When I first heard that Zen proverb, “Let go or be dragged” I couldn’t stop laughing. It immediately brought to mind two experiences that taught me that lesson with painful clarity.
My grandpa has been a tinkerer for as long as I can remember. When I was much younger I was the go-to
guinea pig beta tester for his many of his inventions.
I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina which means there were a lot of 1) trees, and 2) mountains. This is a perfect recipe for a zipline: a cable strung at an incline between two trees with a pulley attached to a handle.
Grandpa decided to make our own, so he looped one end of a cable around a tree at the top of a hill & used a “come-a-long” at the other end (about 60 feet away) to get the cable guitar-string-tight. He grabbed a pulley from his shop and we were ready for our first run in under 10 minutes from idea to execution.
Grandpa hoisted me up where I could grab the broom stick we were using as our impromptu handle. Since I was so young it seemed like the cable was a mile off the ground, but thinking back now it couldn’t have been more than 6 feet.
It was still enough to be terrifying and I loved it.
I pushed off, and gravity did the rest. Quickly.
Turns out, if there’s no slack, you wind up going much faster than your 5 year old brain could ever think possible. Almost immediately I was going too fast and I wanted to abort mission.
Here are the two best options my panic-stricken brain could come up with.
Option A: Let go, plummet to my inevitable doom, and suffer the consequences.
Option B: I could hold on and ride this thing out.
Since I’m writing this article, you know which one I went with. Option B.
The problem with Option B is that I still have 40 more feet to go even faster.
Before I realized Option B was a VERY BAD IDEA, I hit the end of the zipline. My feet flew forward in a whip-like fashion an instant before my hands were ripped from the broomstick by the merciless gods of Momentum and Inertia. I continued my forward trajectory, only now I was perfectly horizontal: arms and legs in a textbook spread eagle posture, and I was staring straight forward (which due to my new orientation was directly at the clouds & sky above).
The next thing I remember is Grandpa standing over me asking if I was ok.
Evidently when I landed the back of my head hit the ground with enough force to knock me out for a couple seconds.
Even with the prospect of massive head trauma, nothing was hurt more than my pride, so I said I was fine.
(This is one of many times I’d be rendered unconscious before the age of 8. For those of you wondering how I got to be so strange, maybe you just got your answer.)
For this one we’re at the same place, but the season has changed. It’s winter, and we’re treated to a rare surprise for North Carolina: snow.
My brother and I are going down the hill on big plastic saucers while my Mom is at the bottom of the hill to catch us.
We’ve worn a clear path in the snow, and halfway down my next slide I get an overwhelming urge to lean hard to the left. Who knows why. Whatever the reason for doing it, I’ve just veered way off course and there’s no way Mom’s going to get to me in time.
Instead of the flat spot at the bottom where I had been going, I was now heading straight towards the porch which was exactly at head level.
Here, again, is a situation where I instantly regretted my decision.
Here were my two options.
Option A: Roll off the saucer, get snow in my suit, be cold & wet, and have to go inside.
Option B: Freeze up, hold on to the saucer for dear life, neglect to put my hands up, and slam my face into the the porch at full speed knocking out teeth as well as rendering me completely non-responsive.
I went with Option B.
If you ask Mom about it, she’ll tell you my face smashing into the porch is the worst sound she’s ever heard. Kind of like a wet watermelon sound if you dropped it on concrete.
She scrambled to get me out from under there, and I’m pretty sure they took me to the hospital. Not too clear on what happens after the moment of impact.
“In The Grip Of Fear”
I used to think that saying was talking about fear as a type of entity getting a hold on you. Nowadays, however, I think more about what we do when we’re terrified.
Fear makes us hold on.
We seem to be completely unable to let go of exactly that which inevitably results in our greatest pain & suffering.
In both instances if I’d simply let go as soon as I realized I should, the outcomes would have been much less traumatic. Instead, I refused to let go, and suffered for it.
My question to you: What are you holding onto that’s hurting you the most? What do you refuse to let go of because of fear? A new year is right around the corner, and it’s the perfect time to free yourself from all that pain you’re causing yourself.
Don’t know how? I can help you avoid doing it the hard way like me.