High Ropes & Facing Fears


My heart raced, skipping beats as sweat beads lined my brow. White-knuckled, I grasped the line and kept my balance steady as I looked at the ground 80 feet below me. In the treetops, I was crossing rope bridges, zipping down lines, and mostly facing my fears. All was carefully balanced on the thin wire that I walked with more confidence than I’d ever crossed a solid hardwood floor. Today, I was conquering my fear of heights sitting in a chair and visualizing myself on a challenging high ropes course. 

I did this mental exercise for 2 weeks before the actual climb. In reality, I perspired less than I imagined and my footing was more steady-than-not while I completed two challenging high ropes courses. Along the high, thin paths, I learned some things about myself that would have taken longer to learn on solid ground. “Change rarely happens when we’re comfortable,” says “D,” the man I’m dating. He was my companion on the ropes and his words ring true as I reflect on the many lessons that were highlighted with this adventure.

My fear of heights and falling seem to trace back to witnessing a friend fall while tree-climbing. I was then forbidden to climb. Period. It seems that I then lost my confidence and soon thereafter the fear set in. 

Then, while working with my life coach on expanding my confidence and taking leaps of faith, she and I decided it was time to couple this with a physical challenge. I felt the high ropes course was just what I needed to turn over a new leaf.

“D” was immediately supportive of the challenge. He also helped me in overcoming my fears, at times in unexpected ways. On the way to the course, he taunted me about being scared and knowingly activated my I’ll-prove-you-wrong-stubbornness. It was also helpful that he has had lots of high ropes experience, so his strategic support came in handy several times. He also didn’t let it show when his confidence in me wavered. It was great to have him along as he knew when to push, coach and when to joke or even just let me go.

Beforehand I feared the zips, yet it turns out that the 50- & 80-foot vertical drops and swinging from a rope 80-feet up were my biggest hesitations. “D” was particularly helpful during these more challenging aspects, encouraging me to jump more and hesitate less. Each time I left the ledge with the drops I screamed like a little girl. I had to completely trust the equipment. That was a true challenge for me! 

The adventure also proved to be a lesson in philosophy. During one swinging ropes challenge, “D” said to me as I stepped forward, “Don’t hold onto the things behind you, they can’t help. Reach for things in front of you.” I chuckled and replied that there was a life philosophy in his statement. He agreed. 

In reality, I was not always as graceful as I’d like to have been, at one point relying on my harness to catch me when I became impatient and frustrated with myself. There was some fear during that particular element as there were too many moving parts. I noticed later that I allowed my fear to push me faster. By rushing the process, I set myself up for more errors. I was also afraid to let go of control; to trust the process and my own skills. These high ropes were showing me how I’d been approaching challenges in my own life!

Again, “D” was very helpful in seeing that I was rushing and he would remind me to slow down, to breathe, to take my time, and that there was not any rush. It took me several times to allow his advice to fully sink in, having had such a strong habit of bulldozing my fears and just pushing through to get to the other side. I see now in writing this that I often look to the completion of a task more than the journey. It’s not always about the goal nor the destination…a tough lesson I keep relearning. 

Through and through, it was a really great experience and it was more fun (and only a few times tougher) than I had imagined. I can also see where I could trust more and control less. My impatience with the process got the best of me at times. It’s interesting that I was originally on these high ropes to face my fears of heights and I found other awarenesses, and mostly a greater sense of empowerment; my fear of heights now significantly diminished.

It’s interesting how I’ve learned each of these lessons before. Now I’m learning to apply then to my life in new ways, all by allowing my feet to leave the ground and learning to trust; on oh so many levels.

Namaste

What Statues Say 

Growing up in Virginia, I attended an elementary school named after the Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. Had my school not been named after him, I would certainly not have remembered his place in Civil War History. This leaves me to question, what do we really feel we are gaining by memorializing and edifying civil war generals; men who declared and perpetuated war against The United States of America? Isn’t that considered treason? Stuart was an officer in the U.S. Army before he defected and became a Confederate General. 

We can teach history to students without erecting statues nor naming roads and schools after civil war generals. The truth is that we build statues in memory of lives lost or those who we see as being triumphant. 

Who in the U.S. would be able to successfully petition to have a public statue or monument built for the men who flew planes into the Pentagon or The World Trade Center Towers? How is keeping civil war generals any different, really?

My mind is filled with the many images of U.S. Troops tearing down the statues of Hussein after capturing Baghdad. When Baghdad fell, it was only natural that Hussein’s statues did also. 

So what are we saying when we keep these civil war statues in place? Personally, I feel it’s a testament to the pervasiveness of the roots of racism to continue to keep these statues in place. Images speak loudly to what we value.