Flying High with My Fears: Part Two

Leap of Faith
Leap of Faith

Well, I signed up for much more than I expected! When I registered I thought I was only signing up to do a single challenge, the zip line. I quickly realized I had signed up to do all three challenges: a zip line, a tree top swing and something called the Leap of Faith. I felt doing the zip line was an excellent way to face my fears.  Seriously, I have a fear of heights. Courageously facing my fears in a safe manner via a zip line: Check!

Let me explain the Leap of Faith challenge to you. It involves climbing up a 22-foot tall telephone pole. Standing on top of it and then leaping out to grab at a trapeze bar you have little hope of actually reaching. Oh, by the way, it was also raining so the pole and climbing rungs were both slippery.

I’d be lying if I told you I was not scared. I felt like my stomach was in my throat as I watched the first two people attempt the Leap of Faith challenge. I know how my anxiety works. The longer I simmer with it the more difficult a task becomes. But my support system, my sister, was late to the event. My choice was to go ahead and go without her there to support me through it or wait and risk being paralyzed by my fear. I knew the longer I waited the less likely I was to actually do it so I said I would go. Before I knew it, my turn had arrived. And my sister had still not arrived. Gulp.

The guide put the full body safety harness on me and I began to climb. I felt like I was doing a pretty good job considering my fears and the fact that I think the last time I exercised in earnest was over 10 years ago. I looked up and felt like someone had punched me. I was only halfway there. Oh well, just keep moving… One trembling leg up at a time.

Finally, I was at the top. Now I had to figure out how to transition from the pole and rungs to the flat top. It sounds simple but it was not. It was something I watched every person struggle with once they arrived at the top. There was nothing above to use as leverage. I had to figure out how to hold on while using what little strength was left in my legs to push myself up. I was struggling though. I couldn’t figure out where to move my legs and felt as if I would fall if I moved my arms at all. Stranded on top of the pole. Literally hugging it for dear life. Trying to hold on while developing a strategy to do what I wanted to do. Then I heard a voice telling me to move my left foot to the right. That was it. All I needed was a little direction from someone with a clearer perspective on things. Now I was on top of the pole!

Exhilaration paused. Now, I was on top of the pole. Ugh. There was an option to sit or stand. I honestly can not remember if I ever sat. All I remember was standing there staring out at the tops of trees and down at the rest of my team. No sister yet. My team cheered and the guide advised me to count back from three to one and leap. I took a few breaths and started to count. ” One. No. Three. Two. Okay, starting over. Three. Two. One. Oh, crap.” My team continued to encourage me. I had a choice. I could do it or not do it. Either way, I was going to go down. My legs had no strength left to climb back down and the guide pulling me off could harm me. I was not about to back down but I still lacked the courage to actually jump. I stared out at the tree tops once more. This was a leap of faith and I was struggling. I turned to God and prayed for courage. I counted. “Three. Two. One.” I jumped off the pole. I’m certain I was not even close to grabbing the trapeze but I did it! I DID IT!!!

My team members asked me what it was like and I said, “The hardest part is the transition from the pole to the top.” -Just like in life, transitions are always hard. One must figure out what is holding you back and how to overcome that obstacle. After my leap of faith, the remaining challenges came relatively easy to me. Not without a little screaming but certainly none pushed me as the Leap of Faith had.

I am proud that I completed all three activities. I did things I never imagined I would ever do. I pushed myself physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I think the physical and emotional growth is inherently described above.  However, turning to God first as I struggle with problems in life is something I have been working on. I did just that when I was on top of the telephone pole. The fact that I could continue to confront my fears was proof that I was capable. I knew I was capable. Yet, I still held onto my fears. I could never figure out why they continued to exist in spite of my repeated efforts to face them. These challenges lead me to believe maybe the fears are irrelevant. There will always be something to be afraid of. You need something (for me, faith) to help you transition from a place of fear to action and self-actualization.  In the absence of my sister, God sent me team members to cheer me on and give me information I could not clearly see myself. Then, when alone with no one else to lean on, I had to look inside myself, hand over my fears to God and trust Him to take care of me. He did. As He always does.  With God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

I do not mean to convey every person needs to turn to God to overcome their fears. Maybe that’s not your key. This is the issue I have been working on and the epiphany I had. This was the only thing holding me back. I am never alone. I do not have to do all things myself. I need to turn my fears over to God. I need to accept help from my friends. I need to trust that everything will be okay. Fear is like any illness. It presents with a set of symptoms that could signal a wide variety of things, from common cold to cancer. Carol deLaski writes:

Our fears vary and are as unique as our fingerprints. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Not to frighten yourself but to grow more confident and skillful at overcoming whatever is holding you back. Develop courage and resilience by facing and navigating your fears one small step at a time.

By the way, my sister arrived shortly after my leap… Just late enough for me to prove to myself I could do brave things without her. I think she received a memo from God to be late. We celebrated finding our courage under a beautiful rainbow!

Courage was at the end of this rainbow.
Courage was at the end of this rainbow.

 

 

Flying High with My Fears

My Camera's View from the Eiffel Tower
My Camera’s View from the Eiffel Tower

Around this time next week I will be on a zip line adventure. I’ll be flying 60 feet in the air for 600 feet through the woods. One of the life coaches affiliated with the group asked me if I was feeling fear. I joked, “I’m okay right now. I’m guessing I’ll be nervous when I’m staring down from on high though!”

