“He who likes cherries soon learns to climb.” –German proverb
My friend Julie and I have one thing in common—we both don’t like heights. In all truth, I don’t really mind heights if I know I am completely safe—and I thoroughly enjoy a panoramic view from behind a protective window—but you will not catch me alive on a tall ladder.
The other day, time came for my friend to face that tall demon, when she was commissioned by a local mall to take photographs of a firework display. Excited and terrified at the same time, she worried not just at the prospect of going all the way up, but also at the terrifying thought of climbing all the way down.
Here I was, the pot calling the kettle back, encouraging her to continue her ascent and never look down; even as I wrote that, my mind spun at the mere thought of being in her place. Yet, my friend was counting on me for support, and support I was going to give. “Keep looking up,” I said sounding more assured than I felt, “even when you are climbing down.”
In the end, not only did Julie make it back down safely, but she also had a blast!
As we were writing back and forth the night before, Julie and I speculated on the possibility that our fear of heights reflects our fear of moving forward in our lives. Both of us are standing at a professional crossroads right now, where every turn can either hide a mind-blowing surprise, or a heart-breaking disappointment. As long as we lay low and close to earth, we can only get hurt a little if we stumble, but how bad could we possibly get injured, if we climb too high, too fast, and suddenly fall? Someone once said that if you have nothing you never have to worry about losing anything; similarly, if you never go up, you never have to worry about falling down; because of that, we often postpone our ascent, knowing that while we might not achieve much by remaining stuck in our safe place, we won’t lose much either.
Our problem is that as we approach our “ladder,” our thoughts are focused on our descent, rather than centering on what we will see when we make it up to the top. We invest so much energy worrying about what might happen if we fall that we often end up self-sabotaging in the desperate attempt of creating a safety net.
Julie went up and loved the view, felt proud of having finally conquered her fear and had no problems climbing back down; when it was time to descend, she allowed her body to follow the motions, but her eyes remained focused on what was above her, rather than giving in to the temptation of looking down.
Kudos to you, Julie, for setting your eyes on the stars. Why look down at how far we could fall, when we can look up and see how far we can reach?