If you're afraid of things, you and I already have lots in common.
And for me, it's not just heights. I can get real freaked out over weather, germs, traffic, water where I can't see my feet, bugs, I mean...there's no end.
On July 8th, 2017 at 2:15pm I was bouncing up a mountain in the back of a van. All 43 muscles in my face were fully clinched around my death-stare out the window towards the base of the zip line my family and I were headed to.
It's not the fear of dying. Well maybe just a little. But this particular adventure group has been sending thrill-seekers down zip lines for a decade without so much as an injury. To me, that sounds way safer than I-75.
I was at least 80% sure that I would choke.
I would have to embarrass myself and slow everyone else down by declining to jump because I just couldn't get enough gumption to step off the edge of a mountain to dangle at high speeds over a canyon.
I'm not a brave girl. I don't do anything big. I don't drink coffee that's too hot. I don't take risks. I get real crazy and try a new recipe off Pinterest sometimes but that's a banner day in my house.
I just don't see myself even as brave as an average person.
Stepping off the first platform (the easy "warm up" line) was made possible by looking at the ground just 8 feet below me and pretending that I would land softly there instead of flying down the mountain towards a much-higher tree platform. Once I was there, there was no turning back.
My little brother was testing the limits and leaning out over the edge of things and I was sitting indian-style in the tree house, face against the trunk, bargaining with God that I would never make fun of MLMs again and I would agree to take the word "authentic" out of my vocabulary, and that I was sorry for using someone else's Netflix for 3 years, if he would just magically get me out of that tree and back onto solid ground.
If you haven't been zip lining, let me also warn you that the sound a line makes as you zip across it... is brutal. Your zip-clip is metal and the line is metal so the high-pitched metal scraping sounds like the last thing you might hear before being decapitated by a rotary saw.
The last line was long enough that even with traveling at 65 mph, dangling above the trees, one has time to scream multiple times. Or, in my case, scream once, cry some, do some delivery room style breathing, and then upon arrival, collapse on the ground in emotional exhaustion.
Back in the gift shop, I realized it was over. I did it.
They could charge a hundred dollars for those t-shirts and people like me would still buy them because I did a thing I never thought I'd do. Immediately I was looking for anyone one their way to the lines to tell them they totally got this.
Deciding to step off the ledges
...felt a lot like deciding to walk up to a stranger and introduce myself, or agreeing to attend a networking event with mostly people I've never met, or deciding to move to a new city or visiting a church for the first time or waiting for the trigger getting a new ear piercing, or clicking "publish" on an honest rant or new services pricing, or just asking someone for help.
Stepping off the ledge, even when we know we're safe, is terrible.
And I know terrible because I was at a fundraiser once where they played Hey Ya! on repeat until the total was raised.
Fear wants to re-write the past and control the future.
It sounds like:
"You've never been brave enough to do something like this," &
"You won't be able to slow down or catch yourself from falling so this is disaster."
In the immortal words of The Office character, Robert California:
Fear plays an interesting role in our lives. How dare we let it motivate us? How dare we let it into our decision-making, into our livelihoods, into our relationships?
While I'm convinced my healthy fear of spiders keeps me from dying a spider-poison death, the fears I have related to my own abilities and beliefs that I'm less-of-a-person need to go.
Do you feel that?
Being afraid to step over a line and operate in your God-given bravery is worth working on. And believe me, you'll live to buy the t-shirt.