Yesterday we had the opportunity to go rock climbing. I was pinning my hair away from my face when my boyfriend peered into our bathroom and chuckled at me. “What?” I mumbled trying not to lose the bobby pins I had secured between my teeth as he stared back at me in the mirror.
“Are you actually going to climb?” he inquired.
“Yes” I exclaimed indignantly. “Of course I’m going to climb! Why else would I be getting ready? What else would I be going to do?”
Little did I know that afternoon would be quite so clarifying for me.
You need to know before we go any further that I am incredibly afraid of heights (and birds) but mostly heights. Apparently the proper name for this fear is acrophobia – but this really doesn’t matter at all when you’re just trying to wrap your mind around surviving anywhere up high.
Have you ever experienced acrophobia? It goes a little something like this. You shake like you’ve just overdosed on caffeine and you begin to hear your heart throbbing in your ears. Then you become very, very fearful that you will fall and you clamber to hold onto something – anything – to keep this from happening. By this point you’re probably breathing excitedly just trying to retain some oxygen. Then if you’re embarrassed the next thing you know salty tears will probably stain your cheeks after the lump in your throat is too much to bear. It’s debilitating, and something that I have struggled with most of my life.
I remember having to wait at the half-way point by myself on a bench at seven falls on a family vacation, being traumatized after the Tower of Terror at Disney World ride that drops you several stories, refusing to be able to enjoy the fireworks from my grandparents roof because I was convinced I would fall and not being able to make it across the ropes course at FFA camp when I was younger.
When do you decide you are afraid of something? I don’t ever remember making the decision to become fearful of heights. But somehow – it happened. I made the mental distinction and have dealt with this perception ever since.
This past week I visited the National Cattleman’s Convention and we had the opportunity to hear Robert O’Neill speak. Just in case you were wondering not only was he on seal team six when they were successful in executing Osama Bin Laden but he was also a team member when they rescued Captain Phillips from Pirates. He shared several different life lessons but one of them was that all stress you experience is something you create. So I took control of my stress I had created about acrophobia. The results were definitely worth it.
Here are some life lessons I learned below while rock climbing:
Just Keep Moving
How many times have you chuckled when you remember Dory from Nemo singing “Just keep swimming?” Yeah – you’re probably a nineties baby. But its a great motto. Just keep on moving. If you’re not moving forwards you’re not propelling yourself towards what your goal is. No one wants to be dead in the water. When I was rock climbing if I wasn’t constantly moving my upper body would tire and my goal would get farther and farther away.
Don’t Look Down
It’s easy to look back and think of quitting. Its dizzying from the new perspective you have reached – but you just never know how close you are until you continue to hack away at reaching your goal(s). You might also get complacent thinking that you have already done enough. I asked the young lady helping each of us climb how many people actually make it to the top. She stated “A fair amount of people can do the easy and medium wall.” I inquired how many people chose not to make it to the top. Not because they were physically unable but because they mentally ruled themselves out. She laughed shrugging and replied “There are a lot of people that chicken out before they make it to the top. A lot of them are grown and very macho men.”
Grasp Whatever’s In Front of You
Take care of first things first and don’t stress about what comes later. I’ve had a lot of anxiety lately about what I was going to be doing upon graduation. I mean – hello – that means being a legitimate adult. It can be stressful. I was creating stress about what my future was going to hold when the truth is – there are tons of things I have no control over. Despite our best abilities to do this we are creating stress for ourselves. The only reason I made it up those walls was because I was focusing on the nearest handhold and not on ringing the bell.
Which I eventually did, and man did it feel great!
I was shivering like a leaf but did manage to take a good photo of the bell before I rang it on the second attempt.
You don’t have to ascend towards your goals with the grace of a slinky mountain lion. You’re very welcome to clamber across boulders slipping like a frog in high heels. In the end you are making an effort and when we learn how to manage stress this helps us get there even faster.
All in all it was a good day. How are you conquering fear to shinny up to success?