What You Think You Cannot Do

I will not lie to you. I did not think I could do it.

When I started fundraising for the Special Olympics months ago, I did so because my heart believes in everyone. I did so because everyone deserves opportunities and life-changing, memorable moments they will carry with them forever. I did so because many of the Special Olympics athletes never get the chance to be seen as individuals, instead they are seen as their diagnosis. Most of their lives people will try to “fix” them, instead of simply changing the way we approach education and / or changing the systems we have in place in our environments.

But I didn’t believe I could really rappel down a building that stands 400 feet in the air.

The day of the event, I still had in my mind, “Well, if I’m too scared, I just… won’t rappel! For safety reasons!”

I knew my “for safety reasons” was the hobgoblin of my little mind. But I practiced my speech should I decide to not rappel 400 feet.

“I simply, for the safety and protection of myself and future fundraising efforts, I simply cannot rappel down this building.” I even practiced in the bathroom as I changed out of work clothes to my Super Hero costume: A ballet leotard, pink tights, and pink tutu.

Once in my Super Hero costume, I felt a little better. I felt a wave of confidence rush over me. And then I looked up. The building was huge, and I mean monstrous. It stood there staring at me, daring me, but not caring for me. I couldn’t trust it; no way, no how. This building didn’t care who I loved or what I was doing. I suddenly got nervous. So nervous that I couldn’t even remember my backing out speech!

I found myself fiddling with the necklace around my neck. This necklace had been given to me by Hannah. Keep in mind, I’ve never had a sister but I’ve always secretly longed for one, so when this full-of-life, spunky, witty, but full-of-sass redhead came into my life, I secretly knew she was my sister. We spent nights dancing together, coloring together, watching movies, and she helped me exit a bad relationship. Now, she had made me a beautiful necklace telling me she believes in me, and yet once again, here I am… doubting myself. Hannah had seen the building. It didn’t frighten her.

After getting suited up, I was given a few lessons and then ushered up to the top of the building. We were able to sign a poster on the inside of the freight elevator. I simply wrote, “OMG – Sheena” in shaky, most likely illegible writing.

When we were on the roof, my partner (a complete stranger to me) kept me calm by talking about my passion: dance! I even showed him a move or two!

Photo by: Craig Carper

But as the time creeped closer and closer to stepping off the edge, my heart started to beat faster and faster. My doubts started to close in around my throat. My entire body was shaking.

I spent quite a long time like this…

Photo by: Craig Carper

What if the rope breaks? What if my mom has to witness me fall? What if I panic and forget which rope to pull and which lever to push? What if this defeats me?

That’s when the crew in charge of the rappel came over to me. “You ready?” I hear the question from far away. The wind is blowing. The sun is shining. There’s a helicopter with a camera circling above my head. There are seagulls. I could see buildings and rivers and cars, and I couldn’t figure out which dot my mom was but I wanted her up there right that instant. I needed someone to hold my hand and tell me, “It’s OK to step off the edge because it’s impossible to fall.”

Just then, Matt, the guy responsible for helping me off the edge says, “You know it’s impossible for you to fall.”

I instantly think about Titanic.

After a few minutes of chaos and me saying, “No, no, no!” Matt somehow got me off the edge. And when I finally felt secure, I smiled.

“There’s that smile,” he said.

Photo by: Craig Carper

Even though every muscle in my body was screaming and stressing and straining… I smiled. I don’t know where this smile came from because I can tell you now my brain was focused on other things (400 feet of the ground, the orange rope, the blue rope, the red handle, death). So the smile came from my heart: true genuine feelings of overwhelming adoration for everyone and everything in my life.

And so my descent began. It was one movement at a time and then I’d breathe. I’d move. I’d breathe. I’d move. I’d breathe.

My partner stayed strong and talked me through the entire process. I never once looked down. I hated passing the windows because I could see how high I was. My muscles ached.

But beyond all else I kept saying to myself: Sheena, I think you can actually do this.

Photo by: Craig Carper

I was and still am overwhelmed with the feelings that I felt. I went from breakdown terrified, tears welling up in my eyes, to clarity and strength in 2.5 seconds. I went from horrified to calm and peaceful. I went from not believing to feeling like I’ll never question myself and my abilities again.

I did it. I mean, I really did it! Who would have ever thought?! When my feet touched the ground, I was too in shock to cheer. So I did what I love doing: I struck a pose!

Hannah ran over to me and gave me a high five, and I said to her, “We did it!” And we always will. I will always be there for Hannah and she’ll always be there for me. Even when I’m a ball of anxiousness and walking down a busy street in a tutu.

I could sit here and gush love for hours over this event and for everyone who made it possible: You are something else. I don’t know you, but I love your hearts and your patience and your belief in all that is lovely in our world.

Keep doing what you are doing and keep loving the way you love.


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