Standing in Thin Air
Have you ever climbed the pole at the beginning of a high ropes course? If you have, did it scare the crap out of you, at least initially? If you have not, might I recommend you do it? The metaphor for life that it offers is invaluable.
Climbing a high ropes pole isn’t something I would choose. I have a very strict rule that says I will not risk my safety for anything that looks like bravado. I can’t be peer pressured into any physical activity I don’t feel equipped for and I don’t enjoy the feeling of adrenalin coursing through my system. I prefer the feeling of cozying up by a fire with hot chocolate and peppermint Kahlua (the best if you’ve never tried it), wrapped up in a quilt, watching a good romantic comedy while the rain pours down outside.
Now that’s safety!
Still, I found myself climbing the pole in a high ropes course one day. You see, my 10 year old daughter was at the top, being told to let go and allow herself to be lowered to the ground by the coaches and she was terrified.
She wasn’t coming down.
Not only did I need to go up and talk her down, I had to do so with a manner of confidence that would signal her that it was safe to trust and let go – not my natural response. Still, intellectually I knew the whole thing was safe and that I had the capacity to do it so up I went.
I won’t bore you with the details of the inner dialogue as I climbed the pole. The coaxing and coaching and chiding and deal making that got me to the top. But what I do want to talk about is the experience of standing up on the top of that pole.
Oh my! It was the strangest feeling to know, logically, that I was completely safe, but feel, with every fibre of my being, that I was considering the impossible and was at imminent risk of a perilous death. Standing up in the air on top of a pole is, truly, the equivalent of standing up in the middle of my kitchen floor. We humans are clever. We don’t fall out. But, with no guard rails, my instincts told me that was exactly what was going to happen.
Why am I describing all this?
Because this is what happens any time you consider choosing to do anything really new to you. Like saying no to an invitation you don’t want to say yes to, if you protect yourself by being nice. Or deciding to quit a job you desperately dislike. Or saying yes to a date with someone you are actually attracted to. Your logical brain knows nothing catastrophic is going to happen, no one is going to really care if you don’t go, at some point you landed this job and you can land another, it’s just a date, not a marriage proposal and he’s probably not all that great.
Can you think of a time when you felt like doing something you wanted to do, or not doing something you didn’t want to do felt like a HUGE risk emotionally despite the logical argument that it was perfectly safe? What I know is, life gets better the more we take these gigantic, perfectly safe, risks.
So, pretend your kid is at the top of the high ropes course and head on up! Once you’ve conquered the fear I promise you’ll wonder why you were ever afraid in the first place.