I have never been a big fan of heights, but I thought I had licked my fear when I stood on the glass floor of the CN Tower a couple of years ago and looked down. So when we joined the new Y with a 20 foot climbing wall, I thought climbing would be great. The kids were not interested in climbing at first, they thought it looked scary. Which wasn’t a problem, since they needed to weigh 50 pounds to overcome the anti-gravitational force of the automatic belay, otherwise when they let go of the wall, they would just hang there.
I thought it looked like fun. I watched young Y patrons climb it, and they zipped up and floated down. It looked like a good, fun workout. The whole height factor never occured to me.
One day, Jack indicated an interest. So, we encouraged him, and, with a little creative license in the area of his weight (I never figured he would want to go too high, and we could pull him down if he got stuck), they strapped him into a harness, threw a helmet on his head, and boosted him to the first step. He climbed until his feet were three or four feet off the ground, and rappelled down “like Spiderman”. Aimee thought it looked fun, and became a theoretical convert. I booked the wall for us to use as a family. We have now gone three Wednesday evenings in a row.
Jack gets one step higher each week. His feet now get about five feet above the ground and he jumps back down, and starts all over again. Trevor is tall, and so he has an advantage. When he reaches up, he’s already half-way up. He has mastered two or three of the five climbs. Aimee has managed to get within spitting distance of the tops of four climbs. She looks so tiny up there and it takes her forever to get down, since she is barely 45 pounds. She has stronger arms than I do; she says that it’s because of the monkey bars (she is very good at them). If she can’t get her feet where they need to be, she pulls herself up with her hands. It’s pretty impressive, really, what a fearless little monkey my timid little mouse has become.
My discomfort with heights reasserted itself the first time I got more than a few feet up. I have made it close to the top on one climb and what I considered a respectable height on three others. One problem is that the higher I get, the more uncomfortable I am. I have thoughts like how crazy climbers are and how unnatural it is to be that far from the relative safety of the floor. The bigger problem, however, is getting back down to that safety zone. To do this, one must simply let go of the wall, grip the rope, and float down, kicking off the wall on the way, like Spiderman. I seem to be incapable of letting go without several seconds of dithering, rationalization (it’s perfectly safe, it’s perfectly safe, it’s perfectly safe) and more faith than I apparently possess. After several little panic attacks, and several episodes of wondering what I am doing, 15 feet above the ground, I let go and, rather than floating, clump my way unceremoniously down, usually landing in an ungraceful heap at the bottom. You’d think that after a few trips up and down, my mantra (it’s perfectly safe, it’s perfectly safe, it’s perfectly safe) would sink in. Nope.
Tonight, I decided to approach the descent like I do a good leg waxing: apply, rip briskly, no waiting, no thinking. Descent is one of those things you just need to do without thinking. Just let go. It worked, I guess. It helped that Aimee was higher than I was at the time and trying to tell me where to put my foot. My ego wouldn’t let me appear nervous, so I let go. It was fine, of course. Not artful, but effective.
We’ve booked again next week. I have found that I am quite sore for a good few days afterwards, so it takes at least until Saturday before I can even think about climbing again. It also takes that long for me to forget the abject terror of the moment I need to let go.
I have come to the conclusion that I do not find adrenaline-producing events thrilling (why I have not liked emergency nursing, despite the glory). I am not a roller coaster freak. What is excitment for some, is stress for me. But, I also know that the more I climb, stressful or not, the more comfortable I will be with letting go. I’ll keep working on it. Maybe my newfound faith will carry over into other areas of my life. Good clean family fun, exercise, and a little character development.Could it get any better?