On a gloriously spring-like day, I pulled into the main parking lot of the gorgeous building that was situated at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. My heart was filled with excitement to be meeting my friend for lunch and to be experiencing this particular location of a world-renowned seafood restaurant.
Driving through the parking lot, I discovered there was not even one open space. Unsure of what to do, I drove around again in a different direction, not really thinking a space would open up, but hoping I would be guided to somewhere to park. This different turn around the lot put me at a different angle so I noticed a small road exiting the lot on the opposite side I had entered the lot. This road was a bridge, crossing a wide creek that becomes a raging body of fast-moving water during spring run-off, but that day the water was a mere trickle here and there.
I’m not a fan of bridges. I can cross them with a gasp and nothing more if they are spanning large chasms of land, but if there is water under them, I’m none too happy to do so and often break out in a sweat with my heart racing and mouth dry. During any movie where the apocalypse begins with an earth-shattering earthquake and they show the cars that are stranded on the breaking bridge and sliding into the icy, deep waters beneath them, I very nearly pass out.
Luckily, trees surrounded this particular driving bridge and this made it possible for me to pretend that it was only a road, not a bridge. Besides, it was only was two car lengths long so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Right? Right!
I crossed that bridge without so much as a flutter of my heart and pulled into one of the many available parking spaces. I turned off my car, gathered my stuff, and exited the car, basking in the 60-degree morning. With my purse weighing heavily on my shoulder, I stared at the gaping chasm in front of me. I was faced with a choice: walk all the way around this massive parking lot and the parking lot on the other side of the driving bridge – the longer and least scary route – or walk the few steps to the walking bridge and cross there to exit nearly at the front door of the restaurant – the much shorter and completely terrifying route.
I literally stood there for five minutes debating with myself. I had the time to walk around because I had arrived much earlier than expected. I could do the long route without a problem. However, something about the pedestrian bridge was calling to me. I was breathless with fear and not at all certain I would be able to make it completely across the suspended bridge. Part of me feared I would get to the center, freeze, and be stranded there until I died.
This is the year, I reminded myself, that you’ve chosen to do that which scares you, to do things differently, to step FULLY into your power.
Sighing, I timidly approached the bridge. Ironically, two towering columns of stone flanked the bridge entrance and between them were five steps to climb prior to entering the bridge itself. Those five steps were the most difficult steps I have ever had to scale, but I did it quickly, knowing that if I stalled, I would chicken out.
At the top of the steps, I breathed deep, studying the structure of the bridge. At first glance, the illusion was it was merely a rope and wood bridge with metal slats covering the walking surface. I nearly turned around and ran away screaming. Then I looked more closely. It was a strong suspension bridge, held together by ropes of steel that could easily have held three people abreast. I knew it wasn’t going to ever break in my lifetime. It was built to outlast humans. That didn’t, however, ease my fears.
I was alone there, at the top of the steps, with both parking lots miraculously vacant of pedestrians. I had the bridge to myself and the opportunity to face into my fears without an audience. I felt a little bit of relief about that, given that I imagined myself succumbing to tears mid-bridge, clinging to the suspension bands tightly, and wailing out loudly as I crab-walked the rest of the way to safety.
With a deep breath, I placed my foot upon the bridge and… lived! Step after step after step, I breathed and stepped, breathed and stepped. I took the time to experience the sensations in my body, as I looked at the bridge. I found myself feeling grateful and marveling at the minds that had designed the bridge. It suddenly became the most miraculous thing I had experienced in a long time.
Then it began swaying with my steps. I was mid-bridge, at the lowest-dipping part and it was moving very discernably with my every movement. I wanted to stop, but I knew that I was halfway in – either way, it was the same distance for me to cross to get off the bridge. Keep going forward, Angie.
I wanted to run, actually. However, the movement of the bridge made it so I had to time my steps perfectly lest I teeter over the edge. Slow and steady was my only choice and every step of the way required a big breath and a pep talk. When I made it to the other side and found my feet planted on solid ground, I nearly whooped! with celebration of my accomplishment.
At lunch, my friend revealed she had faced the very same decision and we decided, on the way back to our cars, we were going to be much less scared and cross the bridge together. Everything is better with friends. Right? Nope! It was an entirely different experience because there were now two bodies on the bridge and the noticeable movement began nearly immediately!
She went first and I stepped on the bridge about five steps behind her. If I didn’t pace my steps to perfectly match hers, I was tossed about like a plastic bag on the wind. At one point, I felt myself silently squealing (I may or may not have squealed out loud) and clinging to the suspension band that was so thick, I couldn’t get my fingers all the way around it. I found myself looking at the rocks below, feeling as though I had narrowly missed being pitched over the edge.
My friend was continuing on, not looking back – I’m guessing that was a survival tactic on her part – and I had a choice: stay there, stuck in fear, and staring at the rocks below or make a move in one direction or the other. Truth is, I was still close to the edge that was by the restaurant and I did consider going back the way I had come and walking all the way around the two parking lots. Then I remembered the jubilation I had experienced when I had completed the crossing the first time. Think of how great it will be to complete this with the added element of balancing yourself in your own space, as she balances herself in hers.
And, suddenly, my feet were moving and I was laughing. We got to the other side and cheered for ourselves. I truly felt victorious!
Because I have recently been unhappy with the results of my choices and the way my life has shaped up, I have decided it was time to try new things. I have committed to doing things I haven’t done before, taking challenges head on, stepping up and moving forward. I have made a conscious choice to stretch myself, get up in front of groups, speak, teach, and lead. I have chosen to reach out to life, grasp it, and create what I want to live.
Crossing that bridge twice in one day – the second time being more terrifying than the first because of the presence of a partner with which I got to practice staying in my own lane and balancing myself independently – was a classic example of me facing into my own fears and going forward anyway. It gave me a visceral experience of choosing to do what I may have thought was impossible – or fatal. It was the chance to be really brave and feel what it felt like to be brave in my body.
When was the last time you faced your fears and crossed the bridge anyway?
© Angie K. Millgate 02/16/14
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