50: No More Standing on the Sidelines

50: No More Standing on the Sidelines

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

No More Standing on the Sidelines

Live life with no excuses, travel with no regret.

~Oscar Wilde

“How about Alaska?” my husband asked as he filled our mugs. Oh wonderful! They’d want to climb every mountain and search out brown bears in their natural habitat. Another vacation where I would get to watch everyone else have fun.

It was a long overdue trip we had promised to take with his father and sister. Saying “yes, one day we will” was easy when we first said it so long ago. Secretly, I’d hoped the day would never come. I loved them to bits, but I just didn’t share their passion for the rugged outdoors. Bruce’s family had camped in every state park between California and New York. They were adventurous travelers, hiking and sleeping in tents on the cold, dirty, bug-infested ground. I shuddered at the thought.

I took a sip of coffee as Bruce slid a glossy brochure across the table. Reluctantly, I picked it up. A cruise to Alaska? The ship was elegant with wide, marble staircases, glass elevators, luxurious staterooms, and plenty of amenities. I could just imagine the wonderful spa treatments, fine dining, and moonlit strolls around the deck. At last, a vacation I could enjoy! But I found it hard to believe his family was willing to spend seven days aboard this floating paradise.

I waited for him to throw his head back, laugh and say, “Just kidding.” He probably wanted to rent a motorhome and travel hours to some awful campground, miles from any form of civilization where they could forage and fish and cook over a campfire. But he remained silent as I turned the pages, marveling at majestic snow-capped mountains, dazzling blue waters, and the regal glaciers Alaska is famous for.

“Okay,” my eyes narrowed as I folded my arms across my chest, “what’s the catch?”

“There is no catch,” he said, hesitantly. “Except…”

“I knew it!” I slapped the table. “Except what?” My lips drew together in a thin line as I waited for him to explain.

“Except for the excursions.” He turned to the computer where his fingers tapped across the keyboard. “Look at this.”

ZIPLINE THE RAINFOREST OF ALASKA! flashed across the monitor. I watched in horror as throngs of tourists made their way high up into the canopy of trees. People below looked like ants, and the river like a strand of spaghetti. My stomach grew queasy. I could barely handle a Ferris wheel. One by one, each person was strapped into a harness where they hung suspended over a great chasm, and then hurtled across at lightning speed.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I snapped. “I’ll wait back on the ship! I can find plenty to do that’s safer than that.”

“C’mon, Sue. I want you to zipline with me. Just this one excursion, that’s all.

I won’t ask you to do anything else. Please, honey?” He fixed me with his sad, puppy-dog eyes.

“Bruce, don’t look at me that way. You know I can’t do that! It looks dangerous! What if the cable snaps?” I couldn’t watch another minute. I went to rinse my cup, put on a fresh pot, and start breakfast.

“It’s not dangerous at all! I researched it. I can’t find even one accident.” He got up and put his arms around me. “Come on, honey. Please. Dad and Christine said they would go, but it won’t be the same without you.”

I wriggled out of his bear hug and started cracking eggs like crazy, whisking them into a froth. I hated saying no to him, and even more I hated the fear that held me back. I was tired of standing on the sidelines as Bruce and the kids rode every roller coaster in the amusement park. I felt left behind as I shot video from the safety of the beach as the family jetted by on water skis, a huge wake trailing foam behind them. And forget about parachuting from an airplane. I was so scared, I could barely hold the camera. My stomach rolled just remembering the bunch of them somersaulting in the blue sky, with puffy white clouds behind them.

Bruce, his family, and the kids always had a blast while I watched. I was tired of being a tag-along, the one too frightened to do anything. Maybe it was time for that to change. My heart clanged in my chest just to consider the possibility of ziplining, but at the same time, there was a tiny seed of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could do this thing. If only…

And that is how I found myself shivering on a crude wooden platform in the middle of an Alaskan rainforest higher than I had ever been. An eagle flew by. That’s how high up I was.

I trembled as the tour guide clamped a helmet on my head and tightened the strap. “Okay, let’s get you settled in the harness,” he said. My body felt leaden as he strapped me in. My eyebrows drew together in fierce concentration as he told us how to use the hand brake.

“Relax,” he encouraged. “No worries.” Then he gave me a shove that sent me zooming across the broad expanse.

As I hurtled through the air, the wind whistled. I opened my scrunched-up eyes and was captivated by the breathtaking view of mountain, sky and river. I let go of a scream that rang out and resounded in my clunky helmet. I relaxed my grip on the line and threw my arms over my head in wild abandon, like I’d seen my kids do on the roller coaster, laughing wildly just like them. Next thing I knew, I was on the other side. I barely had time to squeeze the brakes, but I made a perfect landing on the platform. It was pure exhilaration. I pumped my fist in the air. I did it!

The rest of the day, everywhere we went, I smiled at everyone, basking in my triumph. I’d finally conquered my fear! I felt like a different person, one who was ready to face new challenges and even look forward to them.

The next morning, I was up bright and early. Bruce tracked me down at the excursion desk. “What are you doing?” he asked, looking totally bewildered.

“Signing up for activities,” I beamed. “If I don’t get our names on the list, we’ll miss out. There’s whale watching, salmon fishing, dog sledding. Oh, my gosh, there’s so much to do.” I piled the stack of brochures into his hands. From then on, I planned on being an active part of the family. No more standing on the sidelines! Never again.

~Susan A. Karas

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