Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Walking …. Above the Ground

sometimes...i am very grateful for the fact that i am actually living and being cognisant of the things happening in my life....not just sleep walking through it.... living and not just existing.....it wasnt always like this....

a few weeks ago, the team of people i work with, met up...we work from different locations....which means we sometimes dont know the faces behind the voices....we spent a day at an outbound training facility.... this is a training centre, built on a family farm and run by the family to simulate and facilitate learning through physical activities....team building, interpersonal skills, bonding etc....

we did a lot of activities that had us under the hot sun...the early scorching summer sun, that left me tanned and dehydrated...the excitement and adventure ensured i didnt throw a mental tantrum....the piece de resistance for me...was walking on this rope bridge called the burma bridge...

i was on this facility a few weeks earlier, as the trainer / facilitator of a program, so i was familiar with the topography and the infrastructure they had in place for the various tasks...i heard the owners describe the task...and i thought to myself....well, i am never going to do this....and that was that…..

after a few physical activities that had me almost in a heap….i realized how I lacked basic fitness….it was time to strap up to walk the rope bridge….

I don't quite know what I felt as we put on the harness….this thing is a rope bridge suspended at 20 metres above the ground…with two flimsy towers on either side of the bridge with ladders to help you climb up…..to say that I am conscious of my weight…is to put it lightly…. .i was determined that I didn't want to wait for too many people to go before me, because then there would be too many opinions and it would screw with my head…that's something I have exclusive control over!! I was the second one to go…..i walked with that funny looking harness around me towards the ladders…it feels like the skeleton of an underwear, minus the fabric….

i went up half the way…about 10 meters and then realized it was quite difficult to pull my weight up…I looked down and froze….the breadth of the pegs where you put your feet was less than 8 inches on each side….i was wider than the damn ladder…..my legs were shaking and I was not even halfway up the tower…the outdoor activity expert, lets call him P, is a certified mountaineer and walks on the bridge without the harness, he was on the tower, waiting to harness us to the safety cable….i asked him, as helplessly as I could…will you help me up, I think I will fall down….he gently said "keep climbing, you'll make it don't worry"….i wanted to climb back down….the entire team that I work with was standing below, a short distance away, and there was no way I could eat humble pie…..shaking and shivering I reached up, and P didn't even extend a hand….he just made me do it myself…once up on the platform of the tower, I realized it was less than 4 square feet with three of us standing there….the shaking I felt was magnified because the towers shook too…. mind you, they are made of solid iron, but they still shook…..

I was harnessed onto the safety cable….and now all I had to to was walk the 30 meters to the other end of the bridge…..i remembered P saying that it was easier to get a grip and walk if you put your foot on the knots….he also said that if you fell off the bridge, no one could help…. We'd have to pull ourselves up….. that was something I imagined would never happen in my case, since I would hang there forever…..

The first step was taken with an absolutely dry mouth and no air in my lungs….i was terrified….of what the ground looked like from there….of how far 30 meters was….of how pathetic it would be if I fell off….of the fact that I could quite easily fall off….i took another few steps….and then I froze…..the ropes were shaking…. People were screaming….cheering….i couldn't hear a thing….all I felt….was a sense of desperation I have not felt in a long time….infact I cant remember when I felt this way…..

I took a few more steps…the ropes shaking hopelessly….my legs feeling like lead….i felt cold….alone….lost….close to tears…..i felt like I would never be able to finish the walk…I was terrified of looking like a loser….i was frightened I would fall off and be unable to pull myself up….i just kept chanting…jesus…jesus…jesus…..i think I stood there immobile on that bridge for what seemed like eternity….i was trying to land every step on the knots….it was too far apart….my legs are short….and they felt like lead…which meant that it seemed farther….there was no way I could do this I said to myself….i am sure, my mouth was open and dry all this while….

For a second, I just stood there…the cheering seemed to have stopped….and then I had a moment…..i realized what I was doing…..i was virtually telling myself all the time, that I wouldn't be able to finish it….i was setting myself up for failure, while telling myself that it would be pathetic to fall in front of all my colleagues….i was so terrified…of everything…the height, the ropes, the cables…and most of all of failing…..i realized, I had no one to blame but me…and all the inspiration I needed too was within….i realized somewhere between the time when I was a compulsive tree climber, competing with my brother and his friends to climb the trees in our backyard and now, I became a wuss…. I realized it wasn't the actual walking on that rope bridge, but the thought of it that scared the crap out of me….that I magnified everything to gargantuan proportions and imagined the worst possible outcome which adds to my nervousness….that almost made me fall off…or not complete the walk…..

I am glad I had this moment 20 meters above the ground…when I was alone….and had only myself….there was nothing else to cloud my mind…. No other thought other than, I had to finish it….. that I could overcome whatever obstacle I faced, I just had to believe that I have it in me to do it…. that no matter how difficult a situation, there was an end in sight…..i took a deep breath….told myself that nothing mattered…how long I'd taken to complete the crossing….how scared I was….and how ridiculous I looked…what mattered, was that I finished it…that I confronted my fears, and came to terms with it…that I was able to finish what seemed like an impossibly scary thing to do….

The most important thing for me was the confrontation of my fears, real and imagined…. I haven't had the most cushy of lives…. I've had to confront situations worse than this many a times in life before….somehow, I felt more courageous when I had not much at stake….when I was younger and was more daring….today it is different…..the stakes are higher ( I wonder how much of it is imagined)…..the fears are much stronger and I feel my mind gets muddled with too many things…..

I am glad I walked the Burma bridge…. I couldn't have done it standing on the ground….

3 comments:

Raaga said...

Totally hear you :-)

Swapna said...

Bravo babe..!!! That was a great adventure...

Deepa Rajan said...

:)