Hold on lightly to the cable, just enough so that you keep the balance. If you hold on too tight, you’ll stop and will be left there hanging in the middle. Let go completely and you’ll go too fast and start spinning out of control. Those were the instructions we got in our first zip lining experience in Costa Rica. A metaphor for life, we thought, easier said than done as your first instinct when you start speeding up towards the unknown is to hold on with all your might, so you have to keep telling yourself: hold on gently, you don’t want to stop half way through ending up hanging and helpless right over that river.
It’s an exercise of trust really. You trust that by loosening the grip and not holding on to that cable for dear life, everything will be OK, somehow. Exactly what we’re doing right now as we leave London behind, we keep telling ourselves that everything will be fine if only we let life flow. But this kind of trust doesn’t really come easy to us, we’re used to being in control, fixing, tweaking and shaping things until it all looks like a commercial, or at least ready to share on Instagram. This free flow is a new thing and we struggle to hit that sweet spot so we’re either speeding out of control or barely moving at all.
The metaphor goes even further. When you jump you don’t know where you’re going, OK you have a good idea of the direction you’ll be heading -that is forwards, no choice on that one- but the line vanishes into the canopy, and you can’t see the platform where you’ll ungracefully land. But it doesn’t really matter because the purpose is to let go and enjoy the ride, or at least try.
But it’s interesting it’s the little things you hold on to, the everyday life stuff like the bread you buy in your favourite shop or watching David Attenborough’s Blue Planet. At some point during the countdown everything becomes ‘the last time’. The last time you buy milk, the last time you have that work meeting, the last time you go on the 68 bus route… and you know it becomes ridiculous when you realise that this is the last time I cut my toenails in London. But stop and think about it for a second, isn’t every moment that passes actually the last time it happens for all of us all the time? The fact that we are leaving London has brought an intensity to the everyday that we were not acknowledging before, and it is contagious: everyone around us suddenly notices how important these brief moments are. Every little thing becomes precious, and we try to take it all in and cherish every detail of it, but not because we are leaving but because this is the stuff life is made of: a long set of fleeting moments that if you’re not careful, you will miss them. And let’s be honest, the only real hard ‘last times’ are with friends, saying goodbye to that gorgeous, talented, and crazy bunch of friends is just heartbreaking and way more emotional than the toenails.
Still, as we make our way to the airport we notice the fear of letting go is very present, we feel the vertigo and the temptation to strengthen the grip until our fingers go white. We can’t see the trail amongst the trees but we trust that we will enjoy the ride. Rocking back and forth we repeat the instructions over and over like a mantra, trying not to hyperventilate: Hold on lightly to the cable, just enough so that you keep the balance.