The Downward Spiral

LadyLibertyWhen I was young, my Boy Scout troop took a trip to the Statue of Liberty.  I’m not sure who talked me into it but a group of us decided to go up to the crown.  If you’ve never been there, in order to get up to the crown, you need to take a long spiral staircase.  I’ve looked at pictures of the present day stairs and they seem to have improved them.  However when I visited, the stairs looked very old and you could see through the steps into “guts” of Lady Liberty.  About every fifty feet or so there was a little platform, which I guess was intended for tired people to rest on.  For someone who is afraid of heights like me, the climb was bad enough but stopping on that platform was out of the question.

As I was climbing those steps on that day, a thought occurred to me about the worst-case scenario.  What if someone fell backwards as you were climbing?  We were packed like sardines in this stairwell, if one went we all would go.  I felt myself getting slightly dizzy and nauseated.  The only thing that made the upward spiral bearable was the fact that I was facing and leaning forward.  If I did fall, I would end up face down on the steps but I’d be ok.  By the time I finally reached the crown, I only took a cursory glance at the view.  As I turned the corner, the realization of my prior fear was fully in front of me.  The downward spiral had all of the possibility of falling but now I was facing and leaning in that direction.  For my younger self, it was nerve-wracking and scary.  I hated every moment of that descent.  So much so that I’m surprised that I don’t remember who talked me into going because it was exactly “THAT BAD”.

Downward spirals are scary and nerve-wracking in life as well.  Everything seems normal at first but then something puts you just a little off from your climb upward.  Then another thing hits you and another, until you are turned around and no longer looking forward toward your goal but backward toward the fall.  The staircase is not wavering; it is you.  You have taken these little setbacks to mean that you are going to fall.  This is not the time to start flailing or grabbing onto people to bring down with you.  It is time to take a moment and get some perspective.  Breathe!!!

You are not helpless.

  • Decide if the crown is worth it. I would have gladly gotten off of that staircase had that been an option.
  • If the crown is worth it, then refocus on the crown and take the next forward step.
  • Your fear of the fall can be your enemy or your ally. If it causes you to focus on the process and take steps carefully, it is your ally. If it causes you to be nervous and freeze up, then it’s your enemy. Make fear your ally.
  • Fall forward! If you’re going to fall (fail), make sure that you gain some ground with that fall. You learn something; pick up new information or even just figure out what doesn’t work.

I wish you all the best on your upward spirals!



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