The first time I went rappelling I was about 8-years old. I wasn’t terrified of heights, really, it was more the falling with the sudden stop at the bottom that made my stomach do flips while I laid, belly down, at the edge of the cliff staring at the rocky ground far below.
When it came my time to shuffle over the edge, I almost backed out. But my desire to fulfill a dream overrode my desire to not fall screaming to my death. Besides, hadn’t Uncle Ricks promised I was safe? After all, I had 2 lines on me… a rappel line and a safety line that would keep me from falling if I lost hold of the main one.
So with several deep breaths and shaking hands I made my descent. I don’t remember what happened or why I got scared, but about halfway down the mountain I froze in panic. No matter what anyone said, my brain simply refused to tell my hands and legs to move. I leaned into the cliff side and cried. I was too far down to be pulled back up and too far up to be let down.
I was stuck.
Ricks could rappel down next to me, but he needed the second rope. The one tied around me to keep me safe.
I was terrified! I didn’t want to let go. What if I fell? What if I died? You think that would have forced me to finish the rappel, but it didn’t. I couldn’t even push away from the mountain.
There was only one option left: I had to give up the safety line.
On the verge of exhaustion, I untied my safety and let Uncle Ricks come help me. He talked me through each step and movement, staying by my side until, with great relief, my feet touched the ground.
I have been rappelling a few times since, mostly to prove to myself that I am stronger than my fears, but I will always count that first experience as the best. It taught me that sometimes we have to let go of the line we think is saving us because it’s that same line that is keeping us stuck.