93: Life on the Monkey Bars

93: Life on the Monkey Bars

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible

Life on the Monkey Bars

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.

~Author Unknown

I was sitting on the landing at the top of the stairs, my heart pounding. I didn’t know how I was going to make the next rent payment and the bills were piling up. I was ready to give up, but then I thought about the little girl sleeping soundly in the room next to me. I couldn’t leave her. Not now. Not ever. I thought about her own spirit and a memory came back to me.

“Don’t let go Mommy, hang on tight,” yelled my daughter as I hoisted her on my shoulders to help her travel through the bars one by one. After the third round through the course, I felt a sudden numbing pain in my neck, so I decided it was finally time to teach my little five-year-old how to use the monkey bars on her own.

“No Mommy, no, I’m scared,” she cried.

“You’re scared because you don’t know how to fall,” I told her. Her little forehead wrinkled and her tiny brows came together in the way they always did when she thought Mommy was off her rocker just a little bit.

I continued, “If you learn how to fall, then you’ll realize it wasn’t so bad, so you won’t be so scared to go through it. Look, let me show you.” I jumped up on one of the bars and felt all of my 175 pounds pulling me towards the ground. I didn’t realize how much more difficult it was to hang on with all the weight I was carrying, but I made an attempt to demonstrate. My fingers slipped off the bar, and I landed on my feet with a slight crouch to maintain my balance, arms extended in front of me.

“Let me try!” she shrilled with the eagerness of a five-year-old.

“You’re smaller than I am, so I’m gonna keep my arms out in case you need to grab them on the way down,” I assured her.

“No, Mommy! I want to do it on my own,” she said with a pout, crossing her arms and stamping her foot.

She climbed the rungs and reached for the first bar. “Go ahead,” I prompted, “throw your heart into it and your body will follow.”

“I’m gonna fall… I’m gonna… Mommy… hold me!” she cried. I wanted to run to her, but I didn’t move a muscle. I could feel the piercing stares of a group of mommies who were watching.

“You can do it. Let go if you have to and try to land on your feet.”

Her hand slipped and she landed with a thud. She looked at me as if waiting to see what I was going to say. I heard some of the moms gasp and could only guess that their stares had now turned into glares. My thoughts raced: Was I a bad mother for letting her do that? Did they think it was child abuse? Was I going to be reported to CPS? Would they feel the same if she were a boy?

“Great job!” I cheered. “Was it that bad?”

“No, Mommy,” she said with excitement as she dusted the wood chips off her backside.

“That’s fantastic, sweetheart,” I said. “And now that you know how to fall and pick yourself up, get back up again and start moving forward by swinging from one arm to the other. You just have to keep going.”

“Okay, Mommy, but go away this time and let me try it on my own.”

I resisted the urge to help once more and she swung herself with great fervor, her little hands moved from one bar to the next. She made it halfway when she called out, “Look, Mom! Look! Watch me… I’m gonna fall.”

She beamed and I ran to her and swung her around.

“I did it! I did it!” she cried.

“You sure did, sweetheart! I’m so proud of you! You showed so much courage.”

The memory was just what I needed. I stopped crying, got up from that landing at the top of the stairs and went to bed. Life hadn’t turned out the way I planned. I had thrown my whole heart into a marriage that left me questioning my own self-worth and abilities. I had to embrace the challenge that life had given me, allow myself to fall, dust myself off, get back on that bar and keep going.

Tomorrow would be another day to try again… to put one hand in front of the other and keep moving forward.

~Jax Cortez

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