So, I am such a big believer in facing and working through things in my life in a healthy way, at least to the best of my abilities and awareness. A part of this comes from seeing the damage that can be done in the lives of our loved ones when we refuse to ask for help or seek out means of self improvement. It is my goal to be in constant motion as a person. By this, I don’t mean running around and over committing myself, but rather in this kind of internal motion, where I am working to grow, learn, and build upon my experiences versus allowing myself to sit still where it is comfortable and familiar. So here I am, again, stumbling upon completely new territory that is terrifying for me to face and acknowledge, and consciously choosing whether to work through it, or package it back up in whatever box it was hiding in so neatly within me before I became aware. It is sincerely a conscious choice that I am making, and I know what is “best” for me, but the feeling that you get when you start to contemplate facing traumatic events or difficult experiences, is a lot like the feeling of free falling. And, as much as I would like to think of myself as a thrill seeker…the truth is…I prefer both of my feet to be planted on the ground.
So here I am. I am standing on the last little bit of crumbling ground on the edge of this cliff. Every time I even step into the general vicinity I become overwhelmed with emotion and panic, so instead I have been pacing here, back and forth. I walk far enough away to feel that I have control, and then slowly look back the direction of where I know I need to go. What I am beginning to see very clearly is that the more that I do this back and forth game, the more exhausted that I feel, and I really don’t think I am ever going to feel absolutely enthusiastic or excited at the thought of jumping off of the edge.
I am remembering about 5 years ago that I attended a youth camp as a group leader to about ten 10th grade girls. Throughout the camp we spent our time hiking, climbing rock walls, rappelling down the sides of cliffs, zip lining at incredible heights, and pushing ourselves physically through fears and working to build confidence in the lives of these young ladies in the power that they have to move beyond that place when fear kicks in. Well, I should re-write that last sentence…what I should have said is: I spent my time watching these amazing young ladies, who were completely terrified, sometimes even physically shaking and breaking down to tears, pushing themselves through those fears and accomplishing what they never imagined that they would ever do. I watched. I encouraged. I observed. And I remembered how I used to have a desire to do these things. And I laughed internally about how I didn’t even have a single ounce of desire for these activities anymore. 🙂
Finally, after completely avoiding every single activity that we faced each day, and managing to successfully find reasons for doing so, we came upon one last challenge. It was called “The Blob”. Doesn’t sound so intimidating huh? “The Blob” was a blow up type mat that was sitting in water, which the kids could jump onto from above. Way above. Way, way, way, freaking above!! As I considered this activity, I thought, “Hey that really doesn’t seem so bad. I can do this one!!” So, I proudly walked out onto the wooden deck that was several stories above “the blob”. I yelled out to all of my kids, and asked them to cheer for me. I was feeling pretty good as they were yelling my name, and giggling with excitement that THEIR counselor was actually going to get involved and participate. Why I needed to make sure to have everyone’s attention, I still have no idea, but I did, and there I was. So I thought that I would get a little bit of a running start and get this out of the way. I ran all the way to the edge, and then suddenly I felt very much like my entire body was being physically restrained and I could not move. But see, had that been the case that would have been a good excuse for why I was just standing completely frozen on the edge. But that was very much not the case. It felt so so completely unnatural for me to throw myself off of the edge of this platform, that I could not get my mind to let go and release my body into this motion!! I cannot tell you how long I stood there (that might very well be embarrassing). I counted off in my head several times, and nothing. I told my feet to jump, but they were very happy feeling the platform beneath them, and my mind was pretty convinced that this was just not what I meant for my body to be doing! After a while of this “Ok, jump on the count of three” dialogue that I was having in my head, I finally even considered having someone push me off! No one was nearby, and the thought was ridiculous really, and finally…finally…I um “jumped”. I am using the quotations here on the word “jumped”, because I want you to understand that in all of my past usage and knowledge of the word jump, the motion that I was in at that time, would not really have qualified as a jump. But somehow, I was in the air, and I quickly found myself hitting “the blob” with a thud.
I really wish I could say that I was thankful that I made the decision to “throw” myself in the air that day. I really wish that I could tell you that it was so exhilarating that I ran back up the ladder of the platform and did it again and again. The truth is that this was nowhere close to what I was feeling. Come to find out, the lovely people facilitating the camp had over-filled “the blob”, and when I landed what was supposed to be a rather cushioned impact, well to my surprise…it was not cushioned. At all. I felt pretty much like I landed on a similar surface as what I jumped off of. Aaaaand, well… you see… I, um, got whiplash, and it turned out that I had to try to hide a limp for the remaining days of the camp…fun stuff (have I mentioned that I have a chronic illness and usually wake up sore from head to toe on a typical day??). J But, hey, I jumped (ehr, well, let’s say “flung myself”??) off of that platform that day, damnit, and it was for a good cause. Not only was it to give the kiddos in my group a little motivation, but of course, it was probably pretty important for me to leave that camp having proven to myself that I can also push myself further than where I believe my limitations to be.
So often when we find analogies about reaching goals in life, overcoming obstacles, and taking risks, the point of the anecdote is usually that we waste way too much time being apprehensive about taking the plunge, and that what we find on the other side of that cliff turns out to be immediately rewarding and fulfilling, and there was nothing to be afraid of after all. Well, sometimes that is the case. But the reality is that a lot of times, there is very often a “blob” on the other side, over-filled, and waiting to “embrace” you like a soft hug from a concrete slab, and that’s gonna sting a bit. Maybe even leave you feeling sore for a good while. But here is what I am learning lately. In that moment before I face something, whether it is something huge and life altering, or as simple as making a phone call to a client that I am dreading, fear does not mean stop. Fear does not mean I am going the wrong direction, even if what I am about to face is the most difficult challenge that I have yet encountered. Fear simply means that I am human, I am scared, and I am on unfamiliar territory. But the message I am really trying to have sink into my spirit is that even when I am afraid. I am still ok. I am ok. I will overcome. I will survive. I will learn, I will grow, even if there is pain in the process. I AM OK.
So let’s do this. I honestly have no idea what is on the other side of this cliff. I may jump off to find that there is about a 6 inch drop below and my feet land comfortably underneath me, and all of the anticipation was unnecessary. Or, I may very well begin a free fall (for what feels like an eternity!!!), and come to an abrupt jolt when I hit “the blob” below. But I am gonna get through this, and I am going to be thankful that I faced whatever it is over there that I am avoiding, because I am going to get up again, limp and all, and I am going to be more knowledgeable, more aware, and stronger than I was before I made that choice to “fling” myself over the edge.
What are you avoiding today? A ledge is not a place to build a home. Even if you try to hang pictures on the wall, or throw up lovely floral curtains…it is still a ledge, and it can be the end of your growth and the ceiling for your future progress, or, it could be what launches you into something unknown, something you never thought you were capable of or that you could handle. I personally am gonna close my eyes and, um, “fling” myself. Wanna hold my hand? At least if we do this together we can laugh about it all later, once I get done crying about my whiplash that is.