Thursday, June 30, 2011

Up the Pamper Pole .... or Writing as an Extreme Sport

So, this week I spent half a day in the woods with my colleagues from work. I’m part of a marketing team at one of the largest healthcare supply distributors in the country, and I’m lucky enough to have found a place among a small group of talented, smart and caring individuals.

And here’s the thing. We were in the woods for some Extreme Team Building (cue drum roll and dramatic, loud music). I’ve only been part of this team for about 8 weeks, but even I could see after one or two of the challenges in the woods that we work pretty darn well together. We had to figure out how to cross a “river of lava” together using only tiny carpet squares to keep our feet from “sinking.”  We had to move each person through a giant “spider web” without touching any of the ropes. In some cases, we had to literally lift people completely off the ground and pass them through holes in the web higher than our own heads. We strapped on harnesses for zip lining across a ravine. And the most extreme activity? The Pamper Pole.

The Pamper Pole is an individual challenge only in that you are physically by yourself as you climb a 35 foot tall utility pole. Yes…you’re in a harness with a belay and a guide to keep you safe from life threatening falls…but you don’t seem to notice the pinch of the harness or the tug of the safety rope as you climb higher and higher on metal loops no wider than your tennis shoe. The pole begins to sway. Your hands begin to sweat. In my case, my arms began to shake and it seemed my breath was suddenly louder than any of the wind or bird song in the woods.

The goal is to climb to the top and then….wait for it….STAND on top of the darned pole! With both feet! (Do I have to remind you that the pole is a standard utility pole? Go on…walk outside for a minute. I’ll wait…… Find a telephone pole. Looks high, doesn’t it? And maybe just a smidge too small to stand on with both feet? Um. Yep. Good eye.)

It gets worse.

Once you are standing up there, swaying in the breeze, your knees knocking and your heart racing, you’re supposed to JUMP INTO THIN AIR and try to catch hold of a trapeze suspended about 10 feet away from the pole.

Seriously. This is what my boss made us do this week.

And you know what? We all did it. Some of us clambered up there like spider monkeys, stood at the top with great poise, and caught the trapeze like one of the Flying Karamotzov Brothers. (Not me, by the way.) Some of us convinced ourselves to overcome nerves and fear and strap on the harness and climb only part way up.

But we all succeeded. And here’s why: we had support. We’d been through a lot already together. Heck, once you’ve crossed a river of lava on a set of tiny carpet squares or navigated your way though a giant spider web as a team, nothing can stop you! You are invincible.

It was freeing and exhilarating, fun and yes…team building…to play these games together. I can’t speak for each of my colleagues, but I know I found myself willing to step outside of my comfort zone over and over – willing to take chances and leap from the side of a 35 foot pole into thin air, knowing that the encouragement I heard from below would keep me safe. Those voices below shouting encouragement and laughter were as much support as the belay and strong rope attached to my harness.

I know. Someone out there is starting to wonder how this ties back to what this blog is all about: writing. Here’s the thing: support is a wonderful gift. With the support of a community or a friend or a team, you are stronger, more powerful, and more talented than you are alone. With support, a writer can move from the harsh grip of writer’s block or the grinding drudgery of self doubt into the beauty and freedom of poetry or the ebb and flow of a long and heartfelt story.

So find a community of writers. Find listeners. Find readers. Find others with like passions for your genre and open yourself to their thoughts. You will find, I am sure, that they can be the harness and rope that will keep you from falling.

Remember: the support of others will make you strong and set you free to write with grace. It will keep you afloat even when you take chances you never thought you’d take. With support, you’ll reach the top of the tallest pole – take on the hardest writing challenge – and stand straight and tall despite the swaying and the wind.

Leap. Your writing friends will catch you.

5 comments:

  1. Amen! Wonderful post! I thoroughly agree that the proper support is key. About 2 years ago my friend started a local writers group which he always referred to as a "support group" rather than a workshop-type group. There ended up being 5 of us that came together, each with our varied writing talents. And although our group no longer meets regularly, we have all remained true friends with each other and are always there to read each other's writings and give each other support.

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  2. I agree! Support is such a necessary component in all aspects of life. Sure we can do it on our own, but it is so much nicer having a core group to share it with. I am totally impressed that you took that challenge with your coworkers. I think I could have done the lava, but the telephone poll might have stopped me in my tracks! Congrats!

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  3. Karen - great post, and I love your blog, but at least in Google Chrome view, the Networked Blogs box overlaps into the "Must-Read Blogs" column. (in the spirit of writers helping writers.)

    Thank you for posting a picture of a really tasty guy doing the trapeze jump, too - that made the post all that much better.

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  4. Great post. We absolutely need each other and I don't think I've ever realised this as much as in the last 12 months.

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  5. Beverly -- thanks for the note about Chrome. Not sure what to do about that! I'll have to dig around on Blogger and see if it is a known bug. (I just love technology, don't you?) :)

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