My brother and sister-in-law, James and Rachel, are super-athletic and outdoorsy folks who do things like cross-country ski to a remote yurt for FUN. Their home gym takes up a whole floor of their house. And they buy Christmas presents for each other like crampons and rain kilts for all-weather hiking.
So last year they went on this big ol' hike to the Middle Teton. They went with their good friend Mac, who is a guide and the director of a university outdoor rec department. They camped at the trailhead the night before and woke up at three o'clock in the morning to begin the fourteen-mile hike with 6,000 feet of elevation gain. They got caught in a thunderstorm well into the day and had to stop hiking and stay low to avoid being struck by lightning. This was a 90-minute hold-up. But that kind of thing happens to seasoned hikers all the time and they know how to handle it and how to stay safe. Plus they are well-prepared and have good gear. Once the storm passed, it was a satisfying ascent and they were thrilled to make the summit.
I keep repeating that question to myself, incredulously: Why did this HAPPEN? Are you KIDDING me? Let me answer that. You were climbing over ice on a mountain that was treacherous enough to require helmets and fancy shoes and a sharp axe but the shoes and the axe didn't work and Rachel fell! DUH.
Are you like my brother? Do you trust your equipment and expect things to go well? Are you surprised when things go wrong?
Or are you like me? Here is what I might have said if I had been at the bottom of the slope:
"OH MY GOD! I KNEW THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN! I KNEW IT!"
I knew the equipment would fail and someone would slip. Except I really didn't. But in my mind, the fear is so strong that often, when I complete adventures or even daily tasks unharmed it is quite a surprise. Wow! I made it off the mountain alive! I got to my car without being attacked in the parking lot! No one kidnapped my child at the beach! You get the picture. I don't know that I can ever learn to fully believe that things don't always turn out tragically. For me, the key is to keep on doing things even when they involve risk. Not crazy risk, but enough to keep life interesting. I'd rather be surprised by success than doomed and confined to my house by the fear of failure.