In case you can't read it, this sign says:
"CAUTION: TRAIL STEEP WITH EXPOSED CLIFFS AND FIXED IRON RUNGS"
So, my husband stitched together some wonderful loop hikes in Acadia, as I mentioned last week. J and I didn't ask any questions. We parked, we hiked, we sweat, we gazed upon amazing views, we cheered and we repeated two or three times a day as time allowed.
As we made our way on a particular hike, we found ourselves on the side of a sheer mountain face. In certain spots, only about 24 inches separated us from sudden death. I am not exaggerating. My anxiety level topped out in a way I've never experienced. At one point, when I thought for sure it couldn't get any worse, and it did, I just froze and my eyes welled-up with tears. I did not want to take another step. I knew we couldn't go back the way we came, and I really, really, really didn't want to move forward where we'd be delving deeper into the unknown. I was pinned for a few seconds to the side of this cliff face just f*cking panicking. Sweaty-palmed, heart-racing, jelly-legged panic.
My thoughts ran amok with, "What if this happened? What if that happened?" - thinking in particular of J and what would happen to him if M and I both fell. (knocking on wood again) You know, really rational thoughts that make you want to rutz! Meanwhile, kiddo wasn't even phased. He just kept going, bellowing out what he was seeing so we knew what was coming. When we were all the way down, he asked if I was scared. Normally, I would not let on as much b/c I never want my perspective to tarnish his fearless inclinations, but for the first time in his 14 years, I didn't sugarcoat it. I let him know I was completely terrified. He was surprised I was that scared, and he said it didn't bother him at all. He didn't even think about it. Ah, the magic of youthdom! I hope he never loses it!
Metaphorical moments rarely pass me by, and this one hit me hard once my feet were on safer ground and I had time to reflect on what the flevil just happened. In my work, I often feel pinned - where I can't go back the way I came, I cannot stay where I am and the path forward is mucky and full of more risks than what I just managed to get through. Dealing with whatever's around the bend is part & parcel of the exposed-cliff path I chose. There are tiny trail blazes that I look up to see every so often, but truly my survival is up to me. I have to decide where to step, which rungs to grab for help (or not) and whether or not acknowledging my fear in a given moment will help me or hurt me. For the latter, I think I'll take a page from J's book: Don't think about it too, too much or you'll become paralyzed. Trust your instincts and keep trudging forward.
Love that kid!