I’m celebrating an anniversary this month. Another one? What is it with me and anniversaries?! 🙂 Well, a year ago this month I went skydiving!
In recent years–well, even not so recent–I’ve adopted the mantra “Never Say Never”. Too many things that I’d thought could/would never happen did so I realized saying Never didn’t make much sense for me. I also accepted the fact that I’d lived, not so much with a lot of fear, as much as in a safe zone–a comfort zone. About four years ago I noticed a sign a co-worker had in his classroom. It said:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
That quote is attributed to Hunter S. Thompson. He was kind of a wild and crazy dude so maybe it’s not good advice, but I liked it. Also I marveled over and over at the really adventurous things my big brother was doing–like finishing the Mongol Rally or fishing in exotic locales with his buddies or so many other things big and small. We were at his house and he was showing me a beautiful painting he’d just finished. I had no idea he was a painter! I looked at him and all of a sudden it hit me–he had a list! “You have a list!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah, do you want to see it?”
“No, I don’t need to see your list. It just makes sense that you have one.” He’d confirmed that he was making sure he skidded out in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used, up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow! What a Ride!”
Right on. . . . and why not?
Skydiving wasn’t on my bucket list like people thought because I don’t have a bucket list like my brother. It wasn’t something I’d thought about doing for years. I only decided to do it five months earlier. My 45th birthday was coming up and I thought, This is kind of a milestone birthday. Maybe I should do something. Skydiving was the most terrifying thing I could imagine doing for years and years. So that’s a good birthday thing, right? I kid.
Seriously, I thought if I could conquer my fears, control my thoughts, and jump out of an airplane, there might be lots of other things I could do too. That’s really the best answer I have. I thought about it ( just noodled it privately to myself) for months. Weird thing? Once I made the decision, I wasn’t scared.
I was thinking about it one day while
trying to work sitting in a distracting coffee shop. Overcoming fear isn’t easy. Research tells us more and more that the brain is plastic even as we age and we only learn by doing–it needs to see for itself that something is safe or something can be done. Jaimal Yogis wrote, “Whatever your worries, there’s no reason to accept fear as fact. There is a huge disconnect between our fear and rationale thoughts”
looked up the only option for jumping I knew of in my area, and committed by scheduling a jump date and paying a 50% deposit. Deep breath in, head up to scan the coffee drinkers around me to make sure I was not in some alternative universe (still Starbucks in Oregon) drop shoulders, breathe out. I had some mental prep to do!
In the months leading up to the jump I didn’t think about the stupidity or physicality of it. I focused on my attitude. I gave myself quiet pep talks about courage. I thought, If I could do THIS, what else could I do? I talked myself right into the jump room on a beautiful October day and suited up.
When my brother saw the picture of me walking to the plane, he said I looked confident. I did! I wasn’t scared. My mind was SO ready and I felt SO strong at that point that I couldn’t believe it myself.
We took off and the pilot and jumpers made jokes and small talk. They asked how I was doing. I said I was good. I got a thumbs up from my ‘jump guy’, Chris. The fields became smaller as we spiraled up, looking for a hole in the clouds.
Then it was time. Chris, faced me to the front window and quite literally strapped himself onto me tighter than I knew two people could be attached and I was grateful as hell for what instantly became not awkward at all.
He told me we were at 10,000 feet and that he was going to open the door of the airplane. He reminded me where I was going to put my feet on the wing brace outside and he opened the door. Let me tell you, THAT was a sensation like no other and my blood got confused about which way it was supposed to flow! There is a REASON you don’t open doors in flight.
It’s a good thing Chris was bigger than me because he put his weight behind me, counted down from (just) three and pushed me off the wing. No screaming. Just the thought that I had done the inconceivable.
I shut my eyes but opened them instantly telling myself not to waste a second of this. We were plummeting to the earth, faster and faster but not really getting any closer. I finally remembered to bend my knees and pull my ankles between Chris’ legs.
I wasn’t wearing a helmet and my ears got colder and colder from the wind. Don’t think I don’t get jealous when I see photos of young, little punks falling to the earth, their faces tight as their tails. They look great. Me? Not so much. You will never see those shots. It’s like I was in the most remarkable wind tunnel and nobody could find the off button. Because they couldn’t stop laughing. It wasn’t pretty. Just when I thought my middle-aged face couldn’t take any more, I felt the jolt from the primary chute as we started to spin, then Chris pulled ropes to spin us in circles and I told him we didn’t need to do that anymore and we whooped and hollered and felt like birds with harnesses around our rears and it was awesome in the true meaning of the word.
I marvel that I was able to do the scariest thing I could imagine. I set a goal, put my mind to it, and DID it. Part of the intent was to show myself I was capable and to have something to remind myself that I might be able to accomplish a lot of things if I put my mind to it. Mind Over Matter. Since then, I have believed in myself in a different way. I think I am stronger for the experience. I am more confident and I do better understand the power of positive thinking.
My dad said he saw no reason why anyone would jump out of a perfectly good airplane. For the record, did you see it? Considering the duct tape on the inside, it wasn’t perfectly good and I definitely had a reason.
My lessons from this:
- You really can do anything you put your mind to.
- You’ll be afraid of something until you do it.
- Skydiving might be scarier for the people on the ground waiting for you than it might be for you.
What do you want to set your mind to do? If I can do this, you can do anything! Just Go For It and Good Luck ~