Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Life on the Ropes

One of the many benefits of living and stretching out experiences over a lifetime is that you learn to take the good with the bad.  After a few false starts and dips that feel like a permanent condition, you learn that you never completely fall down and even if you do, you get back up.  For around each of us is an invisible rope, releasing slack when we dip into a valley and suddenly springing us back up and forward as we recover and continue to grow.

I used to worry about worse case scenarios and speculate about what I could and could not deal with.  Turns out, over time, numerous worse case scenarios inevitably became a reality.  Risk aversion just wasn’t a viable choice for day-to-day living and so some of those terrible things I thought I could never handle actually came to pass and I realized that I was more resilient than I gave myself credit for.  I’ve experienced divorce, the death of a parent, close friends…and many other disappointments that although may have given me pause, did not keep me down. 

It’s funny how our risk taking behaviors are flexible and stretch wide in our youth…yet after a few scrapes and scars, we begin to pull in some of the slack as we get older.  We pause to check our surroundings, how far we’ve climbed…or fell…and consider how far we have left yet to go…where we’re still willing to go and equally important, if and when we reach a peak we’re comfortable resting on. 

I remember the first time I went repelling off a cliff.  I was around 30.  I seized the moment (okay maybe with shaky hands clinging tightly to a rope as I was strapped in as I tried to quiet a slight twitch from my left leg trying to settle into a comfortable stance).  I had a lot riding on that decision standing on that rock overlooking a very beautiful and scenic Red River Gorge.  My oldest son (then around five years old) was looking on to see what I would do.  There I was…his mom, who always told him to embrace more, dream big, and live life to the fullest.  Clearly, backing out was not an option.  This was one of those great big life moments I’d remember forever.  And I was going to share the lesson even if it killed me in the process.

Two things stand out clearly in my mind from that day.  First, leaning backward off a cliff is not a natural feeling.  In fact, a healthy fear tells us to walk carefully and stay away from the edge (heck, not turn away from it and walk backwards toward thin air and a deep plunge).  Second, you have to have complete faith in that person at the bottom serving as your belay.  Because the feeling of absolute terror just before your first kick off the top rock can be an adrenaline rush or an absolute nightmare, depending on your penchant for adventure.  Personally, I’ve never been a big risk taker.  In fact, I still worry a lot.  About things that could happen, that have happened, and that may never happen.  And I’m okay with that.  It just happens to be who I am.  But if I let it keep me from jumping off cliffs and into new adventures, that would be a problem for me.  So I challenge myself every day to do things that make me nervous.  Because I’ve lived long enough to know that anticipation and dread can be confused with each other.  I find that I always feel grateful for having committed to and having followed through with something that challenged me to do more than I was comfortable with.   And yes, there is a lot of fear and angst along the way leading up to whatever “said epic event” happens to be.  We all have our own dinosaurs to conquer.

And quite recently, at a time in my life when absolutely everything has been changing, I find myself re-assessing that line…and surprisingly, feeling the urge to loosen up the rope.  Instead of cautiously looking over a cliff, I’m kicking backward off the highest rock, with the confidence of a lifetime reassuring me that I may well plunge to the bottom… and it will be way scarier than I ever imagined, and I’ll probably regret it about halfway down…but most importantly, I will still somehow get back up and live to climb another day.  And the tautness of my rope will depend on my natural born grit and intuitive gut that only comes from living a life in forward motion and without apology.  And some trustworthy belays along the way!  

Still Following the Path of the Dinosaurs #followdinopath

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