A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of being part of our 13 year old friend’s birthday party. When I heard they were going to be climbing in the trees (tree surfing) in the Dandenong Forrest I invited myself along. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, so “Embrace the opportunity”, I thought.
What an adventure and one that I didn’t realise I would get so much out of, from a personal growth perspective. My body was pushed to its limits, my mind was ‘crazy focused’ and amongst it all I came to the edge of my existence.
There were 3 levels to the tree adventure; red, blue and black. We had some fun on blue before doing the ‘short black course’ (felt long to me!) Black, of course was the highest and, for my already fatigued body, it was a struggle from the beginning. It’s amazing how this experience afforded me such wisdom....
My lessons from the trees
- Outside Motivation – I’ve never really liked the idea of requiring motivation from an outside source, rather relying on internal inspiration instead. The adventure reminded me there is room for both! The beginning part of the black course was a vertical climb up a crazy thin pole like ladder. As I started to climb I realised my body was super tired from the previous course and the spent adrenaline rush but I persisted on. As I reach the top of the ladder …the crazy high ladder …. my body was shaking and my hands wanted to give up. My daughter had made it to the top and was yelling encouragement to me. Alongside of me my friend was climbing and cheering me on from her ladder. They were counting down the steps I had to go. I finally made it to the top and can truthfully say that I haven’t experienced that level of total exhaustion in this body of mine for quite a while. All I can say is thank goodness for that external motivation!
Lesson - There is a time and place for external motivation!
- Anxiety – They say that anxiety is fear of a future event. This idea became very real to me because I realised that I really didn’t know what I was getting into and that was an absolute blessing. Like a child happily going to school, totally unaware of the test that is planned.
Lesson - Sometime ignorance IS bliss
- Survival – I had a friend who used to say she was “Just putting one foot in front of the other to get through”. As I was walking along the suspended high wire, balancing using my hands on a wire above, I found myself saying the same thing, “One foot in front of the other” …. The circuit is only one way with people coming behind and no exits, the only option was forward.
Lesson - In life the only true way is forward
- Safety – it’s funny that within all that adrenaline pumping I’m not sure I ever really felt unsafe! There was focus, there was excitement and there was fear, but when I really stopped and thought about it ….. there was also a sense of being taken care of. We were linked onto a wired system in the tree tops that you had to clip-on and clip-off using a dual harness system. You could never be totally unclipped until the end, hence the sense of safety. I guess that the life analogy here for me was that I have a deep sense of being taken care of by something larger than myself, even under the most stressful conditions.
Lesson - Safety and Stress can co-exist
- Humility – as I started the final flying fox on the black course, my body and mind were relieved to know it would soon be over and I could say I achieved it…..Argh, not so fast! As I was getting near the bottom of the flying fox I looked down at my friend taking a photo, I started to turn, almost kicked him, tucked my legs in and started to LOOSE MOMENTUM …NOOOOOOOO! I didn’t make it to the platform! Oh no I was going to have to stop myself from sliding back down the cable and then pull myself to the landing. I knew the technique because I’d done it before, however this time I was too tired and my arms wouldn’t pull me in! I was stuck ….. I held on as best as I could to stop myself from sliding away and waited for the cavalry to arrive. At this point the pain in my arms out-weighed the embarrassment I felt.
As the young girl pulled me to safety, I apologized for being a bother, she didn’t even blink an eye and said ”That’s ok it’s my job, that’s why I’m here”. Funny how life was reflecting back to me the benefit of a non-judgmental hand, something I offer to others often. It was a great gift.
Lesson - A non-judgmental hand is worth its weight in gold
- You’re not alone – At the end of the adventure I sat quietly eating a chocolate frog with shaking hands while watching the party children having fun. I was left with a feeling of embarrassment from not being at my physical peak and having to be rescued. As I spoke to my friend she explained that on a previous visit she too had to be saved on a flying fox and then hurt herself quite badly afterwards due to fatigue. Through sharing her story, I realised that I was not alone and that another had experienced something similar, survived and went back for more. Through this simple act, I knew she realised she was helping to heal my wounds.
Lesson - Never underestimate that power of sharing your own survival story with another
I believe all of life's experiences can be an opportunity to learn about ourselves and others. I enjoy looking at my life this way.
Love and Wisdom