I had the pleasure of being in St. Maarten the week before my 50th birthday, which is a rite of passage I was frankly trying to avoid. It's always good to be in paradise when escaping reality, particularly the reality of aging.
St. Maarten was divine with many beach frolics and peaceful rests. But, my favorite time was spent at the hidden jungle gem, Loterie Farm.
On my way in from the airport, the driver told me about Loterie as a place for wonderful ziplining experience in the middle of a tropical jungle. We met several people who've been going to St. Maarten every year for decades, yet none had heard of Loterie Farm. The farm has a high end pool setting for lounging, a great restaurant and two bars, but all that luxury aside, what I was really thrilled about was having a jungle ziplining adventure.
As I was paying for our party to do the Fly Zone (do not be confused: they offer Fly Zone Extreme - we did not do that), I was told "You know it's not just ziplining, right? It's also an obstacle course." Nooooooooo, I didn't know that! But, I assumed we were all game, and enthusiastically signed up our group of four.
I had been considering going to Miraval Spa in Arizona for my 50th, so that I could conquer some fears and make my way into my second half of life with vim and vigor. No need: Miraval magically appeared in St. Maarten, providing a series of obstacles punctuated with an exhilarating fly through the air, as if to celebrate the previous fear conquering.
When I heard the words “obstacle course,” and had thought we might be jumping over some innocent bales of hay or climbing up a rope maybe. I had no idea we'd be walking on tight ropes poised high above the jungle floor or hopping on swinging logs, again, while looking down at a deep lush ravine.
It was terrifying for me. When I got to the other side of the first rope bridge to meet our extremely handsome, ultra-fit guide, Robert, I exclaimed how surprised I was that I was so afraid. I was sweating and shaking with adrenaline. It was embarrassing. He said "You're holding on too tight. You don't need to hold on that tight."
I took his word. Next obstacle, I did Lamaze-like breathing and repeatedly said I was letting go of my fears -- fear of dying on the high wire tightrope, fear of turning 50, fear of marriage, and other various and sundry fears that popped into my brain. At one point mid-way across the mighty thin tightrope the line started bouncing. Robert started laughing hysterically. Without looking up I screamed, trying to sound less terrified than I was, “What are you laughing at?” He asked “Are you cursing?” I screamed back “Nooooooooooooooo! I’m desperately repeating an ancient mantra praying that I don’t die on this bouncing tightrope!” He laughed even harder, which made me remember to let go, and I got across alive.
At one point, we came to the most challenging of the crosses: moving logs suspended high in the air. You had to jump from swinging log to swinging log. “Are you kidding me?” I screamed silently (yet forcefully) in my head.
Robert was standing behind me as his job as our guide on this obstacle was to make sure everyone understood how to make the crossing safely. He apparently heard my silent cry and gently put his hand on my shoulder and said “Just relax ” He brushed my shoulder twice and I was good to go. I let go of the fear -- as much as was possible -- at that precise moment and made my way across with relative ease.
The bottom line is that over the course, I let up more and more. Letting go of intense fear is not a strong internal muscle for me, but slowly, it grew stronger.
The epiphany I had during the course, was that the second half of my life is about not holding on so tight: to things, people, pictures of what my life should be like. “Don’t hold on so tight ” is a new mantra.
I had absolutely no trouble letting go with every cell of my body on the zipline runs. I screamed in absolute delight, and let every muscle relax. That was a blast. But I wasn’t at all afraid. My friend was afraid of the braking part of ziplining, so it wasn’t as fun for her. We all have our fears.
I think I enjoyed this ziplining adventure so much more because I got so much out of overcoming my fears of the obstacles. It really was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Because of it, I plan on letting go a whole lot more in life. More adventures to come.