Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Push, A Pull and A Shove

by Julie Coulter Bellon

When I was seventeen, I accepted a date from a young man I’d met the week earlier. He was going to take me to West Edmonton Mall. At the time, this was the biggest mall in the world and featured a full size skating rink (that the Edmonton Oilers hockey team practiced on regularly), a water park complete with a wave pool and waterslides, an amusement park with a rollercoaster, and a full size pirate ship with an underwater submarine ride and a dolphin show in the water, as well as all the retail stores and food courts. It was huge and a popular place for a date since you could do so many things.

That afternoon we went to the water park. We were having a great time in the wave pool and going down almost all of the water slides. Pretty soon there was only one water slide we hadn’t gone down—you know the one, it’s the highest and it’s a sheer drop before it curves at the bottom. Since I am afraid of heights, I didn’t want to go on this one. When I told my date of my fear, however, he promptly dared me to do it, and I’m a girl that rarely turns down a dare, so up I went.

We started climbing the mountain of stairs to get there and the higher we went, the more scared I got. I was balking a little, so my date grabbed my hand and pulled me along with him. It seemed like we climbed a million stairs until finally the ceiling seemed a lot closer than the ground. My breath was coming fast, both from the exercise as well as the fear I was now experiencing. Unfortunately, there was a line for this water slide so I had plenty of time to contemplate just how high up I was and what I was about to do.

As we inched closer, my date kept asking me if I was afraid. By this time I was fairly shaking with fear and could only nod. He smiled reassuringly and said he was there for me and told me how glad I was going to be that I had overcome this fear. I made it to the front of the line, stepped into the water and looked down.

Big mistake.

If you are afraid of heights and you are standing very high up, looking over a sheer drop that you are about to go over—don’t look down. The attendant was explaining to me that I’d need to cross my legs and arms and not wiggle around too much. I wanted to ask him what would happen if I didn’t cross my arms and legs, or how would I tell if I was wiggling too much, but frankly I was terrified of the answers so I didn’t. I was pretty sure I’d be frozen with fear in the appointed position anyway.

I stared at the attendant as he finished his spiel, realizing the moment of truth had come. I looked at my date who was still smiling. Then I looked down one more time and the blood came rushing to my head. I didn’t want to do this. What if I somehow slipped out of the water slide and plunged to my death? What if I banged my head on the way down, knocking myself unconscious or worse? I couldn’t do it. I turned my head slightly to tell my date that I couldn’t go through with it, and in that split second I heard him laugh as his hand snaked out and he pushed me. Over the edge.

I remember screaming as I frantically tried to catch myself and cross my arms and legs as the attendant had said. I felt like I was free-falling and I had left my stomach up on the platform with my date. I hit the ground hard and slid to the end. I just laid there at the bottom for a moment, trying to catch my breath. I was okay. I had survived. Not the most graceful descent since probably everyone in the entire mall had heard me screaming and I had a bruise on my shoulder where I hit the ground, but other than that, I was okay.

I sort of think this is like our writing journey. Sometimes we can have so many fears about writing that we may avoid it. What if it’s not good? What if no one likes it? So hopefully we have someone in our life that takes our hands and helps us climb the mountain of getting our manuscript done. You know who they are. The encouraging people who believe in us and want us to overcome and tell us we can do it.

Then, when we make it to the top, when our manuscript is done, we’re standing on the platform wondering if or where we should submit it. What if they don’t like it? What if it’s rejected? With a gentle push, sometimes we’re thrown in directions we may not have wanted to go in. If you hit the ground and your manuscript is rejected, you can lie there a moment and contemplate, then dust yourself off (or in my case wring yourself out) and revise or submit somewhere else. Or you can be the one screaming when your manuscript is accepted. Even if it hurts sometimes, the trick is to never lose faith in yourself and your abilities to do anything you really set your heart on. It all comes down to just making that original leap of faith to see where we really can go.


At 3/01/2007 2:13 PM, Blogger FHL said...

I hope you socked him in the arm good when he came down!

I think I'm up there on the platform, looking down, realizing how badly I need to go to the bathroom, and maybe if I hold onto the sides as I go down, it won't be so fast and ... and I could totally die on this thing!

Yep, that's about how it feels. =)

At 3/01/2007 2:28 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Yeah, can you believe that guy became a psychiatrist helping people overcome their fears?

Just kidding. I did date him a few more times after that, but never anyplace that had more than one floor.

At 3/01/2007 4:04 PM, Blogger Darvell Hunt said...

Wow, good blog entry. I have two comments:

First, I know how you felt going down that slide. Although I am not terribly afraid of heights, I once felt for sure I was sliding up and out of a water tube in a water park in Lehi, Utah, and almost knew I was going to end up on the concrete 20 feet below. I didn't end up on the concrete below, but I did end up doing that slide numerous times later. The fear just intensified the experience, but that first time was awful. I knew I wasn’t going to end up in the emergency room, so I felt comfortable doing it again.

Secondly, one of the scariest things I've ever done is to start a short story about my mother's cancer and her impending death. It's a fictional short story, based on my own experiences. I DID NOT WANT TO START THIS STORY, but I knew I must. I put it off and off until one day when I could no longer deny the promptings to write—the day I found out my mom’s cancer was terminal. I finally reached out to my writing group for support. They gave me the encouragement I needed to start the story. I would never have written that piece if it hadn't been for that writing group.

What resulted was a beautiful story, full of emotion and pain, but in the end, I found the act of writing the story actually helped me to resolve some of the fear and the dread that I had as I watched my mother die from cancer. Writing that story helped me to accept her upcoming death—and that became the focus of the plot of the story.

I wrote over 8000 words that afternoon in one sitting, then had to take a walk for about an hour and half, to cry to myself and to contemplate what I had written—and what it meant to me to have it on paper. I got exactly what I wanted. It was like pouring my brain out onto the paper (well, onto the computer screen, anyway).

My biggest fear had been that I would mess it up by writing it. My fear ended up being unfounded.

I don't know if you felt a feeling of accomplishment after going down that slide like I did after I wrote this very difficult story, but I think I know at least a little bit about what you meant by comparing the water slide to your writing.


At 3/02/2007 9:47 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I'm terrified of roller coasters, and I hate water slides. If you could ever get me to go down a water slide, you'd probably have the biggest laugh of your life. I am incapable of holding still or keeping my arms/legs crossed. I thrash and flail and generally behave in a very undignified fashion.

Just reading your story made me hyperventilate slightly.


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