In honour of my second appearance on DNTO tomorrow telling tales from Life in the Ring oF Fire, I thought I would look back into the archive and find a few other stories to tell…this one hails from October 2004 when I was just beginning to solicit “Ring of Fire” challenges from my support community. This story tells of getting ready for the next week’s challenge of wearing a dress every day for a week. Enjoy!
Some of you have asked about “why the ring of fire?” I’ll turn to the words of two experts/philosophers from the field of experiential education to answer that question. John Dewey, considered by many to be the father of experiential education, said “Growth depends on the presence of a difficulty to be overcome.” Kurt Hahn, the father of the Outward Bound schools said something similar…
“Without self discovery, a person may still have self confidence, but it is a self confidence built on ignorance and it melts in the face of heavy burdens. Self discovery is the end product of a great challenge mastered, when the mind commands the body to do the seemingly impossible, when strength and courage are summoned to extraordinary limits for the sake of something outside the self – a principle, an onerous task, another human life.”
So, the ring of fire challenges (as well as climbing Denali) will provide many opportunities for my mind to command my body to do the seemingly impossible and for plenty of self-discovery along the way.
I recently attended a workshop where I was led in a guided meditation to find my animal totems. I connected instantly to the otter. Otters are playful, curious, and get food all over their bellies-just like me. Otters are fur-bearing animals as am I…or at least I was until last Wednesday when I plunged into the burning ring of fire. My friend, Jen, offered to wax my legs to get me ready for the big ring of fire task of a week of wearing dresses. I was a little worried by how gleeful she seemed at the task but when she said the effects of waxing would last longer than shaving, I was an immediate convert and accepted the invitation.
As the week wore towards Wednesday, nervousness passed likes choppy waves through my being. Would it hurt? Could I handle it? What would it be like to have my precious fur ripped from its follicles? Each day, I gave my leg hairs a sharp tug, “Yup-it’s gonna hurt,” I concluded. People told me their waxing horror stories. Others wished me luck. Others shock their heads in disbelief.
One thing I’ve learned in life is to pay attention to the advice of experts. Jen, my waxing expert, told me it was critical to exfoliate my legs prior to waxing to decrease the amount of pain…she implored “scrub your legs with a loofah to get them ready.” Of course with my training schedule, extra time to procure a loofah escaped me and Wednesday snuck up like a blizzard in October and I had 30 minutes to exfoliate before my appointment at Legs by Lokash. What was I to do? Risk extra pain and suffering by showing up with dead skin clinging to my legs? Arrive late having crossed town on a pilgrimage to Loofah? Do some creative problem-solving?
No doubt you know which I picked. In the waning moments, I brainstormed what I had in the house that resembled a loofah…a cheese grater… no, it would leave divots….60 grit sandpaper… no, it would leave no skin…Chore Boy Green Scrubby…yes, that’s it…I rushed down to my camping gear room, grabbed a new green scrubbing pad and hit the shower. 15 minutes later I appeared at Jen’s doorstep with glowing red legs and not a stitch of used skin. I was nervous. I was psyched for the pain. I was ready.
Jen created the perfect atmosphere…soft lighting, soft soothing music, red wine and Red Sox baseball on TV…with all this…could waxing be all that bad? As I was a novice waxee and since I had huge forests of old growth leg hair, Jen suggested that I start by trimming my hair with scissors. I quipped that I was putting in the logging roads so that she could come in and clear cut my forests…as I’m not the best at repetitive minute tasks, I quickly tired of clipping and asked her to get on it with it…she handed me a bullet to bite on and said we would start with a small patch. She spread the warm wax and pine pitch mixture on my shorn leg (as on outdoor educator, I’m always happy to learn new uses for pine pitch), she rubbed on the cotton like swatch and then gave it a quick snapping tug. Suddenly, my leg was virgin white and I giggled giddily and said…
“Is that it?”
“Where’s the big pain?”
“Where’s the suffering?”
“I meditated for days to get ready for this?”
60 minutes later I was no longer fur-bearing on the lower half of my body. I gained new appreciation for the intricacies of lower leg anatomy and I could hardly recognize my legs as my own. Like the women I interviewed last winter about their hockey experiences, I suddenly felt like I gained access to a culture I knew nothing about. Instead of discussing the finer points of slap shots versus snap shots, I could now wax eloquently about the pros and cons of waxing, identity several different waxing products, and I realized that would wax again (or at least have Jen do it.)
What does waxing have to do with climbing Denali? Good question. I think the biggest lesson I took from this week’s experience is that anticipation is often worse than the reality…to take each moment as it comes…and to surround oneself with knowledgeable experts.