This would be a continuation of my conquer my fears blog from a few days ago. One of my major fears is acrophobia. I am deathly scared of heights, to the point where I have often dreamt that my death will come in the form of a fall from ungodly heights. I figured since I love Tarzan so much, acrophobia would be a good one to mark off my list early on. What if I ran into him and he invited me home and the only way to get there is to swing using vines. I couldn’t possibly say “Sorry Tarzan, I’d love to join you and Jane for dinner but I have fear of heights and you live atop a very tall tree.” No can do!
That being said, I thought ziplining would be the safest way to address my acrophobia. After all, those places are maintained impeccably, the guides are well trained and will direct you through your routine. It seemed like flawless execution in my brain. This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve misjudged. The place of choosing had 17 ziplines, a fact unknown to me until I had already started down the course and was but 1 zipline in. I probably should have picked one with a shorter course.
The guides suited us up and hung tool belts with all the accoutrements needed for the course. We arrive in a military style truck and are dropped off at the base of the course. It’s a good hike up to the first zipline. So far so good. I can see the foliage and am feeling very Tarzan-y. This looks easy. The guide slides the gloves on my hand and provides crystal clear instructions. Your dominant hand needs to rest behind your head on the zipline at all times while you sit all the way down in your harness. The hand is only to make sure you don’t spin while in flight. To slow down or brake, pull down on the line and it will slow you down. OK got it. And then he launches me down the first line. Holy #%^$#%$!!! Suddenly my acrophobia is full on! Without realizing what I am doing, I pull down on the zipline and I’m only halfway to the other end. I start to slow down to a crawl and eventually stop. I release the pressure on the line as I realize what I have done. Nothing. I’m hanging in a harness several hundred feet above ground. What in the name of God was I thinking?! Today will be the day I die and yes, it will be from falling to my death.
The guide on the landing at the other end sees the look of sheer panic on my face. His face on the other hand looks absolutely bland. I’m beginning to wonder if he even cares that I am about to plunge to my death here. Calmly he says “Turn around and face the other way and put your dominant hand on the line behind your head. Start hauling yourself towards me.” Umm. Firstly, I’m not letting go of this line. Secondly, there shall be no hauling myself anywhere. I am frozen! I’m feeling fear like I’ve never felt before. I feel my fingers go numb. Yep, I’m going to die today on zipline#1! I guess the look I had on my face said it all because he told me to stay put, hooked himself onto the zipline on the other end and came and hauled me to the landing.
Promptly I start looking for a stepladder to climb down and off this killer! There is none. I ask him how to get off this course. He smiles a patronizing smile and says “You have to make it to the end.” The end? This is my end, buddy! Let me off. I am already dreading the answer as I ask “How many more of these are there?” Another patronizing smile. “Only 16 more.” I have no clue how I managed to stay calm and not burst into expletives or tears. Maybe I was too numb. He offers to help. I don’t need help. I need off! But that isn’t an option, is it. I can’t let him see me cry. I’ve already let him see the panic and nothing I do will tamp that down.
He let me try 3 more ziplines on my own with the same depressing performance before he finally decided to zipline with me. The other ziplines were mostly a blur. Unhook here, hook there, sit in harness, check to see guide is attached to my line, launch. I did this while trying to stay absolutely numb. I enjoyed 0% of the beauty around me. I was too busy shaking like a leaf to hold an adult, let alone coherent conversation with the group I was with. This is an epic fail and I am now feeling guilty that the group has to put up with me being a big baby!
Two hours later we’re done. I’m definitely done. I’m wiped beyond compare. I can say I marked this off my bucket list but I am nowhere close to having conquered my fear, which was what I set out to do. If anything, it has heightened my awareness and fear, which means I will have to try doubly hard to conquer it the next time around. I can’t tick this off my list yet but I AM glad I tried it. Everyone else seems to think I did great because I finished it. I feel far from accomplished. I had expected this to fix the fear and that didn’t happen. I don’t feel proud but I think I know what I am up against, and hoping next time around I might be better prepared. For now, it’s ziplining 1, Priya 0.