When I was chaperoning a camping trip this spring, we went to a rope park. Having never been to a rope park, I got the group of children who were most afraid. This meant that we would start at the absolute easiest level and see how far we could get. By the 5th rope, 3 of my group members had needed to climb down a ladder, so frightened were they of the, so-called, yellow-course. In truth, I too was terrified, but my legs ceased to shake when any of the teenagers looked my way. "Isn't this fun?!" I would call, and it was.
I remembered how my mother had hidden her fear of dogs from us when we were children. The first time (of a plethora) a dog's bark left my mother clinging to my arm chanting her unconvincing "Nice doggy. Good Doggy. Go away." I was shocked. I had not an inkling that she had this fear. It turns out that she had purposefully hidden it, so as not to pass it on to us. When we were small my mother would stand still and not react. When we would be excited by the dog she would remind us of the etiquette of not approaching the dog without first asking the owner. I am forever grateful for this. I continue to follow those rules (made easier by German, in which "can I pet HIM?" is always correct, regardless of the dog's gender) and have met some lovely dogs as a result.
In this spirit I pushed fear aside and swung from rope to rope, "flew" with the clamp sliding down a wire and had a tremendously good time. Likewise, after the rope park I cheered my new group on as we "mountain-scootered" (like those push-scooters on steroids) down a mountain back to camp. One of my kids was lightly-injured but remained in good spirits, held aloft by the excitement of the group, and trusted me and my bad french when we reached the first-Aid station at the bottom of the mountain.
In summer, when Ivo and I found ourselves in a part of Schwarzwald popular among old-fogies, we thrilled to find that there was a rope park by Titisee. "It's so much fun Ivo! I can't wait!" I truly meant this. I was not acting excited to assuage Ivo's fears. We were both looking forward. Ivo, with curious excitement and I, with memories of the fun in Charmay. It was raining and the ropes were slick and our park guide told us that we would need to start on the easy course and progress from there. Sadly, the super-difficult course could not be done in the rain.
I couldn't finish the easy course.
I was paralyzed at one point. My legs simply wouldn't move. I focused all of my energy on one foot "You can do this!" I reminded the foot. It didn't budge. Without a pubescent audience to convince I succumbed to the knowledge that falling is painful and probable and I am mortal. I was crushed. So disappointed. Ivo and I have since made plans to visit the rope park in Luczern. This time we'll bring his god-daughter so that I can enjoy the whole park.
This week I was back in snowboarding class and I my other class-members were teens. One of the boys was a natural but the other was terrified. Thanks to him, I was able to curve and break and slide and traverse. Then he broke his wrist. My teacher said that it was self-fulfilling prophecy. In truth the boy wasn't going fast or anything. He'd completed a turn, stopped his board and then toppled onto his own wrist. Snap. In the time that remained of that class, as he was happily drinking Ovalmaltine and having his cast wrapped I was motionless on a mountain unable to put my weight on my front leg and drive. When I did it felt too fast and I would instantly curve and stop parallel to the mountain. The next day there was a new scared student and I was again able to move.
Luckily there are always enough new folks on the mountain. Yesterday when boarding alone I drew inspiration from the teeny children being yelled instruction from their parents in a number of various languages (ah Christmas time). I only wish that there were another way.
Meanwhile it's almost New Year. There are things that I want for myself, ways that I'd like to do things, things that I would like to leave behind. If it's only by example that I am able to challenge myself, I think that I have that motivation. Curled up on my chest is a little warm bundle named Anouk and I am in love with her. She's begun to smile and shares it with me when I dance with her or in front of her to James Brown. She soaks in my English as I whisper stories to her. The language of her Tata Jessy is just as much gibberish as the Swiss German of the rest of her family, but I hope that it all gets organized in her brain at a similar pace. I look at her sweet face and multiple chins and want so many good things for her. The world has bad things in it, like falling from a rope or breaking a wrist, but I plan to be a big ol' good thing in her world. I will leave behind the things I want to leave behind and do things the ways that I want to do them and my niece will never suspect that it was an effort, I hope. I want to be one of the women who show her that things can be done.