(This is the epilogue to my prologue; written about my zipline fear-conquering I wrote before the fact, here.)
Yesterday, I stood at the top of an 8-story-tall tower, strapped into a harness, hooked onto a steel cable, and ziplined 550 feet across Vancouver’s Robson Square.
I’ve had to get the news my mother was going to die, I’ve had to amass the guts to get back on a scooter after I nearly died when I flew head-first off of one — after which long-time riding friends claimed they’d never seen a casual rider as hurt as I’d been get back on a bike — and I have NEVER been as scared as I was when I stepped off that platform.
My friends with me didn’t see it, but I was crying when I took that step.
What they did see, though, were my knees shaking violently, my face suddenly 15 years older looking as all the blood drained from it and my jaw dropped in terror.
I almost vomited, I never even breathed as I zipped at 50k an hour and crossed the square, but about 2/3s of the way in, I finally snapped and realized, “I’ve done it!”
Unfortunately, part of my fear was about getting back onto the other platform, even thought I knew how it was done. Part of that has to do with my weight issues. I’m heavier than I look, by far, and I know it. Sometimes defeating a fear means defeating ALL of it from start to finish, and it’s not until after that you realize It’s Over, I Did It.
You can’t just ignore those hang-ups, you kinda have to face ‘em down and beat the shit out of them.
I got back on that scooter years ago because I knew I’d never respect myself again if I didn’t. The scooter didn’t almost kill me. My driver error did. I simply had to be better, be more in the moment.
This zipline thing, though, was purely symbolic and something I really didn’t have to do, I had no control over where it went, how I did, my success, survival or my experience. I had to just have faith.
Why bother, though? I didn’t have to do the zipline at all.
Except that I did. I did have to do it. I did it. I did.
My form? Complete shit. I was not graceful, not cool. I held on for dear life. I was CLEARLY the person doing it to tackle fear. I was fully conscious of everyone staring up and empathizing as they snapped photos, probably a thousand onlookers on the streets below.
I was totally freaked out until I reached close to the end. I was in terror again as I was being hauled to the platform, wishing I had longer legs.
But I fucking did it.
Also: I brought along spare panties, in case the obvious happened. Never needed them. Fantastic.
Whew. I still find it hard to fathom that I did that. I don’t even like climbing on the fourth rung of a ladder, man, let alone an 8-storey-high tower I’m about to strap onto with a harness and a kinda dubious looking carabiner in order to hurtle myself at high speeds through open air over concrete, steel, and glass.
For others, it’s no big deal. For me, I was close to having a complete breakdown up there.
Right before me, though? A nine-year-old girl, seen in the photo I took before my horrifying descent. All I kept thinking was, “A nine-year-old just did this. Everyone has lived so far. I’ll never respect myself again if a nine-year-old made me look like a pussy.”
I still can’t really process the quantity of fear I felt.
When they say fear is “paralyzing,” well, I guess now I really get what they mean by that.
But it’s like I wrote on Twitter last night:
Tomorrow I get to wake up knowing I’m the kinda chick who rides a zipline. That’s better than waking up the kinda girl who’s scared of ‘em.
Now I’ve asked my best friend if we can change our plans for celebrating my birthday at a swank restaurant — which was last September; he loves me but has time commitment challenges — and instead go ziplining on a mountain.
The mountain zipline terrifies me too. It’s really high. And it’s not a 60-second experience that takes 5 hours of build-up. No, it’s an eco tour that takes two hours to complete.
But I meant it when I promised myself that 2010 would be about facing fears and winning.
Yesterday was just the first really scary, profound, and transformative step in Steff’s Fear-Facing Throwdown of 2010.
One by one, I’ll tear down all the insecurities that have ever made me think I was This Girl and not That Girl.
Because I was clearly way fucking wrong on that count.
I didn’t get it done pretty yesterday, but I got it done. I did it for no one but myself, and my self knows what I’ve accomplished. It’s a small yet monumental change in who I am.
Sometimes, we don’t know the impact of the changes we make until time starts to pass. It hasn’t even been 24 hours yet and the emotions that bubble beneath my surface are murky yet. I’m unclear where this leads.
But like I say:
Today, I awoke a different kind of girl than the one I woke up as yesterday.
My decades of trying to play it safe so I don’t get hurt, they’re suddenly coming to an end.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson in my life can be found somewhere in all of this… that playing it safe doesn’t mean you don’t get hurt; it just means you get hurt without payoff or getting a great story out of it.
“Hurt” is inevitable for us all. Sometimes playing it safe maybe hurts more than having risk go sideways ever could, because playing it safe always, always comes with that feeling of emptiness you get from knowing you’re selling yourself short. I have two decades that tells me this is true.
Knowing my potential for true awesomeness, that particular brand of selling myself short has become the bitterest pill I’ve had to swallow. Oh, how unlike myself I’ve felt for so long. I’m better than the body that imprisoned me for so many years.
With a bunch of tough choices, fears faced, pride swallowed, and risks calculated, I may never have to swallow that bitterly disappointing pill again.
2010. Vancouver. Citius, altius, fortius. Faster, higher, stronger. For all the Steffs, too.