One of the only bright spots of hanging out in a psych center was a weekly outing to the ropes course. This was our one chance for freedom from our 1/4 square mile campus so once a week we piled into vans with all the excitement of kids going to summer camp.
My first week I tried climbing the rock wall. The younger and more athletic amongst us crawled up the wall like the web slinger himself. I had a different “strategy”. I sauntered up the wall with all the speed and fervor of a cold snail. Two full grown men belayed, counter balanced, for me. As evidenced by the sweat pouring off them I’m sure they worked harder to get my ass up to the first level of the wall than I did. Usually cheerleaders for the group to go higher, the worn out men on the other end of my rope couldn’t even muster the breath support to encourage me to go further. They let me float myself down the hard fought 8 feet I had climbed.
The next trip to the ropes course was on Halloween. I sported batman glasses and cape a friend had mailed to me. With all the determination and confidence of a superhero I climbed up the 30 foot poll to a landing the size and stability of a saltine cracker. Jumping off I caught a rope loop with one foot 10 feet away. Then I swung fifty feet, at 10 foot intervals, catching my feet in the rope loops as I went. I sweated, swung and swore all the way to the last loop.
Destination within reach, I gave one last mighty swing and snagged the landing platform with my foot. However, with the one foot clinging to the the platform and the other one still stuck in the rope loop I found myself horizontally suspended 30 feet in the air. I was stretched out, like roast pig on a spit, belly and cape flapping in the wind for the world to see.
As I mentally negotiated my next move gravity separated me from my shoe but I managed to cling to the platform with my stocking foot. To add insult to potential injury, I was beginning to lose my pants. The harness, though chaffing, was my modesty savior, managing to keep the proper parts covered. I finally managed to coax myself onto the last platform where I lay for a bit catching my breath and reconsidering my will to live.
My triumph? After catching my breath and re-situating my pants I jumped off that platform, cape flying. I landed brilliantly on one foot, just like Batman.
In my life I have always felt the need to be the best, the prettiest, the smartest, the most accomplished and the most well liked. But up there, with my cape, undies and sock foot flapping in the breeze none of that mattered. I had conquered my biggest foe, self. I didn’t allow my fear of heights, insecurities about my body and lack of confidence in my athletic ability steal that experience from me.
It was a good day. I wish for more of those triumphant moments, for both you and I