I jumped out of an airplane this afternoon then drove home, grabbed take-out for the family, and watched Netflix. It is only now as I stop right before going to bed that I can take stock of what just happened today. For the past 5 or 6 years, my son for his birthday has been asking to skydive. I have said “No, as a reasonable parent, I cannot allow you to skydive right now.” Yesterday, he turned 21 and for his birthday, my mom agreed to give him a jump AND go with him. I waited until this morning to add my name to the reservation. This is how I came to jump out of an airplane this afternoon around 3pm in Lake Elsinore.
The funny thing is that I was not really afraid. Yes, I had moments of wondering if I would die. I have considered skydiving in the past because it is a great way to overcome fear. In the last few years, I have been determined not to live a life of fear. To that end, on every vacation I have been the first one to suggest the zip line, the super fast speed boat trip, the walking safari in the middle of Kenya, etc. Last night around 10pm, I decided I would join my mom and my son on their adventure because at that moment, I realized that I would not be jumping to overcome fear and I would be jumping to support a wish my son has held for years.
Perhaps the more interesting part of my realization last night was that I do still have fears and I have all the tools I need to learn from my fears, to embrace them, and to move past the fear. Jumping out of airplanes, sleeping outside with hyenas and lions breathing down my neck, rappelling alongside a waterfall-these things have all served to reassure me that I can push myself beyond what is comfortable and that I can survive. The fears I still have will not be banished by heights, speed, or having to perform under pressure; they are the ones that are harder to pin down. Like the unwillingness to look at a situation for what it really is because then I would have to ask myself-do I remain or make a change? The fear of not knowing what to say to a loved one when I so desperately want to say the ‘right’ thing and not cause further pain or distance between us. The fear of being transparent, of sharing what I need, my hopes, my dreams.
Maybe the lessons from all the extreme ways in which I have been confronting my fear are of value. Today, I told the instructor that I was nervous. He asked what was my biggest fear about the jump today. Would you like to guess?
In a nutshell, my biggest fear before jumping out of an airplane, into a freefall, then relying on a piece of fabric and a stranger, albeit a professional, to bring me safely back to the ground was that I was going to do it wrong. I was worried that I was not going to position my hands in the right place and arch my back enough. As I am writing this, it feels so crazy to share this with you. Really, my biggest fear was getting it wrong!?! Lucky for me, my instructor was awesome. His response was, “ Don’t worry about that. It makes it easier if you put your hands up when I ask you and if you can arch your back as we start our descent, but I have got you. Just remember to smile and have fun.”
Just remember to smile and have fun, admit when you are nervous or scared to someone, rarely does something have to be done perfectly to be of value, be willing to trust someone who has more or different experience than you do, lift your head for a bigger view, breathe-And be grateful. Thank you, John for inspiring me to do something that I might never had tried and for being on this incredible journey together.