This is a story about St. Lucia, and yet it's not. It's the most significant story from our vacation, but it is only partially about the vacation.
I hate to keep repeating my sob story for my regular readers, but since there are always new people stopping by I feel like I have to give a little background so they're not wandering around Twenty Four At Heart saying, "Huh? Wha?" all the time.
So here it is for my newbie readers in as brief of a recap as I can make it. I was in a bad car accident three years ago. I've been in therapy to recover use of my right/dominant arm for nearly three years now and I've undergone 5 surgeries along the way. It was a life altering event, but I'm doing better and making progress … although I won't ever regain full use of my arm. End of sob story —
Once upon a time BCA (Before Car Accident) I had a real life like most of you do. I didn't spend all my time at rehab being forced to do terrible things by The Torturer (my physical therapist). I enjoyed a lot of activities and adventures I've had to put aside. Not only did I enjoy doing a lot of things I can no longer do, but like everyone else I also had hopes and plans for a lot of adventures in my future.
Shit happens and I've found myself caught up in trying to accomplish previously simple tasks like opening a door, or brushing my hair and hopes and plans have had to be put aside. I guess I've trained myself to stop hoping, to stop planning, and to just take each day as it comes.
But BCA there were things I planned to do. Sometimes memories of those plans flicker in my consciousness no matter how hard I try to suppress those hopes and dreams.
One thing I've always wanted to do is zip line in a rain forest. From the very first time I heard about zip lining I've wanted to do it with every ounce of my being. Crazy, huh? I mean, I'm afraid of falling out of airplanes, I don't like heights … it makes no sense.
And yet ….
I knew before we left on our trip that the island of St. Lucia had a rain forest.
I also knew there were zip lining tours.
Hope flickered. I tried to force it to subside. It wouldn't. I mentally explained to myself that it simply was not something I should ever, ever, think about again.
I wasn't in St. Lucia for 24 hours before I was inquiring about the zip lines. I informed Briefcase it was something I'd love to do, something I knew I couldn't do, and then I went and signed both of us up to go anyway.
Sometimes I'm insane. I know that.
Some zip line harnesses only require you to be belted in, seated, hold on to a handle and go. This was not the case in St. Lucia and I knew that going in.
This was my guide. He explained to me in no uncertain terms that my dominant arm would be the most important factor in getting me safely across the zip lines. (Some of which were 150 feet above the forest floor.) I didn't tell him about my arm. I didn't tell him about the car accident. I knew he would not allow me on the zip lines if I did.
He explained to me my dominant arm needed to be raised over my head and then thrust behind me on the line as far as it would go. This is the hand that would guide me, prevent me from spinning, straighten my path when needed and brake for me as I approached each of the 19 platforms.
If my dominant arm did not perform all of these actions correctly I could get stuck out on the line somewhere and have to pull myself to the next platform. He showed me how this is done and it requires two working arms with enough strength to pull your own body weight. He asked me if I understood. He must have used the term dominant arm a bazillion times while explaining all this to me.
I said yes. At the same time I realized if I got stuck out on a line I would be there for eternity or until I dropped to the forest floor. If I got stuck, I was fucked.
My dominant arm does not work. It does not reach over my head and it certainly does not go behind me. I'm completely uncoordinated with my non-dominant left hand and my left arm is weak in comparison to the strength my right arm had BCA.
(As an aside, can I just take a minute to mention here that it was at least 8,000 degrees in the rain forest? And also, it rained in the rain forest regardless of the heat. Just sayin' … that shit ain't normal in Orange County, California.)
A lot of people take cameras zip lining. I couldn't because of the whole one working arm thing. Instead, I've googled some pictures of the exact same zip lines I was on to show you what it's like.
We started at The Love Shack where we got fitted for harnesses and safety equipment. I don't know why it's called The Love Shack and I don't think I want to know.
There was a lot of hiking, climbing and walking over scary bridges to get to the high platforms. This might be where I mention, I'm a 5th generation Californian and I'm not even slightly accustom to humidity. Sweltering. Humidity.
There were long cables reaching out across and through the rain forest from platform to platform.
Do not look down, do not look down, do not look down!
I watched other people go before me. This next photo is from a brochure so the quality is crap. It does show you what my arms were supposed to be doing during zip lining though.
What the hell was I thinking?
I was bullshitting – that's what I was doing. I was not telling anyone about my arm, I was telling the guide I could absolutely do everything that would be required and my heart was pounding out of my chest in absolute terror because I was about to die.
But … I did it! I DID IT!!
Can you hear me screaming out loud, beating my fists against my chest? I zip lined with one working arm and I didn't die!
I used my left arm as my "dominant" arm. I kept my right arm at my side. I suppose what I need to learn is that my left arm now IS my dominant arm. It's not very coordinated or strong, but I managed and it's the best I've got.
I did have one mishap. I'm sure you're shocked to hear that, aren't you?
On one of the longer runs I started to spin. I used my left hand to make the correction and I over corrected. I began to spin in the opposite direction. I corrected again and straightened out. The problem was, the act of correcting the spins slowed me down just enough to make me stop short of the landing platform.
I was dangling in the air with nowhere to go.
There was a guide right there, maybe six feet away on the platform yelling at me to turn backwards and pull myself towards him.
It didn't seem like the appropriate time to tell him about my arm. I spun myself backwards. I dangled. My heart pounded. I refused to look down. I thought about my options. I used my left arm to lift my right arm high enough to clasp on to the bottom cable in front of me. All I wanted was for that hand to steady me. I pulled myself back towards the platform an inch or two with just my left arm. I paused. I took a deep breath, and then I repeated the same painstakingly slow action again. And again and again.
The guide was yelling at me about poor form and using both arms and blah, blah, blah! I tuned him out. Inch by inch I made my way towards the platform pulling with just my left arm. My heart pounded and sweat drenched me as I gradually, incredibly slowly, made progress.
I tuned out the guide, but I couldn't tune out my thoughts. How ironic, really? Dangling and in danger of falling. In danger of being stuck right there forever. The palpable fear, and the painstakingly slow progress towards my goal.
Just like my accident. Just like the last three years.
When I was three feet from the platform, the guide lunged and grabbed me, pulling me to safety.
"What the hell was that?" he asked. "Were you trying to free-form it, or what?"
I couldn't keep the smile off my sweat drenched face.
"I did it!" I exclaimed. "I made it!"
I think he was completely floored at my euphoria. I gave his arm a squeeze with my left hand and said, "This is great. I love it!"
He stared after me, puzzled, as I headed towards the next line.
There are no words to express what this experience meant to me. This was so much bigger than the actual event of zip lining. I know it probably sounds ridiculous and corny to many of you, but this was the single biggest triumph I've had since my car accident.
This was a huge accomplishment. This was a dream I'd given up on … come true.
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