The other day I got rescued from a tree.
This tree to be exact.
I took Nina and a friend up to Gunstock for a day of girl fun. We headed out early, stopped at Starbucks for breakfast and hit the road. We are only about an hour and a half (give or take) from the mountains, and I wanted to be there as soon as it opened to avoid crowds and the heat of the day. It was a gorgeous day. There was no traffic (what! on a Friday in the summer?), no humidity (hallelujah!) and I was off from work and heading to do something I had never done before.
The girls decided to try the aerial treetop course. It was my grand plan to send them up into the trees whilst I sat on the ground reading a book. Tree climbing is totally not my thing. I’m not afraid of heights, per se, but I wouldn’t say that I enjoy them a whole bunch either. Besides, I’m 47 years old, my ankle still aches and swells from my horrendous dog walking incident, and I’m a bit out of shape, I gotta be honest.
Yeh, they weren’t having it. I was going whether I wanted to or not. So I put the book (and the daydream of reading it) away, got harnessed up and we started our training, which consisted of about twenty minutes of learning about all the doohickeys on our belt and how to use them properly. Then we hit the “bunny trees” to practice hooking up and zipping across a little zip line that was about 5 feet off the ground.
We were ready! Pros!
After a small hike through the woods to get to the big-girl course, we hooked up onto the first tree and started the adventure.
The course is the largest aerial course in New England. It has 91 (yes 91) obstacles from bridges, swings, ropes, ladders and zip lines. There are 8 courses which start easy and are only about 10-15 feet off the ground, then they get progressively harder…and higher. The last course is upwards of 100 feet high!
I was so glad the girls guilted me into going with them. We spent over 2 hours in the treetops! We laughed, joked, teased and encouraged each other all the way. For me, this turned out to be way more than just a physical challenge. With each obstacle, I was learning more and more about myself and what I was capable of doing. I could almost hear the conflicting voices in my head doing battle with each other. I felt stronger than I ever have. It was completely euphoric.
Until the rope swing.
Even though I knew I couldn’t fall, the thought of having nothing under my feet was making me sick. All I had to do was grab on and swing to the next platform. Fuck that! Nope! Not happening! I had just watched Nina and her friend do it with no fear at all. But for some reason, I was paralyzed. I just stood there, clinging to the rope, but terrified to take the leap. Two minutes. Three. Five. I couldn’t do it. What if I didn’t make it all the way to other platform and I was left hanging there? How would I get my feet back under me? What if I wasn’t strong enough or harnessed correctly?
Then Nina reminded me that the day before she had to get a shot. She had built it up in her head and even after it had been given, she was still complaining nervously and didn’t think she could do it. But, she did and she realized she made a big deal out of nothing. I don’t know how she got so fucking smart, but I couldn’t argue with her reasoning. Then the guide below told yelled up “You’re Jane! It’s way more fun when you yodel like Tarzan!” So I did. And it was awesome!
I almost made it all the way to the end of the course. Almost. The swinging logs 100 feet up got me. I got passed them, but knew I was done. I felt like my heart was going to explode and I was going to have a full-blown panic attack and die right there in the canopy. I stood on the platform literally shaking and breathing so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t hear anyone around me, just the pounding in my chest. Sweat poured down the back of my neck and every muscle in my body tensed up.
I honestly don’t know how long I stood there, it felt like hours, when a group came up behind me. They were so far behind throughout the course, I thought we were alone, but my hesitation allowed them to catch up. I continued to cling tightly to the tree and watched with envy and anger as they went around me and easily moved on to the next obstacle, laughing and joking and egging each other on, totally oblivious of me and the terror I was feeling at that moment.
So like a kitten stuck in a tree waiting for the fireman to rescue me, the guide came up and safely lowered me to ground. The beautiful, glorious ground! I was embarrassed, thankful and proud of myself all at the same time. I didn’t allow myself to feel like a failure. I never thought I could have accomplished what I did, and it felt good.
And then it came to me that, this was a life lesson that I needed to share, and more importantly, apply. The group behind me was doing exactly what I had been doing. They did the same obstacles. In the same trees. Using the same equipment. But they didn’t stop because they were afraid. They trusted themselves, took a risk and stepped off the platform, and each time the payoff was bigger and bigger. While they were at the top looking at the glorious view, I was left far behind, clinging to the comfort and stability of my tree, listening to the cheers and victory cries of the ones that had reached the top.
This is something I feel often. And being jealous, angry and resentful is not the answer to reaching your goals.
What’s holding you back?
Whether it is in your personal life or your career, what keeps you from moving forward and celebrating that glorious view from the top? What will happen if you take that leap of faith? What will you gain if you take that step? What will it take to close your eyes and let go of your tree?
Maybe you won’t soar gracefully to the platform. Maybe your feet will slip and you will be left hanging in midair struggling to get to the other side. Embrace it! The struggle is where your strength comes from. Because when you overcome it, you are stronger, smarter and more willing to embrace the next challenge that will take you to the view at the top.