Monday, August 25, 2014

Sixteen Stories, Sixteen Reasons

That photo there was taken from the 16th story of Leadership Square in downtown Oklahoma City, moments before I (spoiler alert!) descended over the edge of that perfectly good building, wearing a hot pink Wonder Woman T-shirt and gray Chuck Taylors (like ya do).

"Why?" You may ask.

"Why in the world would you go off the side of a perfectly good building?" There are many reasons. As I titled this blog post, I thought maybe there might even be 16 stories about why I decided to do it. So maybe I didn't get 16 stories, but I did round up 16 reasons.

Why jump over the edge of a building?

  1. Because a good friend asked me to. And she caught me on a day where I was high on endorphins and I didn't just say yes but I did say "hells yes!"
  2. Because it was to raise awareness for a good cause. The Over the Edge event benefited Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma, raising money for a storm shelter at Camp E-Ko-Wah. I can think of no better reason to do something that scares me. 
  3. Because I could find people to give me inspiring stories about Girl Scouts and how their lives were impacted.
  4. Because saying "no" out of fear is not a precedent I want to set.
  5. Because if kids can survive a tornado and all the fears that come with that, then I can face this small fear of mine.
  6. Because it scared me.
  7. Because it made me happy.
  8. Because I have regrets. There are things I've wanted to do in my life, when I've had opportunities to do things in my life, and I chose not to.
  9. Because I'm in my mid-40s and maybe this new "danger girl" thing is part of my midlife crisis?
  10. Because all those people standing on that roof around me were encouraging me and knew I wasn't going to get hurt.
  11. Because this was literally a once in a lifetime opportunity.
  12. Because if I didn't then I would have to go home and explain to my kids that I couldn't or didn't or wouldn't go through with it.
  13. Because I told everyone about it and blogged about it and made a big deal about it and if I didn't do it, I would have to face all the reasons why I didn't.
  14. Because I know there are people who didn't expect me to have the guts go through with it.
  15. Because people do it every day.
  16. Because I said I would.
I said I would do it and then wrote about how terrified I was to do it but how I said no to things that challenged me in the past and now I regret that. But when I got to the top of the building, I forgot all about that. In the moment where I was in the harness, on the contraption that would support me down the side of the building, I froze. After I signed the waiver, got my T-shirt and geared up, after I stood with the trainer and tested my ropes and carabiners, I couldn't do it.

Kneeling on the wall, feeling the wind, seeing the faces all around me, reassuring me, I couldn't do it. I was going to come down off the wall, but maybe not the way I had initially intended (rope) and in a kindler, gentler way (elevator).

I made one final plea: "Can someone please go down on the other rope next to me?" Nobody else was scheduled to rappel at the same time, but quickly, the Over the Edge staffers shuffled and before I was ready for my bluff to be called, there he was, dangling over the side, waiting on me.

Shit got real, yo.

I could hear the yells coming from down on the street, and I thought to myself "why are these random passers-by yelling at me?" but then realized, these were my supporters down there, cheering me on. Urging me to dig deep for that resolve and do this.

So I did. I mirrored what my fellow edger was doing on the rope to my right, and before I knew what was happening, there I was, dangling 16 stories over the street. I leaned, toes on the building, right hand holding my rope (not lightly as I was supposed to, more of a death-grip sort of hold, which may have made my rappel a bit more difficult than it could have been, but at that point? A light grip could not have happened.), left hand controlling the release that let me creep down the wall.

Having that group of people on top of the roof telling me how much they believe in my ability to do it, having that edger going down the rope next to me, having those people down on the ground cheering me on, that got me through.

The moments were so meaningful, I struggle to find the right words to explain all of the feelings tied to this brief period. All those people who believed in me and encouraged me. Who reminded me how strong I am, help me find the strength within myself to succeed, to reach the goals I set for myself.

When I got to the bottom, I talked to my friend Tracy about the experience, about my struggle to go through with it on the roof, and she told me—"I wasn't going to let you not do it." And that's when I remembered what I felt the other times I didn't do something because it scared me.

It's a big deal. This is what Girl Scouts means to so many girls. This is why it's important. I hope that my experience will help to bring new eyes to their cause. And if you feel so moved, I hope you learn more about the Storm Shelter campaign.

And because I'm struggling to find the words powerful enough to tell the story, here are the photos (thanks, Tracy for taking them!):

Gearing up before the rappel. Nerves are under control.
Wonder Woman shirt is in the house!

Testing my hand position, the brake and release, making sure
everything does what it should before the rappel.

On the wall. I got this! Let's do this!

Yeah, no. False alarm. There's no way in hell I'm doing this.

In this picture, you can see how much I'm feeling ALL the feels. This is my "what the f*** was I thinking!?!?" expression.
The women on either side of me worked to calm me and cheer me and they were awesome.

Everything is better with a friend!

Back on the wall, climbing over that ledge. The hardest single
step I've taken in my life.

I did it! I'm over. Now it's just a matter of gently, gracefully
floating down to the street.

Here we go! About halfway down. I wanted to look around
but was honestly too scared to do so. I would take peeks over
my shoulders but wouldn't commit to really looking down.
Tried to look around a little bit and appreciate the moment.

It was an amazing trip down, but there were a few bouncy
moments I could have done without.

On the ground. I owe a big part of this success to that tall
man I'm hugging, one of the amazing Over the Edge staffers
who rappelled down the wall with me.

... and, exhale ...
I was asked by Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma to promote Over The Edge before, during and after the event in exchange for the opportunity to rappel down a 16-story building. The event belongs to them; the opinions are my own because I don't sell my opinion. All words and photos are mine.


  1. Congratulations Mary! That was awesome and for a good cause!

  2. That's the perfect shirt for the experience. It's awesome that you did it. Basically, you're Mari F***ing Farthing now. Put that on your business cards because that's how much of a mother effing lady boss you really are.

  3. i second what the smart lady above has to say about all of this. you kick ass.

  4. Very cool Mari -- I could never have done it!

  5. OMG ! Can't believe you did this! COOL!