Getting faced by your fears

“This is really weird!” That exclamation was me, standing on what had been described as a giant tennis racket. What looked like fishing line but I had been assured was aircraft cord with a seven-fold weight allowance over the posted 4 human at a time limit, woven together in a net suspended about a foot under a black box, grid-mounted lighting rig. Not coincidentally, also suspended about 25 feet above a set of stadium seats and a sprung floor.

“Well, you stepped out onto it smiling, so that’s a plus.” The tour guide quipped as I paced back and forth, wandering around on a cloud, sort of.

Anyone who remembers my adventure with ziplining (and if you don’t, feel free to check it out here) will remember that heights and I have been known to have the odd disagreement.

A couple of months ago, I decided to start volunteering in a local theatre. Along with other prospective volunteers, I toured the theatres, the house, backstage, the lobbies. “And this is our lighting rig” a volunteer coordinator gestured skyward at a grid of fishing line rather a long way above the sprung floor we were all standing on, “if you’re interested in the backstage crew, you’ll be crawling all over this thing in September.”

I just about fainted.

Shortly after that, in the interview, (the amount of bureaucratic hoop-jumping that had to be completed in this process is a story for another, more patient day) the same coordinator asked how I felt about heights.

I’m hoping I neither turned green nor sprouted an abnormally long and cylindrical nose when I said I wasn’t really sure. “I haven’t really got any experience with dealing with lighting rigs in work position, for instance.” True, since I’d pointedly avoided lighting workshops involving ladders with more than three steps. “I can certainly change a lightbulb at home. I’m okay with that height.” True-ish. When I have a burned out light bulb at home, it’s kind of like when I have a large, many legged critter scurrying across the floor. Can I deal with it? Absolutely. Am I prone to whining like a small child if there’s someone around who could deal with it instead? Absolutely.

“Can you stand on a balcony in an apartment building?” I tried (and may or may not have succeeded) not to audibly heave a sigh of relief as I nodded.

The interviewer smiled. “Then you should be fine. And I have to say, you’re exactly the kind of person we want to have on our volunteer crew.”

I’d like to say that (sort of) voluntarily going flying off a cliff in a climbing harness, and then going back for seconds patched things up between me and heights. It didn’t. It did, however, reinforce that really useful lesson I try so hard to remember: that being scared shitless of doing something is, on its own, absolutely no reason not to do it.

So as snippets of my inner monologue escaped my grin and I tried to keep my knees from turning into jello before I got to the other side, I walked around and across the tennis racket. I didn’t give myself time to worry about whether I was going to do it or not, I marched up to the gate, opened it, and walked through.

It was only when I got to the other side that I realized I was still standing on metal grating. I grinned. I felt entirely secure, after all, the floor was no longer mushy.

The ladder was a different matter entirely.

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