50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year – Recap

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With Dawn Nelson at the Polar Bear Swim – blame her, she started all of this!

The dust is starting to settle after my birthday and the completion of 50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year. I’ve heard congratulations from many of my friends, and even people I don’t know. I’ve heard of how my adventures have inspired others to try new things, and even some people planning their own list of crazy things before a significant birthday. It’s amazing how we can have an affect on people just by being ourselves, and sharing our lives.

In the past year I faced some of my fears head on. Think dating… and trapeze school! I may not have conquered them, but I stared them down and made them just a little smaller, and a little less powerful. Each time I try something that fear monster will keep getting smaller – I definitely confirmed that in the past year.

The Scream

The Scream

I did things in the past year that were just silly, or spontaneous like driving to Kelowna to do an escape room, or getting my nose pierced with Krista, Monica, and Jody – I definitely didn’t see that coming. These are the things we hear about and think, “Gee, that sounds like fun…” but then we get to busy and never do them. I’m happy to say I did them… and more! What I discovered is looking at the world in a certain way becomes a habit. If I saw the opportunity for adventure I usually took it, and I put it out there for others to join me. The cool thing is, they often jumped at it, and then we were all a little more spontaneous or silly.

When I went back to Meadow Lake, SK, in the summer with my mom I went back to the place where I was born. It doesn’t sound like a big deal. It’s not like I was born somewhere exotic. But I’d thought about it for so many years and found all kinds of lazy reasons not to do it. We went, and it was a good thing for both of us, facing the past and the future. I’m so glad we took the time to go.

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I did some things alone, and they were magical. I hiked the Berg Lake Trail, having never done an overnight backpack before. I spent time with myself and discovered not only a beautiful outer landscape but a special inner one as well.

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On the Berg Lake Trail – my first glacier

Friends and family jumped at the chance to get crazy with me, and several jumped multiple times. I had enthusiastic bridesmaids for the Rock n’ Roll 10K, a group of crazy people did the Conair plane crash hike with me. Amanda flew to Florida with me, ran her first half marathon (actually ran her first anything), and rode rides with me while risking the fact that I could very well throw up on her. Krista, Monica, and Jody (all repeat Crazy Thing participants) even ate bugs with me… that is true friendship! And I can’t even count how many people generously supported me by helping me raise an insane amount of money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand while they enjoyed “dressing the fairy”. Dawn Nelson, the crazy woman who suggested my 50 Crazy Things in my 50th year, even did the Polar Bear Swim with me and together we encountered magic we truly weren’t expecting. There were also countless people who supported me in the best way they could – by cheering me on, reading the blog posts, and enjoying my frequent episodes of discomfort. Support comes in many forms and I recognize and appreciate all the support I have in my life.

I want to thank all of the people who helped me, participated with me, and cheered me on. I love all of you.

The biggest thing I learned, or maybe remembered, is that life rarely happens when you’re sitting on the couch looking out the window. It happens out there. Habits are meant to be broken, and rebuilt as new habits. Bars are meant to be raised. Fears are meant to be faced.

What next?

I plan to continue my crazy things – just not with a deadline. I plan to live a crazy life. There were a lot of things I couldn’t fit into my year. The list is still there and it is growing. I will keep blogging about it because people seem to enjoy reading about my discomfort.

My whole reason for starting this journey was to stop the trends I saw solidifying in my life. My life was getting smaller… I’m stopping that. I was saying no more than yes… I’m stopping that too. I want a life that is richer, and one that is filled with more great adventure and more great people. My next 50 years are going to be very busy!

Oh, and to answer that question AGAIN… I am still not jumping out of a perfectly good airplane or tying an elastic around my ankles and jumping off a cliff! Crazy… not stupid!

The list

So here it is, the complete list of my 50 Crazy Things with links to each of the blog posts. Thank you all for sharing this with me. It’s been a wild ride and I’m only getting started! Who’s in?

