There I was… perched on a rocky ledge, in the pitch dark, deep in a Belizean cave.
My knees were bent (and trembling) and my fists were balled up in determination.
I had just spent the last two hours ducking under bat-infested stalactites, crawling on my hands and knees past scorpion spiders the size of saucers, and rappelling up a series of progressively steep waterfalls.
My only light was the beam streaming from the headlamp affixed to my helmet and the faint glow from those around me. We were told to expect bruises and bloody knees, which did nothing to calm my fears.
It had taken me more than 8 months after moving to Belize to leave my cozy little island and go explore the jungles. When the idea of a Belize retreat started materializing, I knew it was time.
I headed to Ian Anderson’s Cave Branch Resort, a haven set deep in the heart of the country I now call home. Known for artisan cheese and adventure tours, the resort rates their activities by sweat drops.
An outing to the nearby Mayan ruins is rated 1 sweat drop, a leisurely cave tubing activity is 3, and today’s waterfall rappelling expedition topped out a whopping 5 sweat drops!
The guide was shining his flashlight into the small pool of water 25 feet below my rocky perch, directing me to “jump far” and right where the light was aiming. He was shouting something else, but all I could hear was “…or you’ll bust your head on the rocks!”
So I bent my knees deeper. I balled my fists tighter. I tried again and again but I was frozen in place. I could faintly hear the people behind me shouting “Go! Jump! Just do it!” Was it encouragement or impatience?
Minutes passed and I realized that I wasn’t going to jump. I shook my head at the guide, who then hooked my harness to the rope system so I could rappel back down the waterfall the same way I had climbed up.
I swam across the small pool of water and watched as the others jumped one by one. I noticed that none of them jumped far, nor did they bust their heads on the rocks.
I felt ashamed. I had failed. I would not be getting the bravery badge that day.
Another hour passed as we made our way out of the cave. The more I thought about the fear I had just felt, the more I came to terms with what had
Regardless of whether I jumped or not, I finished the task just like everyone else!
Not only that, I…
- didn’t sustain any serious injuries (just a couple bruises)
- hung out with bats and spiders in an ancient cave deep in the jungle
- rappelled both up and down a 25-foot waterfall in the dark
- had a blast!
I also realized that my perception of the danger was far greater than the danger itself!
That happens a lot when it comes to fear. We often blow it all out of proportion. We imagine we’ll bust our heads, or be embarrassed, or fail. So we freeze.
But that’s also how we learn. We watch others who’ve done what we’re afraid of doing and we see them succeed. We observe and then we try again another day.
I’m heading back to the cave soon and this time I know I’ll jump. I just needed to observe. I needed a little practice.
What about you? What fears are keeping you stuck? Please omment below. I’d love to help you off the ledge!