There was mud, a lot of it. Stinky, sticky, slurpy mud that sucked off people’s shoes and clung with a desperation of an addict to legs and feet and knees if you happened to sink that far into it. There were heights – tyres and ropes and walls to be scaled. There were small spaces to crawl under, things to jump over, bars to swing upon and slides that offered a free sinus rinse if you landed with your nose close enough to the water. Yes, after three years of wine-inspired, slurred statements promising “next time, count me in”, I finally got up the courage to do one of these Army Reservist style challenges. And you know what, it was okay enough for me to say, sober and still wrangling with mud in my undies, “I’ll do it again next year.”
Worry is a funny thing isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of my one precious life worrying about things. I’d been anxiously gnawing at fingernails about this for weeks, creating narratives in my head about how hard it would be and how much of a disaster I was going to be doing it. On the morning of the great event, I was in that hyped-up space I fall into when I fly – all nervous energy ricocheting around in high pitched tones, stupid jokes and shallow breathing.
But, once we were underway, and reality took the place of the stories I had created, when the what ifs that run rampant around my head were replaced with the actual doing, everything changed. Yes, we were still running but I was keeping up. Well, I most certainly wasn’t last and those echoes from childhood memories of cross-country races and being charmingly referred to as running like a LEMAC (that’s a camel going backwards – thanks Dad) weren’t a reality. And yes, we were still going over heights that made me think WTF am I doing here, but over I went, slowly, surely and successfully. And boy, did it feel good to toss up the idea of circumventing the obstacle, slip on some brave pants and do it regardless, and land safely on the other side. Dopamine rush. Or something.
Self-help coaches by the dozen tell you to face your fears, as a pathway to overcoming them. And it sounds trite, but it really isn’t. When you walk into your fears and succeed in spite of them, your sense of capability grows and your fear of failure (death, pain, looking like an idiot and so on… you know, failure) shrink. At least, that is what I discovered about myself on this energy intensive expedition out in the mud-splattered paddock. And I suspect then, that the fears we have at an intellectual or emotional level – about taking creative risks, for example – would suffer the same fate if we were just prepared to put on some brave pants and give it a go.
The thing that made it all possible and worthwhile and fun, though, was being part of a super duper cool team of wonderful people. Together works better than alone, when you are a human (also true for most animals). Being helped, encouraged, physically lifted, checked in on – all the actions of meaningful teamwork and friendship – gave me such a buzz. Together not only works better, it feels better. It feels good to be part of a group of people who care about each other, who watch out for each other and who seek to achieve something together.
And that’s the thing I would go back for. Not the mud or the heights or showing off upper body strength (#wishfulthinking). The thing that would draw me to it again is the shared experience. The feeling of togetherness and friendship. The laughter in the recounting of the tale over red wine and chocolate, and the memories the mud created.
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