#1 – Run the Disney Princess Half Marathon
#2 – Ride a roller coaster without throwing up
#3 – Fund raise for a charity
#4 – Run a 10K and a Half Marathon back to back
#5 – Run half marathons on each coast in the same year
#6 – Join the circus (Trapeze School)
#7 – Embrace Obstacles (Foam Fest)
#8 – Walk above the water (Suspension bridge)
#9 – The Berg Lake Trail
#10 – Return to the place where I was born
#11 – 10X up the steps to the lighthouse in Cochin, SK
#12 – Let my cousin drag me around a lake while she tries to kill me
#13 – Hike to the Conair plane crash site
#14 – Go on a date
#15 – Beat the Blerch – Get out of control
#16 – Ride on a motorcycle
#17 – Wear a wedding dress
#18 – The Moustache Miler – spontaneous mingling
#19 – Drive home in my pajamas
#20 – Night skiing away from civilization
#21 – Do a virtual run
#22 – Follow intuition and rediscover magic
#23 – Go out for New Year’s
#24 – Polar Bear Swim
#25 – Make a snow angel
#26 – Give blood again
#27 – Eat a bug on purpose
#28 – Ski the hills without putting the brakes on
#29 – Learn to paint
#30 – Climb a tree
#31 – Go ice skating
#32 – Go rock climbing
#33 – Get passionate (Passion Party)
#34 – Snowshoe race
#35 – Improve at a sport (Cross Country Ski Lesson)
#36 – Downhill Skiing
#37 – Have headshots taken by a professional photographer
#38 – Let a photographer do a portrait
#39 – Get a tattoo
#40 – Visit an Escape Room
#41 – Run a half marathon without training – just because
#42 – Volunteer somewhere scary
#43 – Ladies’ choice (get my nose pierced)
#44 – Ski a half marathon
#45 – Write a screenplay
#46 – Street photography
#47 – Photograph star trails
#48 – Take a selfie every day
#49 – Self portrait
#50 – Turn 50 with a smile on my face

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50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year – Thing #6 – Join the Circus

Trapeze School of New York (Los Angeles)

On a scale of 1 to 10, I have a paralysing fear of jumping and falling that reaches about 11. This has followed me my whole life and it has kept me from participating in a lot of activities with friends and family. It’s not heights that scare me. I’m fine with heights. It’s falling – being out of control, going fast down a hill, that feeling in my stomach of inevitable crashing and doom. Since this year is all about addressing that place where I stop myself from participating – I knew I would have to face this fear. What I actually started searching, though, was how to run away and join the circus. I didn’t know how profound this would be for me.

I started googling different things and came across trapeze. Of course, I could have gone to clown school (whole other set of fears there) but when I saw the Trapeze School of New York, I was intrigued. When I saw they had five locations and one was in Los Angeles, where I would be for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend – I nearly threw up.

The lean

The lean

This is our instructor showing us how it should be done.

This is our instructor showing us how it should be done.

Why is this Crazy?

Duh! – for the obvious reasons.

Plus, I have always had poor grip strength. I avoid carrying bags in my hands. I was never a kid who played on monkey bars. I have loose, sometimes called ‘double jointed’ fingers and thumbs and have determined that my hands were designed for typing, not gripping. Trapeze = hanging from a bar by your hands.

I’ve lost a lot of weight, but I still have a lot more to go. I wasn’t even sure I could hold myself up while swinging (turns out fear handled that pretty quickly!).

My fear of jumping and falling is, in my head, extreme.

I remember when I was about seven, climbing up to the 3 meter board at Brock Pool because all of my friends were jumping off it. I got to the top and let one person, then the next, then the next, through a very long line of people pass me before I finally threw myself off the end. It’s the only time I have ever jumped off the 3 meter board and I was a lifeguard for seven years! I could teach a diving class standing on the deck of the pool!

When I was training to be a lifeguard I remember being at Westsyde Pool and having to learn how to teach a back dive off the 1 meter board. The instructor, now a prominent firefighter, picked me (why????) from the class to demonstrate. I had no choice. I stood on the end, wanting to vomit, and he stood right in front of me. He told me to fall backwards and stretch when he yelled. I couldn’t fall. He had to push me, and I remember reaching for his red sweat shirt before I went down. I missed. Instinctively I must have stretched when he yelled because I didn’t hurt myself. When I got out of the water he told the class to remember what my face looked like, because that’s exactly what a drowning victim will look like. Then he made me do it again. I was 16 at the time. I haven’t done one since.

