This blog was originally posted August of 2015 and reposted July 2021, but the story and emotions are timeless. The story is about internal challenges that often appear to be external. The emotions reflect anxiety, fear, trust, perseverance, and satisfaction.
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We all face seemingly daunting tasks at one point or another, but not all challenges before us turn into Waterloos.
On a recent family trip to the University of British Columbia’s Botanical Gardens, I said “sure” when asked at the admission booth if I wanted to go on the elevated forest walkway.
It sounded pretty harmless.
After walking through beautiful forest paths, the three of us finally came upon the entrance to the walkway.
It was more like a 10 inch wide series of slotted metal strips strung together, separated by gaps and held up with suspension wire. The flimsy contraption was flanked by skinny rope nets that came up just past my waist level.
Where did the tree canopy actually end?
I boldly traversed the shifting, wobbly “walkway” up to the first solid platform built around a large tree trunk.
No sooner than I felt relief in not having fallen to my death, I became aware of a loud bunch of kids right behind me.
The youngest was about 5 or 6 years old, and before he scampered up effortlessly to my new position, he flung his body sideways back and forth, shaking and rattling the small metal strips that connected us to terra firma, almost flinging himself out into the air as he shrieked with laughter.
OMG! I suddenly knew I was going to die!
Quick thinking on my husband’s part – he stared them down and in a very stern, parental voice, admonished “don’t you dare do that when we are on the next section!”
I clung to the first tree trunk and waived them on past us. It reminded me of when I had waived a group on while trying to play golf on a nice course – too much pressure for a newbie like me.
As the noisy kids (monkeys?) raced up and off into the distance, I slowly began to walk on the next path of narrow metal strips to the next tree stop.
The walkways just kept going up and up – I lost track of how many trees we passed.
I could no longer see the ground.
My mouth was dry.
I found the only way I could keep going was to just look straight ahead and focus on the next tree platform.
We actually got to the top and then I realized that I would have to go down at some point.
I tried to see how beautiful the forest was from way up in the air, but I couldn’t seem to conjure up the creative side of my brain.
I was more focused on my primordial instinct to stay alive.
“We actually got to the top and then I realized that I would have to go down at some point.”
The journey down was not as bad as I thought it would be and, just before my feet touched the real ground, I actually felt that I was starting to get the hang of the narrow, swaying, bucking, moving metal strips.
Covered in sweat, I finally reached earth and despite feeling like I had just stepped off of a lurching boat, I felt calm and content.
I did it!
Perhaps the next time you have a personal challenge before you – be it finding the time or energy to exercise after a busy work day, trying to establish a new healthy eating pattern, or reducing your daily sugar intake – you’ll just “go for it” and see that you will likely rise up to the challenge, and find your inner courage.
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End Note: Dr. Baumgaertel now serves patients and clients on terra firma in her own telemedicine business myMDadvocate in Seattle, Washington.