Reflecting upon her question, I’m not nervous (right now) because I know there will be plenty of safety measures in place to eliminate/reduce the danger. If only life came with harnesses, helmets, safety straps and nets. Literal ones. Wouldn’t that be hysterical if we were all walking around with safety accessories?!?!

I have many fears. One of them is heights. As I rode the elevator to the top of the Empire State building, I slid down the wall, craving the ground again. As my friends ran around looking at things, I just clung to the inner wall praying for it to be time to leave. I once visited the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I was in Paris. How could I NOT go up the Eiffel Tower?!?! By the time I reached the top I was crawling on my hands and knees. (Obviously, my fear of heights trumps my fear of germs.) My mom marveled at how I had taken pictures from the top in that state of mind. I said I was surprised they actually came out because I held the camera up in the air over my head on each side and blindly snapped away. –Just watching a video of people on a zip line makes my shoulders tense up. This time next week I have to climb 60 feet high, leap out into a 600 foot ride through the tree tops. I may rethink the fun factor of this endeavor as I see tall and very hard trees whooshing by my fragile body at high speed.

I’ve always been pretty good at doing things even when I am afraid of them. I could hardly order my own meal in a restaurant but decided I wanted to be a class officer in High School. Once I signed up for the race,  I learned that I had to speak in front of the ENTIRE school not just my own class. Mortified. It’s too bad we didn’t take videos as freely then because I would love to hear how I sounded. I am sure my voice was quivering like the cheeks on a skydiver. But I did it. I keep on doing it. For some reason, fear doesn’t seem to hold me back. But doing the things I fear does little to eradicate it. The next time I have to revisit the same scenario it’s still there. We’ll see if this crazy little adventure finally helps me conquer one of my fears. Stay tuned!

 

 

Writing from the Heart

Monarch_Butterfly_Cocoon_6708

It has been a while since I’ve posted any real writing. I’ve been told my words come from the heart. Perhaps that’s why I don’t seem to have any words flowing right now. My heart is hurting. In spite of our two vibrant young boys and all the life of Spring and Summer, much of my world seems to be in a season of death right now. I have never dealt particularly well with death.

First, celebrating Memorial Day, visiting my grandfather’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. I was overwhelmed with all that he gave to other soldiers and their families as we went to the Visitor’s Center for the first time in my life. I was floored, telling my sons that their great grandfather was intricately involved in planning the funeral for JFK. Their great grandfather researched and wrote the military protocol observed for over 27 funerals taking place per day and that is just at ANC. What a gift my grandfather gave to those who died as well as those left behind. What a legacy. I had, only moments before, walked by a long line of tourists saying to my husband, “Grandpa would be ashamed of what I am thinking of those people.  –Touring the dead and having picnics on their graves. Do they know what it cost? Do they really understand?” I was overcome seeing all these people stopping to read information, to pause and reflect as I never had before. I always made a beeline for my grandfather’s grave and went straight out again. I see now. I realize I haven’t the slightest idea what it is like to have a soldier’s soul.

Then there was Mrs. Z’s death. The first of my constants to pass away. We lost touch because life gets so darn busy and then the party list gets so long you feel like you have to cut it down. And you learn later you cut out the wrong people. You invited people who aren’t really invested in you or your children. People who aren’t really involved. People who wouldn’t know if you were having a good week or a bad one. No, she should have been here more often. I am reminded of something relayed at my step grandmother’s funeral. She once said, “Come to my birthday party. Skip the funeral.” I should try to remember to keep the invitation lists long for the birthday parties. Who cares about the funeral.

Finally, or at least I hope so, we just found out our “daughter”/dog is dying of cancer. I am a noted worrier yet I took her to this appointment thinking we were wasting our money on an x-ray because they were going to say everything was fine. But it isn’t. I am not certain what I expected to hear when I asked how long she had. A year maybe. But they estimate a month. And all of the sudden the 12 years we’ve spent with her seem so short. And every less than stellar mothering moment stands out boldly in my mind. Moments I should have been more patient, more kind, more loving. I’m tossing the regret aside, to be observed at a later time. Now, we have a month plus or minus (now already a week into that estimation), so I am trying to cherish and memorize. Silas celebrates every morning with a pronouncement, “Yea! Star is still alive!” He worries each time we return home, “I hope she didn’t die while we were away.” I know he doesn’t really get it but we are doing our best to help him cherish and remember what little time we have left with her. Maybe teaching him will help me to remember these important lessons I am reminded of with each death yet forget with time. The hum of a busy life is like falling asleep in a poppy field. It is so easy to lose track of the things which truly matter.

So… My heart seems to be building a cocoon to shelter from recent and coming days. It is curling up inside as it undergoes yet another metamorphosis. I have always been more emotive than anything else. I have a friend who calls me intuitive. Maybe I have intuited that I need to reserve my strength. At any rate, it is hard for me to write deeply when I am holding back pain. It is my heart that needs to speak not my mind. Perhaps it has to be both but my heart certainly leads the way. I feel the words beginning to stir but they have not yet taken form.