April 22, 2012

Reaching My Limit

I'm all about conquering my fears, but on Saturday, I may have taken it too far.

I don't actually have a lot of fears in the physical world. I fear being alone for the rest of my life. I fear disfigurement. I fear bees.

I can jump out of a plane, run off a cliff, and drive a racecar without putting too much thought into it, despite a fear of heights and propensity for vertigo which I'm trying to train myself out of.

In fact, the scariest thing I can remember doing in recent history (besides, say, scaring off an attacker) was trapeze - standing on a rickety platform, eyesight and hearing compromised.

But after going ziplining a couple of times, under very similar circumstances, I think I'm pretty good now, even far up in a tree on a wooden platform, in the middle of the Angeles National Forest.

At Navitat in Wrightwood, though, ziplining isn't the only attraction. In addition to the 10 runs - long ones, high ones, fast ones where you have to break yourself by putting your own hand on the line - there are also a number of other outdoors activities, including rappeling, and crossing a number of suspended bridges made of rope and wood.

The first bridge's tethered logs were easy enough to cross.

I volunteered to cross the second style of bridge (there were two of them) first out of our group. Out of the other six people in our group, there were two other women, both nervous in their own right, one a charming, wisecracking loudmouht, and the other a classic example of "The Scared One" who everyone (not just her husband) rallies behind. I was "The Expert," the adventurous one who's been ziplining in Catalina and Boulder City and Fremont Street. I was so brave, I crossed that bridge holding on with only one hand, using the other to shoot video. I felt pretty bad-ass.

On the third style of bridge - a single plank - I ended up stuck behind The Scared One, who didn't seem so scared anymore. She spent all day basking in the support of our entire group and our two guides, getting step-by-step instruction and constant pep talks. I was alone, pretending that none of it scared me, jumping, squatting, tucking, climbing like a pro. I always wanted to go faster, and not surprisingly, the only thing I didn't do well was brake. But on that single plank bridge, I started to lose my shit.

I must've been moaning, or breathing heavily, or whimpering, whining, or groaning, because The Scared One turned around and asked me if I was OK.

"I'm freaking out," I said. "Just keep going." If I'd been leading the way, or competing on an episode of The Amazing Race or Fear Factor or something, I would've just run across that thing. But we were going so slowly, I could feel every sway of the wind, feel every footstep of the girl in front of me, every inhale of the group behind me. I was taking big breaths, and letting the air pass slowly through my lips, cheeks puffing out. I was trying not to pass out. I was trying to keep going.

"How you doin' Sandi?" the guide asked.

"I'm freaking out."

And that was it. No encouragement. No congratulations or "Good job" when I made it to the other side. Only my own satisfaction of knowing that I survived it.

But is survival enough? Is that fun? What's the point in doing things just for the sake of doing things?

When I took my last big step off the last platform, tethered to an apparatus which simulated a free fall combined with a zip, it was all I could do to not completely lose it. Between the adrenaline crash and the relief of having my feet on solid ground again, I had to fight a lump in my throat and the urge to start sobbing, which I held back until I got back to my car, when I let loose on the steering wheel.

I'd planned to go hiking today, capitalizing on a free weekend day with no work and plenty of sunshine, but after yesterday's adventure, I decided to give myself a day of rest.

It's going to take me a while to recover from this one.

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