How a Mexican adventure taught me self compassion and acceptance
My husband was pretty happy to see he was heavier than the weight restriction for the “Outdoor Adventure” in the pamphlet the hotel had given us. This adventure included a mule ride up a mountain, an obstacle course with ziplines and waterfalls, and the third highest waterslide in the world. It sounded terrifying on one hand and exhilarating on the other. All my life I had pushed myself to pursue feats with an element of mystery or danger, to “conquer my fears”. I would take long walks alone at night in seedy neighbourhoods, go on bladder-testing rides on amusement parks, and go hiking in the mountains by myself without much preparation. I recognized that I had a naturally cautious and hesitant personality, and was determined to show myself and the world that I was more. That I was brave. That I was independent. That I was unwaveringly determined.
My husband, knowing this penchant of mine for the daring, encouraged me to join the group and go without him. He would be perfectly happy having cold drinks by the pool while I threw myself over waterfalls, he said. “Go have fun! I never was much of one for that kind of thing anyways. I would just be hot and grumpy and I would kill my mule with my fatness”, he joked self-deprecatingly.
Armed with my trusty hiking shoes and my valiant bravado, I joined the tour group in the lobby bright and early the next morning. We boarded a bus and made our way to a beautiful mountainous area. Starting at the stables, we were given a short riding lesson and then each matched with a tired-looking mule. I had this. I had owned a horse on the farm; how could this possibly be any different?
That was the first mistake I made. My mule was having a bad hair day and kept on veering off course, throwing its head up and down and stamping its hooves in irritation. Never mind the tour guides who would ride up behind us, and urge our mules along with a smack of their whips when they started to slack off. By the time we made it to the top I was a little flustered and annoyed; I would have been happy with an easygoing and slower ride, but after all this was meant to be an adrenaline-pumped adventure.
I managed the obstacle courses fairly well, but never really enjoyed them. We were pushed to complete them very quickly, while I wanted to stop and take the landscape in. Fear filled me, but it was never replaced by the thrill of adrenaline that I was searching for. I found myself yearning to be beside my husband at the pool, immersed in one of our many deep conversations. But I rallied and continued on.
The final challenge was the waterslide. I use that term loosely as I looked down upon it, as it seemed more like an evil, yellow, neverending torture device that snaked down the high mountainside. It was not a closed tube except for several tight loops halfway down, and the top part was a long, near vertical drop above those loops. I was even more aghast when they brought out the thin foam mats that we had to ride down on, and the hockey helmets complete with faceguards to wear. “You have to lay down on the mat feet first and face up, and whatever you do don’t sit up!”. I asked why, and why we had to wear a mask with a faceguard, and was simply told “for safety”. My mind created all kinds of horrifying injuries that may have been sustained in order to necessitate these “safety measures”.
I had a profound moment of clarity on that mountaintop. Examining the situation I had willingly put myself into, I realized that I was not getting any joy or satisfaction from pushing myself past my comfort zone. I realized that I liked my cautious, intellectual and contemplative self. I was no daredevil, and that was ok. I had nothing to prove to anyone, myself included. There and then, I promised myself I would never force myself to do something again just to show that I was a strong and independent woman.
I ended up going down that waterslide. The alternative was a 3 hour hike down to the bus, and I told myself that I would get the slide over with then never do something like this again. The slide, of course, was just as bad as I thought. My heart stayed jammed in my throat the entire way down, and I was convinced that my hurtling body would be launched over the edge of the slide and crash into the dense forest far below. My group would witness the scene and tell stories about my garish death on Trip advisor. When I made it to the bottom, I pried myself off of that aquatic flying carpet from hell and thanked God for the wisdom he had given me that day.
My husband was pleased to hear about my epiphany. We spent the rest of that trip doing things that we truly enjoyed doing- eating good food, strolling and people watching, having long talks. We went on another tour, but it was mainly sightseeing and learning about local culture. One of my favorite memories from that trip was trying queso fresco-fresh cheese- that had been made by a very sweet couple we met on this trip. It made our foodie hearts happy.
Life has been a lot more fulfilling since I stopped expecting myself to be someone that I am not. I had bought into the lie that our society pushes on us- that we have to conquer our fears, chase excitement, mould ourselves into someone better. I decided that I would be content to live in my quiet way, and thrive in it. And I have never regretted that decision.