Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone
There are a lot of places I feel perfectly comfortable; in the kitchen whipping up gluten free recipes – no problem, speaking in front of hundreds of people at a gluten free expo – fine, on safari in Africa – love it! But swinging to and fro on planks of wood dangling from wires high above the ground at the zoo – not so much. But I am always up for an adventure. Or so I thought.
When the hubby asked if I would care to join him for a day at the Brevard Zoo with some of his Explorers Club buddies I said sure. When he asked if I would like to participate in the Zoo’s Treetop Trek and Zipline adventure I said “count me in!” When he showed me pictures of the bridges we would walk across I thought “no problem – how hard can that be?”
There are a few things you should know about me before I continue with this story. One is that I am really not comfortable with heights – my heart starts to race, my palms sweat, I can’t seem to get any air into my lungs and some (not me of course, but some) might even say I tend to panic when perched above the ground.
Ironically I am always drawn to high places. As kid I always wanted to jump off the high dive, I would climb up the steep ladder and then freeze when it came time to jump. I was always climbing up to the top of the trees in the neighborhood and invariably someone would have to go get my dad because I was scared to come down. I have become immobile on chair lifts at ski lodges, climbed up the sides of sheer cliffs feeling as if cardiac arrest was imminent and even gone up in a sky diving plane with a parachute on. And it is always the same – I become overtaken by sheer terror.
Another thing you should know about me is apparently I am more afraid of being afraid, or more correctly, of other’s thinking I am afraid, than I am of heights. So I always eventually jumped off the high dive, skied off the chair lift and dived the cliff. And yes, I even jumped out of that damn plane. And no matter how terrifying the experiences were, once I was on the ground again, I wanted to do it all over again!
Thirdly, I am not a cry baby, the hubby once said he could count on one hand the times he has seen me cry. And I never cry in public. I don’t think this is either good or bad – I just don’t have that much to cry about and I was raised never to cry in front of others.
Having said all that, I can go on with my story. It was a cold, damp morning (thus the Uggs and frizzy hair) when we arrived at the zoo, we got some gear, did a little training on how to use the harness and ropes and off we went to walk through the treetops and zipline from tree to tree. We trekked to the beginning of what they call “games,” I climbed up a ladder that went straight up and found myself on a tiny platform amongst the treetops. The platform seemed so much smaller than it had when I looked up from the ground. And then it was time to hook up my ropes and walk across a swinging bridge. The fear started, but it wasn’t too bad. There were cables to hold onto and I just kept repeating this mantra to myself “I CAN do this, I CAN do this.”
I made it across the first bridge and it just kept getting worse. At one point the cables on either side of me (that I was clinging desperately to) disappeared and all there was to hold onto was a rope above my head. And the bridges kept getting skinnier and the sections farther apart. Then I had to walk across a WIRE!!! No bridge, just a wire, like a tightrope walker!
There were a dozen or so “games” or challenges each about 30 to 60 feet from platform to platform and each more perverse than the last. Not only did we have to traverse the challenge we had to co-ordinate our ropes correctly lest we tangle and dangle from the treetops. (I really should have paid closer attention during the training!) There were also a couple of ziplines where we flew from tree to tree in a little harness attached to a cable with a safety pin – OK… it was a large clip, but still…
Twice I cried from the total, mind numbing terror. Actual tears rolling down my face. Sobs involuntarily escaping when I tried to breathe.
The hubby went ahead of me – he was exhilarated, woo-hooing, having the time of his life, hollering back, “Come on Honey!” The boy behind me was an autistic teenager named Sam. He was fearless! But he was also kind. He kept encouraging me, telling me I was doing great and to just take my time. I love Sam! The hubby not so much (at that time).
The final challenge was to walk from swinging log to swinging log, each one skinnier than the last and each one swinging more and more. The step onto the first log was about 8 feet out and down from the platform. I had a dilemma – do I save face and kill myself or do I give up and ask to be taken down with a ladder? I opted for the first and took that leap of faith. I did it! I stepped way outside my comfort zone and I lived.
It took about 30 minutes for my heartbeat to normalize and to start breathing normally. But I did it! Was it fun? Hmmm, I loved the ziplining. The rest? Who cares? I did it!!!
Here are a few pictures – but I must say this….they do not look anything as scary as it really was.
So, will I do it again? You bet. After all, I am on the ground now. By the way, if you happen to be in Florida, the Brevard Zoo (just outside of Orlando) is a great place to visit, especially if you have teenagers and kids!!