I had never even been on a roller coaster until five years ago, when I jumped on Disney's Splash Mountain after taking one look at all of those harried, middle-aged women weighted down with sippy cups and strollers, sitting on the "mom bench" of non-riders. I thought to myself then, "Hell, no."
Then came last Friday, when I rappelled 18 stories down the front of the Intercontinental Hotel.
Why'd I do that? Because of something Eleanor Roosevelt once said that has become a mantra of sorts: "Do one thing every day that scares you." After that coaster ride, I understood why. Do something that scares you and you suddenly wake up. You're alive and fearless and ready. So, now I say "yes" whenever something that scares the bejeezus out of me comes my way.
Special Olympics Texas was holding the event as a fundraiser with the help of a company called -- what else -- Over the Edge. Raise $1000 and you earned the right to rappel your way down the hotel's façade with the help of the Dallas SWAT team members who volunteered their time for the day's event.
As I signed the waiver and donned my gear, I started to wonder what the heck I was doing there. Just an hour earlier I was all cozy in bed and now here I was climbing the stairs to the roof and freezing my butt off in the morning air. I kept trying to remind myself that dead people make for bad publicity so this had to be safe, right?
The very handsome SWAT team guys showed me how all of the gear worked, and a few moments later it was time to clip in and get moving. I didn't get scared in earnest until the guy told me to climb over the railing. Climb over the railing. It was the last thing standing between me and sheer terror and he told me to just, "Climb over" like he was asking me to pass the rolls.
So, I did.
Then he told me to stand with my instep resting on the edge of the building and put my weight into my harness. I never stopped looking at him. I knew if I took my eyes off of his, I would collapse into tears and beg him to haul me back up. But, instead, I began to lower myself down. I did it. I was doing it. It was just me and my gear and 18 stories and, as scared as I was, I was doing it one story at a time.
It was actually much tougher and much slower than I expected. I was worried about flying down the rope. But, instead, gripping the brake and feeding the rope through the gear proved to be hard on my little hands and midway down I radioed up for help. "Shake it out," my guide told me. So, I did. I rested into my harness and shook out my hands and then told myself that the sooner I got moving, the sooner I would be down on the ground. And so get moving I did.
At everyone's suggestion, I tried my best to take in the view, but it's not easy when all you can think about is the fact that you're hanging by a rope 18 stories in the air above the perfectly unforgiving pavement. Still, I snuck in a few killer peeks that no other experience could have afforded me. Truth be told, it was thrilling and it was hard not to feel proud of myself for sucking it up and doing it.
I swung away from the wall a few times and even found myself facing out to the tollway, which I quickly remedied. That was way too scary. Keeping my eyes on the wall was the only thing keeping me from freaking out. And then, before I knew it, I was back on terra firma.
It was amazing. My hands hurt and my head was reeling. But it was amazing. And, honestly, if they had given me the chance, I think I would have gone for round two and enjoyed the view and the moment a little more. I will certainly do it again if I'm given the chance. I've been rock climbing a few times and rappelled back down, but this was an entirely different experience. And I liked it.
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Human beings have something called a lizard brain that tells them to stay close to the ground and play it safe on every count. That's all well and good in the wild. But in our world, listening to that pesky thing will do nothing but hold you back. It kept me grounded for 35 years. Now, that little guy is toast.
Everyone from Special Olympics Texas, Over the Edge, and SWAT were amazingly kind and supportive, as were my family and friends. The latter two thought I was nuts, but they supported me just the same.
Even my dad in his own way, who, when I sent him a photo of me halfway down had only one thing to say, "Why didn't you just take the elevator?"