the horizon and I must be off on my next adventure in a flower shop. Until then, however, I think it may be time to go get something to eat. And for some reason, I am starting to crave a banana. Go figure.

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