First off, let me just say that next time I go on vacation with my kids, would someone try to slap the fantasies of us getting along right out of my head? I am not saying it has been awful, but with teen boys, tropical paradise does nothing to cure their natural apathy or make them suddenly willing to open up and chat…. or even just make an attempt at pleasantry towards me. The grunts to my questions are still very much alive and the “pretending” they don’t hear me is ever present. Don’t get me wrong, we have done some amazing things. We have whitewater rafted and hiked through the rainforest, and seen all sorts of critters. Probably the highlight for them was ziplining through the Cloud Forest of Monteverde.
For those that do not know me well, I wouldn’t say I am unadventurous – after all I have hiked on glaciers of the North Cascades and along the cliffs of the northern coast of Kauai. I went to Ethiopia alone, having never travelled internationally. I moved my family across the country, knowing no one. However, I have a very deathly fear of heights, particularly when I must rely on another device (swinging bridge, ropes course, or harness) to keep me safe. Many years ago I used to lead for a youth program called Young Life. As part of this experience, I would take a group of teenagers to camp every summer and we would do ziplining and ropes courses. I did it every year, but it was not something I enjoyed. I loved going to camp with the kids, but this part of the experience I approached with trepidation – worse yearly. When I stopped leading (shortly after the boys came home), I banished the thoughts of ever having do get harnessed in and fly through the air again. Of course, why I would think that when I had two very athletic and adventurous boys, is beyond me.
Yesterday, we enjoyed a great walk through the Cloud Forest, but the whole time, my fear was building. When the walk was over, it was time to do what the boys had been looking forward to for months – zipline through the forest. Some people may ask why I did it if I was so afraid. However, with both leading youth and parenting my sons, I feel it is important to lead through fear. It isn’t about overcoming the fear for me – I will probably always be afraid of ziplining. Rather, it is about showing my sons that I can, and will do things that scare me. So, as I watched the boys take the leap, I knew I had to do it as well.
The hardest thing about this experience was that it was not just one zipline, but rather 13! We went from platform to platform, high above the treetops. Yes, the scenery was beautiful, but, 13 times I had to step off that platform and trust that the equipment designed to protect me, would do just that. It is fortunate that I did not know just how many times I would have to do this, otherwise I would have never gotten off the first platform. So, my legs shook, tears rolled down my cheeks and my stomach heaved, but one time after another, I got hooked onto the line and off I went.
As I was walking through the forest, finally on solid ground, I began to cry in earnest. It felt like the fear of the past year just washed over me. When my ex walked out the door for the last time on May 4th, 2017, I put on my harness and had to trust that it would work out. I have gotten to a platform and swore, I couldn’t leap again, but, when you’re the only one, you just buckle up and pray that the harness will not fail. There are days that the task of getting out of bed seems monumental. I have had some rough landings, been pelted by rain and wind, spun around mid-air and approached things backwards, but I am still here, as are the boys. I hope someday that this whole single mom to teen boys thing feels less like a leap of faith and more like a walk on solid ground, but for now let’s just double check that the harness is secure. Hopefully, someday I will be able to look back and I say, “I was terrified, but I kept leaping”.