Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On Abject Terror

I usually edit these posts to within an inch of their lives, but I'm so pressed for time I'm just jamming this out, so good luck to me...

I've joined the cadet class of corrections officers at a Texas sheriff's office.  It's been a wild ride so far & I'm completely overwhelmed.  

But what I want to tell you about is an experience I had at the end of class today.  We do some sort of PT (physical training) every day.  This might be running, calisthenics, etc.  Today we did the big obstacle course.  Not the one I qualified on.  The big one.  

The big one that seems to confront every physical weakness and phobia I have.  And I don't have many, so it was particularly diabolical.  First we had to weave ourselves over and under a bunch of large horizontal pipes that were high enough off the ground for me to need to step on something to get on it.  Exhausting and very scary.  So scary that I was shaking by the end of it, because the damn pipes just kept getting higher.  My teammates helped by literally pushing me sometimes.  

We did other scary stuff that all required excellent grip strength and upper body strength.  I don't have that stuff.  So then I was REALLY shaking.  Next we had to jump over some walls.  Now I'm not good at that, but my friend Matt taught me how to do it, so I thought I'd be fine.  NO.  With so much adrenaline coursing through me I tripped at the top & slammed face first into the ground.  Shaking harder now...the little intermediate wall, I don't know what the hell it's doing there, it's only 2 feet tall (seriously) but my body was shutting down so - you guessed it - I tripped & fell on my face again.  I wish you could have seen the look of disbelief on my instructor's face.  Strangely, the 3rd wall was not problem.  

Then we crossed other hideous obstacles.  If they were high off the ground I shook uncontrollably & did it slowly or with assistance or both.  If they were not high off the ground I was totally fine.

Then I faced my arch-enemy.  The rope wall.  Just climb this little 20-ish foot wall, clamber over the log at the top & clamber down.  I have never ascended 3 feet up a rope wall, and it's not for lack of trying (net wall?  I don't know, it's a net made of rope).

The instructor said we didn't have to do it if we didn't want to (we were already well past time to go home & I think he thought I might be having a stroke), but that just made me more determined.  Because I am stupid.  So I climbed up, got to the top and froze.  I mean I froze in terror.  Not like "no one is going to ask me to the prom" terror, but "if I fuck this up I'm going die or spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair" terror.  My instructor was up there, too, trying to talk me while I just clutched the log like a baby monkey murmuring "ohGod-ohGod-ohGod".  

So he asked me, "do you feel confident?"  My hands were occupied so I couldn't choke him. 

"No, I do not feel confident!"  He told me to go back down the way I came.  This did not compute.  No way.  

The other instructor grinned at me from the ground & said, "hey there, if you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

I thought of something my friend told me once.  I won't say here who it is, because it was a private conversation & he said not everyone appreciates hearing it.    He told me this:  nothing matters.  Sounds sad, right?  He said in 100 years we'll all be dead & nothing but a distant memory to a very few people.  In 300 years no one will ever know we, as individuals, existed.  So do what is meaningful to you right now and don't worry about what people think, don't worry about failing.  Because it doesn't matter.   I find this incredibly liberating.

So when the instructor said that, I heard my friend saying, "It doesn't matter." And I unfroze & let the instructor up there with me talk me through the rest of the exercise.  He is a very patient man.  

So, I faced my terror.  While we stood at attention for the lowering of the flags I was still shaking so hard my teeth were chattering.  I have a massive swollen green shin from where I fell at the beginning of the course.  I don't don't care, because I faced my terror. 

It may not matter, but it matters to me.

Btw, all the other cadets were incredibly supportive & cheered me on.  I overheard one guy say to another as I finished my descent, "I think I hear Eye of the Tiger playing in the background".  :)  I like these people.


  1. Hahahahahahaaaaaa! You're amazing. Sam loves you. So do I.

  2. I decree extra biscuits for Sam! xo to Joni!

  3. Parker,

    They say heroes are these "bigger than life", "no one can do what they do" figures. But, truth be told, I've met a LOT of heroes and you'd never know to look at them what they've accomplished. The REAL definition of a hero is this: Being terrified of what is ahead of you, yet facing it head on anyway. Heroes run into places others are running out of - away from burning buildings, away from the sound of gunfire, because those are terrifying and dangerous situations. Heroes run IN, they pass other people's fear, and they control their own and they do what has to be done. There's plenty of time to be scared AFTER the job is done. And when you sit down after and realize the hell you just waded into and came out of on the other side, you'll realize your true strength. So, you face your fear and you know I'm here, cheering you on, on the other side. And I'm so incredibly proud of you, and you call me if you need ANYTHING... anything at all! A hug, a laugh, a cry or just a silent, un-judging ear.

    My unyielding admiration and support,
    Cpl. Theresa Jester - APD

  4. Theresa, you are so awesome. Thank you very very much. I probably will be calling you. :) And congratulations on making Corporal, I didn't know!

  5. Thanks. Love you, girly!!

    T Jester

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