Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Becoming a wimp in my Third Third?

I think I’m becoming a scaredy cat. A wuss. I don’t know if this is a sign of (1) experience, (2) realistic assessments, or (3) raw, unrelenting cowardice.

I first noticed it on a trip to Moab with women friends in 2008. Margaret and I were crossing some giant boulders (more like round mountains) and the wind was blowing ferociously. We had to climb over the top of the surface – with drop-offs – and there was no windbreak. I thought maybe if I crawled I could do it, but that wasn’t really possible. I just couldn’t do it. I willed myself, I steeled myself, I gritted my teeth and set my jaw. Not happening. I made us go back pretty far to a fork and take a different path.

Then this past February, our family took a trip to Machu Picchu. I LOVED Machu Picchu, but it comes with edges. Edges that drop 10,000 feet. I can handle the inside part of a trail like that, but when there are other people already hogging the inside side and you’re forced to take the outside edge, it gets scary. So scary that I opted out of the Inca Bridge. So scary that I even took an inside seat on the train so I wouldn’t look out the outside edge window.
I’ve never liked heights. I don’t do amusement park rides, and I only went off the high diving board at a pool once. I hate that feeling of stomach lift, and I don’t like looking out windows from skyscrapers. Yes, I did a zip line in Costa Rica, but that was only because I didn’t want to role model fear to little girl Sophie.

So the heights thing is nothing new. But next on the bucket list is the Grand Canyon, and some friends signed up for the super-duper hiking version. Uh, oh. I looked at the description:
ledges and drop-offs, loose and slippery rocks, scrambling up, over and around large rocks, 2000-3000 ft elevation gain and descent, and maybe even a hike that requires the use of ropes.

Then I looked at the pictures. People holding onto rock walls while whitewater raged around their feet. Total and complete wussiness erupted in me.

But this is not how I see myself! I see myself as strong, brave, courageous, and tough. I see myself the way I was when I did a ropes course back in San Francisco: 30 feet up in the trees, having to cross a single horizontal log bridge and then a tightrope, stand up on a post (for the “Leap of Faith”), grab hold of a rope, and sail down. I remember being absolutely terrified – so terrified I had to figure out which paralyzed muscle I could potentially order to function – but I did it! Afterwards, I felt tough as nails.
So what’s different now? I was still scared back then, but I didn’t chicken out. Now, I’m ready to abandon and chicken out. Some of it has nothing to do with heights, ledges, or ropes. The fitness requirement asks, “Can you climb several sets of stairs while urgently needing the bathroom?” Does this have to do with needing the bathroom or climbing the stairs?? Even my sister remarked at how much I peed during our road trip. Will this be a problem?

And never mind the warnings about heat stroke. I’ve been found unconscious on the Coastal Trail.

You see what’s happening here? Instead of approaching this with a self-concept of “sure, I can do that,” I’m approaching it as “I am probably going to find this psychologically and physically beyond my capabilities.” Where does that come from? I still run half-marathons, still haul and lift and carry and trudge. I’ve just become … fearful.

Okay, we signed up for the Grand Canyon trip. It’s not till 2017. Tim is worried that I’ll spend a year-and-a-half stewing over it. I might.

But then again, afterwards I just might re-discover I’m tough as nails. Not sure.

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