Beating Your Fears Part II, Enough Already

This seems to be the week for testing my  fear of heights. I just got done feeling good about rappelling. Within 24 hours I am walking across  “bridges” that are suspended from cables above (known as hanging bridges). We are at treetop level and these suckers sway. I cross all 6 and even look down on occassion…while clutching the sides of the bridge with all my might. And of course hanging bridges are not enough of a test.

The next morning we travel above the treetops in order to go zip lining. What is a zip line? It is you attached to a harness holding onto a metal device that zips you along a cable from treetop to treetop. In our case this was all done hundreds of feet above the ground. Speeds can get as high as 40 -50 mph. It is you flying through the air being buffeted by the wind moving you side to side. If you were to let go, maybe the harness would stop you from e crashing to the ground and being broken into thousands of pieces or skewered on a branch like a human shish kebab, or not.

I had done this once before several years ago and had no problems. However, the zip lines here were longer and higher. One was a quarter-mile long and one was just short of one half mile. The wind blew and twisted me around as  I careened through the atmosphere trying not to look down. I once again completed the task and even enjoyed about half of the runs.

I am now done. No more heights to conquer. Not this week anyway. I have done enough.

Beating Your Fears Like The Neighborhood Bully

We are on vacation doing what my wife refers to as soft adventure. That means we are doing fun things with some risk but under the watchful eyes of trained guides.

I had read the preliminary itinerary a month ago. When I came to rappelling down waterfalls, I hesitated. No not hesitated, I started to hyper-ventilate.  I have an extreme fear of heights. Technically it is a fear of being on the edge of something where I could fall to my death. If we are hiking in the mountains, I need a path that is either not on the edge or extremely wide so I can hug the inside lane. Some situations appear to affect me more than others. From what I can tell it has to do with whether I can see the edge and the nothingness beyond. If there are protections to my vision, say a line of trees blocking the nothingness that I would fall through on my voyage top death, then I my be OK.

So here I am, a man who does not like to be on the edge (literally or figuratively) reading about how my family will be purposely be leaping off a cliff with nothing but a string to hold onto. OK, it’s a rope but the difference is really not that much.

I am also a man who wants to demonstrate to his son that fears can be overcome. At least sometimes. So I said yes a month ago and now a month later was this morning.

A I am getting my gear on I still do not know if I will be able to go through with this. The problem is that a truck has left us in the middle of a jungle and has driven away. I am not sure what the small team of guides will do if someone in the group does not go forward. Back is not an option. I take comfort in the fact that these adventure tour places get lousy press when someone dies and so it must be safe. Right?

We will be rappelling 5 walls. The first is the highest at 165 feet. The cliff wall is a shear drop. It is my turn. Left hand loose on the rope as a guide. Right hand is your brake. You hold it straight down at your side. Lean all the way back. Push with your legs. Fall.

I hate the overuse of the word “amazing”. Not everything is amazing. This was. At first I was hesitant at first to let myself drop very far at a time.  But down I went. At one point I let go. It was a gas. Four rappels later and I was ready to sign up for more. Now that I sort of knew what I was doing I wanted the highest one again. I would drop like a stone  for 150 feet and love it.

The adrenaline was flowing so strong that my senses were on overdrive. I had the sights of the waterfalls, the jungle around us and the ground below as I descended. I could feel the subtleness of the of warmth in the air combining with the coollness from my wet clothes into a refreshing touch on my skin.

I still do not know how real people climb up mountains or rappel down them when they are not with guides doing most of the work to keep you safe. That is real adventure not soft adventure and I am will to leave that to the adventurous.

All I know is that I lept into the abyss against all of my instincts. I beat those fears back. And I am ready to do it again.

Ps. I will post pictures and a short video on my Facebook page in a week or so.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Friday was a madhouse at work. We had 5 client reports due. Every time I took a call there would be two new messages from clients waiting by the time I hung up. Lots of people were helping. The whole office was busy. The Admin Assistants were working constantly…and getting a bit testy.

At 2 pm I went to the office of one of our young associates (YA) to check on progress for one of my five reports. I had made changes and given feedback an hour ago and had expected to have a final draft to review by then. I had too much going on to be anything but direct. The conversation went like this:

Me: Where is the report? I thought it would be done by now?

YA: I gave it To M (one of the AAs) but she has been busy.

Me: When did you last check on progress? (I could see a hint of fear sweep across his face.)

YA: You want me to check with M? (The look of fear grew more intense.)

Me: Isn’t the client expecting it soon? (I use questions to make the point. The Socratic method.)

YA: (Silence)

Me: Who are you more afraid of, her or me? (More Socratic method)

YA: (More silence as he was clearly trying to figure out the answer to that question.)

Me: Trust me. I can make it so you are much more afraid of me.

YA: So I guess I should check with M?

Me: Good idea. (Conversation ends. Sometimes you need more than the Socratic method to make a point.)

I am not typically a scary person. I am not physically imposing. I do not yell, scream or swear at the people who work for me. I do however become quite annoyed when our client work is not getting done— especially when the person responsible (YA) is not doing his/her job. I suspect, OK I know, my annoyance comes through in my tone of voice.

Maybe to be more effective I should have a little Psycho music playing in the background when I walk in.