part in a high ropes challenge course. Although I was looking forward to the experience, being afraid of heights, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Specifically, I wondered would I be able to do this? And yet, I had agreed to do it, as I have many other things in life, because I didn’t want the fear to control me.
How to step into the void? On some level, I think we all ask of ourselves this question consciously or unconsciously as we notice where we are in life and where we think we want to be. At times, the space between these two points can seem so impossibly large that we feel powerless. And yet, when we are able to take those necessary steps into the void, we find that what we feared wasn’t as scary as we’d made it out to be. All we need is a willingness to put one foot in front of the other and walk forward on faith.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see the reality of this statement first hand. Specifically, I was invited to take
So for the first three tasks, I simply powered my way through it. I looked down only when instructed to do so, and continued to tell myself almost subconsciously that I just need to get this over with and all would be well. And well, it was. Until I went to the fourth self-selected challenge aptly called the Power Challenge Pole. And it was here that I realized just how afraid I was and how much fear I held onto from the past that was no longer present or even pertinent. And in this situation, it was nearly impossible to power through something that was not being properly acknowledged – i.e. my fear and the stories I had made up about the past to reinforce that fear.
For those of you who might be unfamiliar, the power challenge pole is a telephone pole buried about ten feet in the ground. It has hand and foot loops that go along either side about two feet apart. You summit the pole, by essentially doing single leg squats to propel your hand to the next loop. Once you’ve gotten to the top, you have to place one foot on top of the pole and then press off that foot to lift the other foot to meet the first. From here, you attempt to stand and then turn around 180 degrees to face the semi distant sprung trapeze that you are then to jump towards and catch.
In any case, the first time I attempted to summit the power challenge pole, I quickly climbed up without a second thought about the fact that once I got to the top, I’d need to stand up and turn around. And perhaps because I didn’t think about it, I didn’t realize that I was still carrying so much fear of the past. Specifically, when it came time to lift my right foot on top of the pole and then press down through the right foot to lift the left to meet it. I had a complete break down. That two- three feet seemed like a never ending abyss. And as the facilitators told me to trust myself and just stand up, I had a complete break-down.
For in that moment, all I could think about was how my right leg had “let me down” and gotten injured and essentially “ruined” my dance career. (Mind you, none of this was true, however that is what immediately went through my mind. Apparently even though I had healed, I still felt that I was hurt and injured or might possibly hurt or injure myself again if I attempted this. And so I came down, filled with a lot of shame, humiliation, and sadness.
The same thing might have happened the second time I attempted the power challenge pole (some two or three weeks later) had the facilitators not shown me (with a smaller, grounded version) that I had the ability to do it and I simply needed to become comfortable with the wobbles. They told me, the pole was going to shake. And it was only going to shake more as I became more anxious. So all I could do was attempt to find comfort with this fluid, fluctuating surface.
What’s interesting is that the second time, I experienced all the same anxieties I had the first time. There were several times when I heard myself say, “Come down Jessica. You can’t do this. You might hurt yourself, again.”
I listened to these voices for at least five minutes, as I would attempt to bring my right foot and then my left foot up. And I think the only reason both feet ended up on top of that telephone pole is because I didn’t want to experience the disappointment and shame I had felt the first time and so I powered through it. I put one foot up and then pushed through to get the other to meet it.
Now with the task of turning around 180 degrees, with the pole visibly shaking due to the wind as well as the anxiety I infused it with, that I had to start repeating to myself, “Jessica you must become comfortable with the wobbles.” As strange as this may sound, knowing the pole was going to keep shaking and I would have to keep moving in spite of it, I found that I was able to continue to move forward. This time, not so much by powering through it, but instead with a bit of compassion and ease for myself.
So the question that I have for you, the one I am hoping to ask of myself is: what is your everyday version of the power challenge pole? What causes the ground beneath your feet to shake? Could it be a relationship, a situation, an occupation, or a thought? Is that thing present in the here and now? Or is it a story from your past? Whatever it happens to be, can you remind yourself that nothing is permanent and stable and you must allow yourself to find the comfort with the wobbles.
This requires that you remind yourself that you aren’t going to do this – whatever it is – perfectly or without feeling a bit of anxiety. However, you can keep moving forward, by giving yourself a bit more kindness and compassion. As you issue self care, and continue to make strides forward, you may begin to see that the distance between who you are now and who you desire to be is not as unattainable as you might have imagined.