Oh, such innocent words. The beau liked my suggestion and booked two spots for us on a Saturday morning.
And it was...kind of.
It was more than just hooking ourselves up to a line and zipping over a lake; it was a two-hour long "treetop adventure experience" hosted by a company called Go Ape. This experience included climbing up rope ladders, swinging into nets, and crossing over rickety bridges from one tree to the next.
After an orientation by Rachael, the most excited and enthusiastic young woman I've ever encountered, we began with the first obstacle, called the "Tarzan Swing." After climbing up a tree via a rope ladder (okay, this is already hard), I hooked up my caribiners to a rope and, with great terror and swearing, stepped off a perfectly good platform and swung into a giant net wall. I climbed up the net like a clumsy spider and made it to the next platform.
Already shaking from fear, adrenaline, and using muscles in a way not currently utilized in any of my workouts, I hooked myself up to the first zip line that would propel me over a lake. Oh good, the possibility of drowning is still an option!
The beau had tackled the "Tarzan Swing" and was on the platform with me. This was the first time of many that he said, "What have you gotten us into?" Yeah, I was wondering that myself.
I stood looking at the task before me and really didn't know how I was going to do it. I called down to peppy Rachael for a few words of encouragement. "Just let go!" was her brilliant response.
"Um, yeah, but I'm really scared."
"I know. Just let go!"
Well, okay then. Just let go! And I did.
I shut my eyes and screamed, but by the time I flew over the couple in the canoe (who were probably equally terrified by the hysterical woman flying over them), I was actually enjoying it! Yes, it was scary, but it was also exhilarating.
After the beau zipped across, we wiped the mulch off ourselves and carried on. We climbed up the next tree laughing, trembling, wondering why we were doing this but proud of ourselves for doing it.
As we continued our adventure, the trees got higher, the platforms got narrower, and the obstacles got tougher. We stepped nervously across a swaying log. We teetered uncertainly across a thin swaying rope. We reached gingerly from one small swaying plank onto the next small swaying plank. I think we swayed in our sleep that night.
Did I mention the rain? It started about halfway through the course. The Go Ape employees on the ground were woo-hoo-ing up to us and trying to convince us all how much more fun the adventure would be in the rain, but we weren’t so sure. Now on top of everything else, it was wet and possibly slippery. Woo-hoo, indeed.
The beau and I were worn out by this time. We hadn’t expected this to be such a physical and mental workout. Our hands were sore from climbing up rope ladders and gripping on to every surface for dear life. Adrenaline had been coursing through our veins for nearly two hours and now the rain was making us even more nervous. The difference between this and parasailing was that for the latter, we literally just had to sit there and enjoy the view. We flew above the ocean for a few minutes and were reeled back into the boat. This, on the other hand, was work. And it kept going on and on and on.
At one point toward the end, I really thought I was going to start having an anxiety attack. I had packed an emergency dosage of Xanax just in case, as I’ve been dealing with anxiety and panic attacks for years. There is no shame at all in taking medication for anxiety; I take it religiously when I fly or when I’m going to be onstage…or when I’m going to parasail. However, I also try to challenge myself and not take it whenever possible. I’ve learned how to breathe deeply and talk to myself until I start to calm down. Now if that doesn’t work, Xanax is my best friend. But in this moment, I breathed deeply, moved slowly and carefully, and said to myself, okay, okay, okay, you can do this. In fact, I even took a moment to snap a selfie. I was wet and scared and exhausted, but I powered through and finished the course.
When we finally reached the end, the beau and I felt a great sense of accomplishment. We had faced our fears and come out the other side, relatively unscathed. We had sore muscles, a few bruises, and mulch wedged in every crevice, but we had actually had fun.
Experiencing anything we consider negative—pain, fear, anxiety, terror, despair—is temporary. And there are ways to get through the thick of it to make it more tolerable. You can breathe deeply, medicate, meditate, pray, or scream and swear like a sailor. But regardless of how you get through it, you will get through it. There is always a safe landing on the other side.
So you’re scared? Just let go! You’re worried about making mistakes? Just let go! You’re afraid to face your fears? Just let go!
You don’t think you can just let go? Go ahead and try it. You might even find you enjoy it.