This month’s theme is, “Yes, I can!”
When I remember my foray into the Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park, I have a very distinct image of myself leaping across a bottomless cravass, arms flung wide, wind in my hair, sailing joyfully through the breeze.
This is NOT how I looked though. I’m 100% positive of that.
In real life, when faced with a gap between two rust colored boulders, I made it across, essentially carried by my sister’s fiance, while reaching frantically for my sister’s outstretched hands, with cheeks damp from tears, and a behind covered in dust…decidedly less glamorous.
You may be asking, “Um, Erica, how did grungy real-life terror translate into the effervescently confident leap of your imagination??” “Did you actually hit your head on one of those rocks?!”
I faced my fears, so in my understanding, I was soaring!
The Back Story:
Moments before crossing what I call a bottomless crevasse, I found myself sitting in fear, repeatedly sobbing, “I can’t do it”…and perhaps even flinging my arms at my sister and her fiance as they offered help.
To provide context, I am scared of heights. I’m not talking, like oh gosh, I’d never go skydiving. I mean, others need to climb the eight foot stepladder to place the star on the Christmas tree for me. I also have a bum leg, which amplified the potential danger of landing wrong on the other sloping side of the small gorge.
My family had also learned earlier in the week that the NPS means serious business when identifying an excursion as difficult, and at that moment, I was two thirds of the way through an “extremely difficult, non-ranger-lead hike”for which my family had just sat through a mandatory safety and environmental awareness video.
The beginning of the hike was a fascinating step into a side of nature none of us had ever really experienced. Life in these canyons thrives in a delicate and harshly beautiful echo system. We were all thrilled by the unique discoveries and views at every turn.
The Fiery Furnace had also presented several challenging moments, requiring us to scramble over sandpaper boulders and shimmy through canyons narrower than some of my purses, all while experiencing the very definition of baking in the desert sun.
We were a good bit more than halfway through the unmarked (of course, it was unmarked, why make this easier?) trail when I reached the crevasse, a fissure wider than my laptop between two mammoth boulders. A rust colored wall rose up to the right, and to my left, the boulders curved into the darkness of an abyss, presumably several stories deep.
I froze, pretty literally petrified. I went through every emotion, stubbornly insisting I was going back the way I came. However, though everyone else tried to reason through it, I knew turing around wasn’t an option with no trail markers and less than an hour till sunset. My parents, sister, and her fiance had already carefully taken wide steps over to the awaiting boulder. I couldn’t get across to meet them though. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. Surrounded by everyone urging me onwards, I still could not and breathlessly insisted on this as I sat ugly crying on scorching stone with terrifying images of the result of a single misstep racing through my mind.
Several moments of sheer panic passed, and I realized that I had to move forward. It was a simple fact. Back wasn’t a real option and neither was spending the night in untamed wilderness, so I stood up. I willed my legs to stop shaking and allowed for Dean to steady me as my sister waited to pull me toward her.
It was a horrible experience.
I have never been so excited to see civilization (our lone rental car in a deserted parking lot) after rounding the last turn.
However, this experience challenged me to see that I can do far more than I sometimes give myself credit for, and I have been able to carry the lessons of this moment into other areas of my life.
My bet is that you too can hardly imagine what you can do when you stop sitting in fear. The best path forward may not even be clear cut; both directions could be fraught with frightening difficulties, but sometimes, you just have to choose one anyway. Then as you are being as strong as you can be, accept some help too…you may even be surprised to find who is around to help you.
Even when you can’t easily say, “Yes, I can”…try!
You’ll see that you can do so much more than you expect! You may even feel like you’re flying afterwards, and that’s what you’ll remember later!