When not zip-lining, Susan Breen can be found in her quiet office in Irvington, NY, with two cockapoos at her feet. Learn more about Susan and her books at her website.
When Failure is the Only Option
I’m afraid of heights. I’m afraid of death. I’m afraid of falling to my death from a great height, and so I’m not a natural candidate to go zip lining in the jungle. However, last year I was on a trip to Costa Rica with my daughter. She’s beautiful and fearless and wanted to go zip-lining and how could I say no? I’m supposed to empower her, not make her nervous.
So, there we were, 20 or so enthusiastic people, a number of them older than me. One with a cane! And a very young and charming guide who assured us zip-lining was safe and fun. All we had to do was climb this very tall ladder, and cram ourselves onto a little perch, and then jump into a harness which would carry us over a huge ravine. Think the Grand Canyon but filled with monkeys.
My daughter went first. She went soaring off like a superhero. Then it was my turn. I did get into the harness. The guide gave me a gentle push. I went soaring off and then, in the middle of the line, when I was a good distance from either side, I stopped. I dangled. I looked down. I panicked. The guide yelled at me that I was holding on to the rope too tight. I needed to relax and let go. The likelihood of that happening was very, very small, and so the guide jumped on the line, scooted over, wrapped his legs around me and propelled us to the other side. (It was at this moment that the picture of me was taken.)
I thought we were finished, but it turned out there were still 8 more zip lines to go. There was no way out. The second one went just as the first had done. So did the third and the fourth. By the fifth I was thinking that perhaps I was getting the hang of it. I was wrong. Once again the guide had to jump onto the line and rescue me. By that time, I think he’d written me off as a failure, and he said I should just stay with him.
We’ve all seen movies like Rocky where there’s an underdog and no one thinks he can do it, but he does. I fully expected for my story to follow that trajectory. I would figure it out. I would prevail.
But, I just couldn’t do it. No matter how many times I tried. After it was all over, a kindly elderly lady who had been just about doing back flips, came up to me and said, “Thank you for that. You showed me what not to do.” Other people also came up and said kind things, and I realized there can be something inspirational about failure. My daughter still loved me, my new friends found me funny. The guide thought me annoying, but oh well.
Would I do it again? Never. But I’m glad I did it once. I’m a mystery writer and someday I promise you I’m going to write a scene in which a murderer sends someone plummeting to her death in Costa Rica. Then it will all be worthwhile!
Maggie Dove’s Detective Agency, Book 2 of the Maggie Dove series
After catching the killer who shook her small Hudson River town, former Sunday School teacher Maggie Dove stumbled onto an exciting new career and found a way to take her mind off her own tragic past. Now, despite her best efforts to promote the agency, Maggie can’t seem to land any new cases—until Racine Stern, one of the village’s wealthiest residents, offers her a thousand dollars to convince her “evil” sister, Domino, to stay out of town.
While Maggie’s business partner thinks she’s crazy for turning down a potential client, she doesn’t want her agency to get a reputation for accommodating bizarre requests. However, Maggie is soon caught up in the family drama anyway. Racine may fear for her life—and her inheritance—but it’s Domino who takes the fall when she plunges to her death from a tower at Stern Manor. Was it an accident or something more sinister? Maggie’s investigation will test her faith—and her ability to survive.