You know that moment right – when fear literally grips you – and won’t let go. A rock hopping adventure had me up close and personal with the big F.
You know it – that moment when it just kicks in and grabs you.
You’re literally frozen – yep fear’s got its tentacles stuck into you.
For me – fear is an absolutely pivotal component in thriving (something I’m passionate about).
That’s when I know I’m knocking down the walls of my comfort zone.
That’s when I know that I’m on a big learning curve.
Yet in those initial moment? “Ah, not so much.” I often wanna go screaming the other way. Tell me I’m not alone here.
An incident on a recent holiday had me staring fear right in the eyes. And it weren’t pretty at first, let me tell you.
It got me thinking about:
- the dynamic nature of our responses to fear; (the constant to-ing and fro-ing)
- the connections between our thoughts and bodily reactions;
- the stages of fear; and
- the role of significant others around us – when they see us – facing a mighty challenge that scares the sh*@!! out of us.
Rock hopping – sounds like a fun thing to do, right?
Memories of leaping across rocks in streams came to mind – ah freedom – ah abandon.
We were in Far North Queensland, Australia – on a two week holiday – driving out to a privately owned rock park.
As we got closer, my suspicions were high – that perhaps my joyful memories might be ‘out of whack with the reality we were about to face’.
- Point 1: These were absolutely gi-normous boulders;
- Point 2 The woman selling us the ticket – looked us up and down – and quickly said
- “So you’ll be doing the long one?” (as in long walk)
- “Yep,” I say having no clue what I’m saying ‘Yep’ to.
I then start to twig that we’re the only ones in the queue thus far – that are on the long walk.
“How long will it take?” I ask.
“Oh, should only be an hour,” she replies.
‘An hour, that’s not bad,’ I think. ‘How tricky could it be if it’s only an hour. ‘
With one side of me – reassuring – and the other panicking – ‘what the $%!! have you said Yes to Greg?’ – off we set.
It’s a gentle intro. With dots lining the path along the rock – we’re drawn to and then away from stunning rock pools.
No rock hopping there, mmm!
We then walk along enormous boulders that lead us to sweeping vistas of the landscape.
It’s breath-taking and not just for the energy expended scrambling up the rocks.
It’s the sort of view that always triggers something within me – a something that words can’t adequately capture.
And that’s when it starts. The trail dots lead up to the edge of the boulder and STOP. The next dot – is across a gap in the boulders.
First HOP’s not too bad – but the anxiety is starting to rise within me. To put it mildly, I’m challenged by heights.
Having a partner (Simon) – who is quite the opposite – has meant that I’ve regularly wrestled with this fear – and pushed through eventually.
I’ve done things I literally can’t believe I’m doing.
But we’re no longer alone. A young guy is running across the boulders – leaping from one to the other.
There’s no caution, no fear. He’s free.
Onward we trek till we come to a much wider chasm… and this time there’s quite a bit of a drop.
The feeling rises within me…Its name FEAR.
My heart-rate’s up.
You know the feeling right – like when your heart feels like it’s almost outside your body and you swear you can see it pumping through your skin.
It’s like I’ve been filled with concrete – I’m literally set – immoveable.
I can hardly breathe.
I find my voice and call out to Simon – who has thankfully remembered that he does have a partner – and quickly returns.
“I can’t do it. It’s just too far. I can’t do it.”
He gives me step by step instructions – just enough for me to take in.
Along with the words of support and encouragement, they’d normally do the trick.
Time and time again he’s lead me to realise – that I’m much more than I give myself credit for – that there’s a whole raft of possibilities I can pursue. That I can get past that fear factor.
I tentatively try to move my foot. It’s shaking – as I move it. It feels like it’s detached from me.
It’s like my body is saying….You go ahead foot but we’re f*!!! staying here.
“I can’t do it. It’s just too far. I can’t do it.”
My voice is shaking now.
I’m on the edge of tears – wishing and wanting to move – but something within is holding me there.
I sit and sit and sit and sit…
All the while he’s still there, encouraging then quiet, allowing me to be.
I inch myself closer and closer to the edge…Each time freaking out and halting.
I want to and yet don’t want to.
I want it to be possible but it feels impossible.
I want to not be hard on myself but…
I don’t want to go back and yet I can’t see how to manoeuvre across the chasm the way Simon’s encouraging me to.
“You go ahead I say…I’ll go back.”
I know as I say it – that’s not going to cut it – I’m not going back.
He’s still there…giving me time…giving me space….
My mind starts to free a little – planning other ways I could get across
Inching forward (and I mean inching) ….I’m near the edge now, breath sharpening I try to slow it down….
With my voice less shaky now…I talk through how I’ll do it ..seeking reassurance…making it seem d0-able, feasible.
Gradually – tentatively at first – I find a way to ease myself over – all the while staying firmly supported on one side whilst Simon’s there on the other side – to ease the transition -should I need it.
There’s no stepping in from Simon, taking over. It’s about me doing it for me.
I F*!*%#^* DO IT!!
I feel stunned – I can’t bloody believe it.
A sea of emotion wells up within me – and then the weight’s released.
But don’t be thinking there’s time for dwelling, basking in the moment.
For this is only the beginning (I later realise), of a VERY long and TESTING two and a half hour trek (or Hop-fest).
There’s many more chasms to come…including a siding along a rock face above another drop that has me looking for any other possible routes round it.
There’s more fear, awkwardness and tears – as well as Greg losing his temper numerous times.
There’s more self-doubt – more tentative inching forward and back and forward again
Still more working it through – with Simon just out of reach but there if absolutely needed.
An unimposing calm, sure presence.
Eventually….we near the track that’ll take us back inland.
We stand above a majestically sheer cliff that drops away to a fast running river below. All around us is bushland across as far as the eye can see..
I feel like I’m home – aside for the sudden intake of breath as I see Simon excitedly skirting around the cliff edges. ‘Breathe Greg, breathe.’
You We did it. We $%%!! did it.
Know it. Feel it. Be in this moment Greg.