This past weekend, I spent 4 days with 16 teenagers in a training called GAP! First of all, up until this training and the planning of it, I did not like teenagers. They were scary little aliens that sent me right back to my awkward high school days that I hated…who wants to spend time in the presence of people feeling like that?
Now, I have discovered a whole population of people who are pretty freaking amazing! I mean seriously, this is a training for teens that focuses on beliefs we have about life and interrupting the limiting ones that get in teh way of what we want. You know the ones I’m talking about. These kind of limiting thoughts/beliefs are not unique to teenagers, we have them too about losing weight or about anything else we want to do in life but for some reason DON’T. They are the ones that say “I can’t lose 100+ lbs.” or “I don’t know how to eat right or exercise.” How about this one that says “I can only lose weight and stay on track if this, this, and this are in place. (for me that would be…if I were living in GR, had my Y membership back, and had my friends within 5 minutes of me again.)
Anyway, here is one example of how sweet it is. On day one, the trainer asked the kids what they were here for. What do they want to change about their life? I had to push my jaw shut when a teenager, the youngest one there at that, stood up and demonstrated what it meant to be honest and real and vulnerable about what he wanted to change about his life. In my mind, this was pretty risky. I mean I still had lingering judgements about teens. They don’t share, they don’t have deep thoughts and they certainly don’t think about what they want for their future, they just want to have fun, no matter what the cost. Um yeah…so not true!
I have been blessed beyond measure to have been a part of this weekend and to get to hear the deep heart longings of teens to have better realtionships with their parents and friends.
As a part of the weekend, the kids get to do a ropes course. With my own feet firmly planted on the ground I was quite excited for the kids to be able to do this! Until…we had enough time for some of the team to go…at which point Aaron, Jason and Elizabeth knew that I was pretty scared at the possibility of doing this. I tried everything to avoid this…at one point I saw that the kids were wrapping up and the team could start doing it and I did everything I could to stay out of the eyesight of those three people. I started playing a game with some of the kids when I was caught though…and once the kids realized what was going on, there was no way out., as if there was before!
I know guys. A ropes course is on my goal list to do when I reach my halfway point (in another 50 lbs!). So really, why would this be so bad to have an opportunity to check something off the list early? Well, there is a reason why it was a halfway goal mark. I have had opportunity to attempt a ropes course twice in my life. One time, I got halfway up the pole and realized once I step off this thing the only way down was to free fall and let the ropes and my balayer catch me. I had not even come close to working on trust issues at this point so let’s suffice it to say that there was no way in hell I was going to trust these people who I barely knew. The other time I was at a camp and I would have trusted this group, but to my horror, the harness wouldn’t fit and so I could not do it. I was so embarrassed!
Thus why I had placed that goal at the halfway point in this journey. So THAT would not happen again. See, I am not necessarily afraid of being 45 feet in the air. My fears are more related to falling (a.k.a plummeting to the earth!) and really being mortified if I cannot do it because the stupid harness wouldn’t fit…again. So here I am, in front of all these teens. They have now gotten wind that I am scared, but they have no idea of what, and now they WANT to see me do this thing.
Great…all eyes are on me. I should have gone and done this quietly so that if it didn’t fit I could slink away, with hopefully not too much noticing.
So the guy (I will call him Travis because I think that may be his name) comes over with a harness and says he hears I have been nominated to go first among the team members. Yep, that would be me. He begins to put this harness on me, which in itself was awkward, since he had to actually touch me! He starts talking to me about how this course is Challenge by Choice. I don’t have to do this. I know this, of course, and in reality I DO want to do this. My adventuresome side thinks this would be pretty cool to do. But I still don’t know for sure if this thing is gonna fit or not! So I stopped him and looked him in the eye and just asked.
“This thing is going to fit me right?”, I asked.
“Of course it is, not a problem.”
“You don’t understand, I will be mortified if it doesn’t fit, seriously, if there is any doubt at all, let’s stop now.”
“I have no doubts, it will fit and you will be able to do this.”
He continues to hook me up in this contraption that goes between my legs and around my thighs and up over my hips and somehow all connects together. It fits. Number 1 fear…conquered! Ok maybe not conquered but definitely proved to be unfounded.
It is decided that I will do the grapevine, which is a wire 45 feet above the ground that has ropes hanging from another wire above it. The idea is to walk the wire and move from rope to rope. Imagine George of the Jungle swinging from the vines and you may have an idea of what I am to do…except I will be shuffling, not swinging.
I go to get started and my balayer is this 140 lb woman. Seriously? If I fall off that wire, the laws of physics say I will come down and she will go up. Now there may be something that counteracts that phenomenon built within the rope mechanisms, but this is where my next fear lay. Travis and others come around and assure me, my fear will not happen. They will all, if need be, hold on to her to make sure it doesn’t happen. While comforting on some level, not cool to think others will have to hold my balayer on the ground. Again, I don’t know if this was necessary or if they were just setting this up for me to make me feel more comfortable. Either way, it worked…sort of. Fear #2…thwarted but not gone.
The next step is to climb a really shaky ladder halfway up a telephone pole where I then climb the rest of the way up the pole by stepping on these big staples in the pole before I step out onto the wire. The worst part was the shaky ladder. I was certain it would break or fall. It didn’t.
The next was stepping out onto the wire and reaching for a rope. I had no idea how physical this task was going to be. I thought it would be be fairly simple once I got up there to move across. Not so much.
I started out going ok. I was shaky and wobbly and terrified of falling off the wire. Then I looked down and realized it is a loooonnggggg waaayyyy down. Oh crap, maybe the heights area factor after all!! I started to freeze up and I knew I was starting to panic. I tried to focus on one spot. Unfortunately I chose a spot on the GROUND to look at and focus on! Aaron moved into my line of sight and started talking to me and I heard many other voices…but I have no idea what any of them were saying. I imagine it was similar things to what I was telling the kids as they went along and were scared.
Things like…”You are doing great, just keep moving!” and ” Don’t look down!” “You are stronger than you think you are!” and “Breathe!”. Oh yeah breathe. “You are almost there!” or “Great Job!! I am proud of you!” You know, stuff like that!
In the end I made it about 2 1/2 ropes which probably equates to 12 feet or so before I froze up and then eventually physically I couldn’t do it anymore. My legs were shaking as were my arms. I had stood there so long! I kind of wish I hadn’t froze because then I might have been able to make it further.
Now to get down from here. Oh yeah, it involves sitting back, trusting your balayer, and letting them lower you down.
Amazingly it worked. After another few minutes of trying to come up with alternate ways off this wire and finding none, I finally sat back and had the absolute slowest ride ever to the ground. When I was halfway down, I was wishing they would let it go a little faster so I could get my feet on solid ground again!
All in all, I did it. I did a ropes course…50 lbs before I was supposed to.
Now, remind me to tell you about the climbing wall later.
I have pictures but am not sure I am ready to have them online yet. Me in this contraption is sooo not attractive in the least!!