I love cross country skiing, yet when I’m going down a hill seniors regularly kick snow in my face because my snowplow is so wickedly awesome (meaning excessively controlled, or slow). My friend, Wendy, wanted to put me into immersion therapy to fix this by taking me up to the killer cross country runs at Sun Peaks – the ones you take the chair lift up to, and pushing me when I was at the top. She figured that by the time I stopped screaming I’d be over my fear. In a way, Trapeze School, must have been my version of immersion therapy.

Trapeze School on Santa Monica Pier

My first swing

My first swing after four false starts

The most I can say about my trapeze experience is I would be considered a ‘remedial’ flyer (my word, not theirs). I was in a class with eight other people. Two were very advanced and go regularly, practicing all kinds of tricks. They looked awesome. The rest were first timers like me. One, Keri, a law student, had a gymnastics background and was celebrating her birthday. The other, Monica, has an adventure web series and seems pretty fearless. The others were high school students from Malibu who were also celebrating a birthday.

The most important thing I have to say here is how great the other students and the staff were. I felt totally supported and it was a great feeling to be with these people. The staff were incredible – I can’t stress that enough.

The first thing we were supposed to do was swing out on the bar, hook our knees up, and hang by our knees when the bar was swinging. We were all wearing harnesses and were strapped in any time we weren’t on the ground. You climb up to the platform, which is 23 ft above the ground, and look out over a net below you… and all the tourists who are watching. When it was our turn, there is a person on the top who has a grip on the back of your harness. They won’t let you go until you are in the perfect position. This part is so counter-intuitive – instead of sticking your butt back and leaning forward, you have to lean so far forward it feels like you’re going to fall. You’re holding part of the platform with your left hand and the bar (which is heavier than it looks) with your right hand. Then you give a little jump, and the person holding the back of your harness lets go.

My first swing

swinging and not dead!

swinging and not dead!

It took me four false starts before I could get off the platform and I screamed in terror as I flew. Before I jumped I actually had the feeling of putting my fear away, like in a box. It didn’t go away, but it wasn’t running the show. This is possibly the second scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’ve been upside down in a stunt airplane. I didn’t have to worry about holding on to the bar because you couldn’t have pried my fingers off it. When it came time to let go, you don’t get to pick when. They yell when you are at the far end of the swing facing the sky so you fall on your back. When they yell you have to let go. I screamed again as I fell. Letting go was THE scariest thing I’ve done in my life. Mike Nesbitt, Keri’s partner, had my camera and was so nice about taking pictures for me. He actually caught me mid scream! (best picture ever!)

I remember landing in the net and bursting into tears. My whole body was violently shaking. I crawled to the edge of the net to get down and then I couldn’t stand up because my knees were shaking so much. I think this is where everyone there, students and staff, got a good look at what a drowning victim would look like. I got lots of hugs. Right there I met the criteria for the crazy things and I could have quit and still considered it a success. The best thing I did was get back up there.

The rest of the swings

Others were doing way more advanced things, and by the end of the class some were even being caught by a guy on another trapeze. But I just

Swinging

Swinging

swung on the trapeze about 8 or 9 times (I wasn’t counting). That was truly the most I could do and each time got a little easier. The first was definitely the worst. It never did get really easy. I could have had one more swing but I knew my head had had enough extra activity and my hands were bruised. The class was two hours but it felt like a lot longer. I knew I was done for the day but I also know I’ll be back. Maybe next time I’ll get my knees over the bar!

I have to say I made some awesome new friends that day. Everyone was so supportive of each other and the kindness of strangers was truly amazing and memorable. I need to find a good set of monkey bars because I’m going to start training and I will be back! If you ever get the chance – do it! It is the most amazing experience ever and I only experienced a small part of it! I am proud that I run half marathons, and that I am fit and I’ve lost a lot of weight, but this is probably my biggest fear ever and I am so proud of myself for taking that first jump.

And to answer the question I’ve heard most since I got back…. No! I have no plans to jump out of a perfectly good airplane or off a bridge with a rubber band tied to my leg!

Would I do it again?

Yes! Did I get over my fear? No… but I did chip away at a corner of it.  Monica Ortega, who was in the class with me, has a motto on her

website – You only live once, try everything twice! I’m going to try and follow that this year.

The Scream

The Scream

Still alive

Still alive