|In the caves after the spiral staircase...|
It's been 2 weeks, 2 days of sleeping in a treehouse, 3 days of downpours and rubber boots, one night of sleeping in the Portland Zoo and 3 opportunities to pet a) a ball python b) an endangered tortoise c) a bearded dragon. I did it all.
But one thing really made me nervous... going into the caves of Oregon.
Yes, it's been a wild two weeks.
To the confessional--
I confess I try to be a brave warrior daily, but honesty, there's a lot I'm afraid of.
Sometimes I'm afraid to tell people certain things because I've been hurt before. Mostly by women I thought wanted the best for me, but when I shared the thing I needed to talk about, I could tell they got a good dose of schadenfreude.
Sometimes being a human is getting knocked down by other humans.
Sometimes being a human is getting knocked down by your own fears.
Like going into those caves. If you every wanted to discuss claustrophobia, the caves would not be the place to do.
As I walked further and further into the caves, ducking under small spaces, my head told me I needed to get out. It told me I could get stuck in here, there could be an earthquake. I was in the belly of the whale (and yes, there is an area in the caves called Belly of the Whale as well as Dante's Inferno and one named after Satan...these are not names to warm one's heart).
But I pressed on telling myself my fear was only in my head.
We hiked up 28 stories of steps, some carved in rock, some manmade. The cave was cold and slippery and dark; it was also beautiful. I told myself to focus on the beauty. There is beauty everywhere, you are lucky to get this opportunity... I said to myself as I went deeper and deeper in and my head told me that this was too much for me, this was too small of a space, too deep in the earth.
Our guide, George, who was a sweet Southern man, checked on me knowing how nervous I was. He kept me out of my head and in the moment.
When we got to this steep spiral staircase, George told a story about a man in the cave, a long drop and a rope. I zoned out. I could feel the tears in my eyes, and finally I got tired of holding them in. While he talked, I cried. And when he was done with his story, I was done with my tears, and oddly, I felt better.
For the rest of the hike, I felt good. Better than good. Alive and okay that I was stuck in a cave for another 45 minutes. I even climbed to Paradise Lost--a steep narrow staircase that led me up to this cave platform about 50-60 feet up. If the cave had a resting place near heaven, I was in it.
I finished the cavewalk and went for a mile hike up the mountain I had just been inside of feeling thankful to be back on top of the earth. I had felt the fear and moved on.
I realize to be a good writer, you have to risk that vulnerability, even when you're not writing about personal subjects, you have to risk something every time you write.
Being vulnerable has been making the rounds lately. Like these smart quotes from Brene Brown:
I've just started reading her book: Daring Greatly (How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead)
When we write, we need to present with the paper and the words. We need to write the things we are afraid to write.
Most of our fears are in our head. When we're afraid of being hurt (physically, emotionally, spiritually), we don't show up. We retreat. We hold back.
I realize while I am not always a brave warrior I do try, and have learned that I will heal.
I would rather push through the fear, deal with the pain, then not try. It's not fun being afraid of your own life.
"I think being vulnerable feels dangerous, and I think it feels scary, and I think it is terrifying," she says. "But I don't think it's as dangerous, scary, or terrifying as getting to the end of our lives and wondering, what if I would have shown up?"
That is my biggest fear, more than being hurt. That I won't do something for fear of how I will be seen or judged, fear I won't speak up because it's easier to stay quiet. The fear I will not try...
Since I confess I'm still working on all this, I'll end with her quotes:
~~ So what are you afraid to do? (Anonymous posts welcomed...)
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