A few years ago, I took a “stay-cation” at a time when I still had a full-time job outside the home. Because of my husband’s physical disabilities, it had become impossible for us to travel on vacation. I arranged for a substitute caregiver for a few days, and began planning daily excursions for my “stay-cation”.
One item on my bucket list was to try an obstacle and zip line course. I found a course about an hour from home and made the reservation. At the time, I was in fairly good physical condition, but it was the fear of the unknown that made me nervous. Would this 50 year old body be able to handle it? I had never done this before.
After arriving, I parked the car so I could see the main entrance. I sat in the car for a while, wishing I wasn’t alone, so someone could push me out of the car. Expecting to see young and strong athletic types walking towards the gate, I was struck at the children, teenagers and even middle age folks walking past my car towards the gate. Okay, I can do this. It was my pep talk before leaving the car.
I got to the ticket area, paid the money, and signed the release forms that my family wouldn’t sue them if I’m paralyzed or die as a result of my stupidity. So much for the pep talk. What was I thinking? The “Orientation” area was close to the ticket area, so I was sucked into the newbie line without time to re-consider. My new outfit for the day was a vinyl harness that had straps all around my body to allow my arms and legs to hang out somehow. I walked as if I had been saddled on a horse for a few days. I was assigned a loose helmet and tight fitting gloves. I wobbled to the next area to learn about how to attach myself to the overhead wires. Perched on a platform about 6 inches off the ground, I learned how to manipulate the assorted carabiners and lanyards that would always keep me attached to either a steel line or a safety line. Once I had satisfied the instructors that my knowledge was proficient, they allowed me to wobble out to start my adventure.
It was a beautiful space in the woods with trees everywhere. Steel lines, rope ladders, and platforms high above were attached to trees. People were flying on the zip lines. I studied my map. There were five different obstacle courses with several zip lines included. Each course had it’s own starting point. Course #1 was the easiest and #5 was for the Army Rangers that parachuted in. I really knew nothing about #5, except that it appeared very high, very steep, and I would never be anywhere near it. There was a reason I never saw anyone on #5. The most popular course was #3 because it was nothing but a very long zip line without obstacles. The assorted obstacles gave each course it’s level of difficulty. There were small wood steps that you had to jump or swing to, high rope ladders, and long nets to be climbed.
Despite the anxiety and fear, there is the constant reminder that you really are secure. You are constantly attached to the strong steel safety lines. Once I got accustomed to the harness and equipment, I felt much better. Of course, it also helped to see children rushing to Course #1. Not adults, but children. If nothing else, I would just park myself on Course #1 for the day, be satisfied with the accomplishment, and no one else would have to know.
The adults and children blended with each other on Course #1. There was much laughter and happy looking parents. It wasn’t high off the ground and seemed to be nothing more than a very long balance beam with a few short zip lines to gain confidence. So I repeated Course #1 several times until I felt ready to move on to the next level.
I pulled out my map to find Course #2. I found the tree with #2 on it. When I looked up the tree, there was a very high rope ladder that must be climbed to reach the starting platform. Well, that seemed a little extreme, but up the ladder I went. I walked across the shaking bridge, held on to a rope while swinging from platform to platform, climbed a very high cargo net, and rode a frightening zip line that was very high and very long. It was about half way up the cargo net that I stopped to catch my breath. There was a man several feet below me who had stopped, too. We acknowledged each other and he yelled up to me, “You’re doing really well. #4 is a lot harder than #2” I responded back to him, “I haven’t been to #4 yet”. I could hear him laughing as he yelled up to me, “This is #4!!” I sunk down into the cargo net and waited for him to catch up with me. Apparently the start of #2 and #4 originate from the same group of trees. How confusing is that? We finished #4 together and he proudly introduced me to his wife. “This is the lady that went from #1 to #4!”
There were not many people on the #4 course because it’s a hard course. #3 is the zip line only course and #2 was much easier. I had somehow managed to leave the bunny slope and work my way down the black diamond ski slope without even knowing it. When it was time to leave, I was hot, sweaty, and dripping with a new found confidence.
When I started this spousal caregiving journey, I had no idea what I was getting into. I have rolled with the punches to help my hubby. It’s been a tough journey for both of us. Many times he has inspired me and we have made it this far by working together even when it was hard. My confidence has grown in what I thought I could handle.
I still remember the joyous feeling of knowing what I had accomplished. That’s me in the pictures below. I knew that life and caregiving was hard. On that day, I returned home knowing that I was a pretty tough lady and I still had gas in the tank to face the next day. Even now, when I’m feeling tired, I look at these pictures and remember with pride what I did that day. I am a strong caregiver and with a little focus, I can do most anything!