(You can read the original post here)
Recently, I attended a one day “retreat” in Israel for women with cancer. I chose to attend an afternoon session called “Etgarim” (challenges), that would take place in The Jerusalem Forest. I did not know what to expect, but it sounded like fun. Little did I know….
We drove in shifts to the forest, where there were three guides waiting for us, who would be leading the session with J, one of the psychologists from Beit Natan.
As we waited for the rest of our group to arrive, I asked D, one of the guides, about Etgarim. Etgarim began as an organization to provide physical challenges for wounded soldiers. Over time, it expanded and now offers challenges for all sorts of groups, including youth at risk, other groups with disabilities, etc. I discovered that D also had a disability — she was deaf (she spoke so clearly, that I hadn’t noticed).
When everyone arrived, we introduced ourselves. We began our first challenge by forming a human knot and working together to untangle the knot. It was challenging…. and fun!
Afterwards, J gave each of us a slip of paper and instructed us to write down one or two of our dreams; something that we would like to see in the future, that would be a turning point in our lives.
Then, we walked over to the main challenge: O.D.T. (“Out Door Training). The guides had prepared a “rope bridge” — two rows of rope, strung across four trees. With our feet on the bottom rope (approximately 1 meter above the ground), and our hands on the top rope, we would walk from one end of the bridge to the other (with safety equipment, of course).
I knew it could not possibly be as easy as it looked when the guide demonstrated how to do it. Nonetheless, I volunteered to go first. The longer I waited, the scarier it would be for me.
There were three stages of the bridge. At the end of the first section, hung a bottle into which we would deposit the notes with our dreams. We could choose to complete just the first section, or to complete all three stages. I was determined to complete all three stages.
I started all right, using my good leg to lift myself onto the ropes. As I pulled myself along, I felt the bottom rope shaking. I started laughing. L was there, and as I inched along, with the bottom rope shaking all the while, the two of us kept laughing. I felt myself falling backwards; I could not seem to find my balance and stand up straight.
I calmed myself and looked to D for guidance. D advised me to brace my legs. But with my bad hip, I could not lock my knees. When I tried, the stress on my hip was too painful.
I fought to hold back tears. I have always thought of myself as a strong woman, capable of anything. Suddenly, I could not ignore the fact that I had a physical limitation.
I looked D in the eyes, and quietly said, in Hebrew, “ani mugbelet” — I meant to say “I am limited”, but the Hebrew words also mean “I am handicapped.” As I gave voice to the words, I was struck by the second meaning. I suddenly came face to face with a truth I had been desperately avoiding.
I tried with all my strength to complete the first stage, but it was too difficult to hold myself on the ropes. I let myself down, literally and figuratively.
I did not even reach the end of the first stage, to put my note in the bottle.
I could not do it.
I stepped aside and endeavored to compose myself.
J came over and asked if I would like to try again, with her on the ropes with me. Apparently, it would be easier with someone else leading. I said yes.
After watching two or three women complete the task, I was ready to try again.
J went up first; then I lifted myself onto the ropes, again. J wanted to help me with the safety ropes, but I was capable of handling them by myself. Still, I needed more help to stand up securely. Y, one of the other guides, balanced the ropes from the other side.
This time, I completed the first stage, and was ready to go on.
Towards the end of the second stage, I seemed to be handling myself much better. Y suggested that I complete the rest of the second and third stages by myself. I agreed.
Almost as soon as Y sailed away down the ropes, I felt my balance shifting. I could not hold myself steady without her assistance. I called Y back. With Y’s help, I could do it.
At the end, as I climbed down from the rope bridge, I felt good that I had traveled the entire bridge. But I wanted to do it by myself.
When everyone had completed her turn, those women who wanted, could cross the first stage of the bridge a second time.
I really wanted to cross the bridge myself.
I pulled myself up onto the ropes.
I tried to hold myself steady, to find my balance.
I could not do it. I needed help.
Once again, I turned to Y for help.
With her assistance, I was able to cross the bridge confidently.
I was the only member of our group who needed that kind of assistance.
I was also one of the youngest members of our group.
I was also the only member of our group with metastasis (as far as I know).
I was also the only member of our group with a physical limitation.
As I mulled over my experience, I had an epiphany.
I need not feel embarrassed about needing help. I should be proud that I was able to recognize my limitations and to get the assistance I needed.
Asking for help did not mean that I failed. Rather, my ability to seek the help I needed meant that I succeeded.