Fac­ing my fears

Par­tic­i­pat­ing in a high ropes course proved to be quite the ad­ven­ture.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By­maryschnei­der

DON’T know what pos­sessed me the other day. One minute, I was queu­ing up to get into an Aus­tralian wildlife sanc­tu­ary, and the next I was agree­ing to par­tic­i­pate in a high ropes course lo­cated a short dis­tance from the kan­ga­roo en­clo­sure.

I’m not a high ropes sort of per­son. So when my part­ner sug­gested that I join him and his two chil­dren for some fun swing­ing from ropes and walk­ing along some very wob­bly planks sus­pended from tree­tops, I was sur­prised to hear an alien voice, which sounded re­mark­ably like my own, say: “Sure. That sounds like fun.”

As we made our way to the en­trance of the course, I was re­minded of the time I vis­ited the Grotte des De­moi­selles, a large lime­stone cav­ern in south­ern France. I can still re­mem­ber stand­ing on a small view­ing plat­form 50m above an im­mense cham­ber called the Cathe­dral of the Abyss.

As I stared at the mag­nif­i­cent sta­lac­tites hang­ing down, my fear of heights pre­vented me from walk­ing to the edge of the van­tage point to wit­ness the mighty sta­lag­mites be­low.

My heart was rac­ing so fast I thought I would ex­pire on the spot.

How then was I go­ing to climb up a tree, walk along a metal rope, drag my­self sus­pended upside down along an­other rope, ma­noeu­vre a few other scary mid-air ob­sta­cles, and come back down to earth via a fly­ing fox?

As I watched a safety video that fea­tured a young man blithely climb­ing up a cargo net strung be­tween two trees and then swing­ing on a Tarzan rope to a plat­form on an­other tree, my heart sank.

Mid­dle-aged women shouldn’t be sub­ject­ing them­selves to such rig­or­ous ac­tiv­i­ties, I thought. I should be at home mak­ing cup cakes, em­broi­der­ing pil­lowslips and tak­ing gen­teel sips of Earl Grey tea from del­i­cate bone china cups.

I should have both my feet planted firmly on the ground at all times. Af­ter all, trees are for birds and squir­rels, and large poi­sonous snakes that look re­mark­ably like one of those Tarzan ropes that ad­ven­tur­ous people use to swing from tree to tree.

Be­fore I had a chance to give voice to my fears, I found my­self stand­ing at the course start­ing point, my heart in my mouth.

“I’ll go first,” I said to my part­ner, as I be­gan climb­ing a sturdy tree with footholds. With three people be­hind me, I’d be less in­clined to daw­dle and hold ev­ery­one up. Or so I thought.

Once I was on the first plat­form, I gin­gerly placed a foot on the metal rope that was strung be­tween two trees, high above the for- est floor. Hold­ing onto an­other rope, which was sus­pended above me and par­al­lel to the one be­low, I be­gan mov­ing gin­gerly along.

“What­ever you do, don’t look down!” I told my­self. “Just keep look­ing straight ahead and you’ll be fine.”

As I inched along, I tried to fo­cus on the trees around me, but all I was aware of was the sound of my heart thud­ding in my chest like a low fly­ing 747 plane.

Just when I thought I was mak­ing rea­son­ably good progress, ev­ery pore in my body de­cided to drench me with sweat. Rivulets ran off my brow and stung my eyes, blind­ing me.

Upon reach­ing the sec­ond plat­form a few sec­onds later, I hugged the sup­port­ing tree like a drown­ing man cling­ing to a life raft, damp mas­cara clog­ging my eyes.

“How’s it go­ing?” shouted my part­ner, who was bring­ing up the rear.

“Great!” I shouted back. “I’m re­ally en­joy­ing this.”

The next ob­sta­cle saw me drag­ging my­self along an­other wire rope, one hand over the other. At least, I wasn’t able to look down and see how far I was from the ground.

Half way around the course, I be­gan to hy­per­ven­ti­late.

I guess my self-per­sua­sion skills were be­gin­ning to wear a lit­tle thin at this stage.

As I was hug­ging yet an­other tree and gasp­ing for air, a park em­ployee ap­peared be­low and asked me if I needed as­sis­tance. I didn’t an­swer, be­cause my legs were shak­ing so vi­o­lently that it was all I could do to stop my­self from col­laps­ing.

“The process for get­ting you down is quite time-con­sum­ing,” he con­tin­ued.

“But since you’re half­way through and have al­ready com­pleted the more dif­fi­cult ob­sta­cles, it would be eas­ier for you to just keep go­ing.”

Now, I’m not one for giv­ing up so eas­ily, es­pe­cially if it means mak­ing a pub­lic spec­ta­cle of my­self. So I sum­moned ev­ery ounce of courage left in my drenched body and or­dered my­self to per­se­vere. My part­ner also en­cour­aged me to keep go­ing by telling me what a great job I was do­ing.

It wasn’t easy, but I did fin­ish. I even en­joyed the fly­ing fox, de­spite my un­gainly land­ing. And oddly enough, now that I know what the high ropes course en­tails, I could pos­si­bly be per­suaded to give it an­other go.

If you stare fear in the eye, you might just make it a lit­tle smaller.

Check out Mary on Face­book at www. face­book.com/mary.sch­nei­der.writer. Reader re­sponse can be di­rected to star2@thes­tar.com. my.

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