July 26, 2007

Just Like Riding A Bike

You must do the things you think you cannot do.
-Eleanor Roosevelt
When I was 18, and fresh out of high school, I went on a once in a lifetime trip to Europe with one of my best friends. While on a whirlwind, 24 hour, stop in Paris, we were able to make it to the Eiffel Tower. This petrified of heights girl, managed to ride the glass elevator to the top without squealing for her momma. Once at the top though, I was completely satisfied to stay inside the observation booth. Secure in glass and steel. Bek however, walked freely around the top and out to the edge to enjoy the amazing view. The fact that nothing but a simple
chain link fence
separated her and certain death did not seem to phase her in the slightest.

I'll admit a bit jealousy. To be free of fear, and not feel like gravity itself is conspiring to pull you over the edge, would be amazing.

Once she enjoyed her little tour, she came into the booth and goaded taunted dared encouraged me to walk out around the outer deck. I'm not sure how she did it. We were a little old for double dog dares, but somehow she threw down the gauntlet, and I was not going to let her win. I slipped out the door, plastered myself against the wall (several feet from the edge) and inched my way around to the other side.

I didn't carry home any Eiffel Tower snowglobes or miniatures from that trip, there was no need. The memory itself is the treasure. For many people up there that day, they simply enjoyed the view. I, however, enjoyed a sense of accomplishment that has carried with me years later.

Yesterday I was faced with a similar choice. But this time, I'm a long way from 18, and it wasn't my best friend teasing me. Instead, it was looking into the serious eyes of my seven year old when she realized mommy was scared.

We're on vacation this week (thus the lack of postage going on here). Yesterday we spent most of the day at a children's science center. As soon as we walked through the door, and she saw the incredible sky bike hanging 2 stories up, she was hooked. "I wanna do THAT!" We made our way up there, and for some crazy reason, I thought I'd do it with her. I mean really, it's a science center. They have things like physics and Newton to support why it all works.

So first she hopped on, and rode like a pro.

You can imagine where this little story is leading. Approximately 15 seconds after I hopped on, and was strapped in, I hopped right back off mumbling "I can't, I just can't". Nuh, uh. Nope. No Way was I going out there on that thing. The friendly operator tried to help me, but he was no Bek. "Just go out a little bit ... there's a net under you. It's perfectly safe."

No dice.

We moved on, visited the planetarium, ate lunch, and explored some more. All the while, it's gnawing at me.


I decided I'd go for it again, but once I finally mustered up the courage, the exhibit had temporarily closed. I determined that if it opened again before we left, I'd do it. I wanted my daughter to see me face my fears and I wanted to walk away with no regrets. 3:30 That was the next opening. We walked around finishing up and it was almost time. I looked up and a small line had started to form. This was it, I'm going for it. I marched off to the elevator. I can do this! Behind me I heard "Mom! Hold on! I'm going with you." Hand in hand, we got in line.

She went first, "so I can show you how to do it, mom." Such a sacrificial girl she is. wink. I'm sure there wasn't any self-serving motivation in that. ahem. And then I was up. "I'm gonna do it this time." I told the operator who had helped me before. "I know you don't believe me, but I will." He didn't say a word. He didn't crack a smile. He just buckled me in, and stood back. Slowly I backed out of the stall, stopping each time I felt it tip in the slightest. Palms sweaty. Stomach knotted. Somewhere below I heard Ben and my mother-in-law cheering me on, but there was NO WAY I was going to look down at them. About a fourth of the way across, I felt I had accomplished enough of my goal, and headed back. I pulled back in, took the first real breath I'd taken in the last couple of minutes, and said "I did it!" The operator smiled big and said, "That was a lot farther than last time." Practically skipping down the stairs to my beaming seven year old, I threw my arms around her. By the smiles from some in the crowd around us, it was clear they understood that this had been a bit difficult for me. I stopped short of kissing the ground. I figured I had humiliated myself enough for one day.

And with that, we headed home. Once again, I left with no regrets and a sense of self-satisfaction. But this time I also left with a life lesson for my daughter as well as some video evidence. Enjoy. :D