Confession: I have a hard time really pushing myself physically. There were various times in my youth when, as a competitive athlete, I was able to push my body and mind to exertion. But once the competition was gone I found little motivation. Even when I injured my knees four years ago I was rather complacent about my therapy. It was enough to go through it to get myself to the point of full extension and walking without a cane, not to get back on my mountain bike or on a ski hill again.
Now I am faced with being the mother in a very active family. My girls will give me a pass on activities because I'm big and my knees are bad. And it kills me every time. They mean no harm, I know it, but it stabs at my heart when they dismiss my physical capabilities. Mostly, because they are right.
On the weekend we took a family trip to Revelstoke, BC. Last year we'd spent a few hours at the Sky Trek Adventure Park on our way through. Ever since then the girls have been bugging us to go back. We ended up there with my brother and his family, as they were returning from a road trip of their own. The kids ran around the jungle gym like maniacs for hours, they did the kids version of the high ropes course, they climbed and climbed and climbed the tower climbing walls, and they screamed with delight the entire time. And while they spent the first few hours doing all this my SIL and I watched them, watered and fed them, and took loads of photos.
Well, she mostly did that as I was stuck in the car with a napping toddler and hand stitching.
And for the first few hours my Hubby, brother, and one of my nephews did the high ropes course. When they finished I would have been fine to let the kids do their thing for a bit and we all could have gone for an ice cream cone. My SIL had other plans.
She made a very valid point - why should the kids see the men do the scarier thing while we didn't? What message were we sending to the kids, especially the girls? Don't we owe it to ourselves to push the limits, and show them that we can do it to. And, she wouldn't have done it alone.
I was so unprepared for this challenge that I only had sandals. So I had to borrow my Hubby's kicks before I could even start. No excuses now.
I'm not going to lie, I was filled with anxiety the entire time. The pain in your chest that makes you wonder if that's what a heart attack feels like kind of anxiety. I am not afraid of heights really. Rather, I am afraid of falling. So, I can be high upon the CN Tower, but the glass floor induces panic. I can take in the Glacier Skywalk, but feeling the movement freaks me out. It is the fear of crashing down that gets to me.
(Tied very closely to this fear is a fear of failure, but that's a discussion for the therapist's couch.)
Safety training done, lessons in harness clips and zipline techniques, rules drilled into my brain, we went up the first ladder. It didn't take that long to finish the green course. I yelled at my husband once from a high wire, I clipped my safety harness wrong in one spot, and I learned the fine art of not looking down when my kids yelled at me. At the end of the easiest course I mustered all the power of my being not to quit.
I so wanted to quit. Screw the lesson, screw modelling the brave thing, screw it all. But then The Monster came to watch. She is a lot like me. And we struggle all the time to build her confidence, to encourage her to push herself when things don't come easy. It is infinitely frustrating for my husband, and for me. So when she asked me if it was scary I responded in the positive and moved on to the blue course. And I learned to breathe a bit easier, even if it had to be a conscious effort to push the anxiety out.
There was one point where I completely became paralyzed with fear. Quite literally, I could not take a step. Much to the dismay of the two teenagers behind me I had to backtrack and was lucky there was an easy way out from that obstacle. But I was also able to get back on the course. Assured that nothing ahead of me was any scarier, just more physically demanding, I forged on. That was the moment when it became about me pushing myself. That was when I started doing it for myself and not for anyone else.
And I did it. All of it. I'm covered in bruises and rope burns because it was all horribly awkward for me. But that's okay, and with me, to be expected. To be honest, I'm kind of in awe that I pushed myself like that. I know that for some people - like my my Hubby - something like this ropes course is no big deal. (And frankly, I do agree with him.) But it would have been my norm to simply skip it, to take all the easy way outs. To not even try. To be the mom providing snacks and ensuring everyone is hydrated but not doing anything herself.
I'm not ready for rock climbing or bungee jumping anytime soon, but boy have I learned my lesson. No one is going to make me do anything. If I want to push myself then I have to do it. And this weekend showed me that I do, I do want to push myself physically. It's time.