When you’re in the process of getting divorced, questioning religion, and generally trying to figure out who you are as a person after three decades under your belt on the planet, you have your bad moments.
I had such a moment last weekend.
“Eff it. I’m done with the sad. I’m going skydiving!” I half yelled at a friend.
“You should totally do that,” was the response.
I got off the phone and looked up some companies in San Diego that might be willing to toss me out of an airplane. Left the tabs open and went to sleep because it was like 1am.
The next morning, I reread the reviews, confirmed to myself that I actually liked the one I’d picked out the night before (note to my mama — see! I totally made a rational decision about skydiving NOT at 1am.) (I’m going to guess that doesn’t mean much to my mama, whose only comfort right now is that I’m still alive.) (I love you Mom!), and I booked it.
**Everything written up to this point was pre-free fall. The following is my thoughts and reactions to being PUSHED OFF AN AIRPLANE.**
Ok, I volunteered to be pushed. And it’s a good thing I was pushed, because I probably would have sat in that open airplane door all freaking day if my tandem jumper Igor (how cool is that name? He’s Russian, apparently. But he lived in Australia. His Russian-Australian accent was dreamy.) hadn’t fallen out of the plane on top of me 10,000 feet in the atmosphere.
Anyway. I showed up to Pacific Coast Skydiving this afternoon, and it looked so much like a movie set I was half expecting to see Matthew McConaughey walking around the corner. It was open and funky and breezey and it was kinda like a hip hanger barn with airplanes and parachutes and old couches and a ping-pong table.
The people there were warm and friendly, and totally made me feel at ease. I signed and initialed a bunch of stuff, including something that said I had made provisions for my children in the case of my death. I laughed that off and didn’t think too much about it, because no one likes to think about dying.
All of a sudden a thought crossed my brain that I swear had not even entered it since I made the reservation — what if the chute doesn’t open?? Seriously. I hadn’t even entertained that idea. As soon as I thunk it, I unthunk it. No point in worrying about being their first causality. Besides, that’s why you go tandem with a professional — you die, they die.
So they got me all harnessed up and on the plane with this other chick and her skydiver, and then we took off. It took maybe 15 to 20 minutes to reach altitude, and of course the view was amazing. Igor got me all hooked up to him, and told me that when the door opened, I needed to swing my legs out (I was going first) and sorta hook them under the plane. Then look up, hold onto my shoulder straps, and arch my back.
The plane door opened and I think I cussed. This part happened so fast that I’m not sure if I wanted to change my mind, but by the time my legs were out, I know I had changed my mind, and before I could very politely and calmly explain to Igor that I would not be falling out of the sky today, we were tumbling. I cussed some more I think, but mostly just screamed.
Someone asked me if it was like being at the top of a rollercoaster but more so, but it was nothing like a rollercoaster. The only way I know how to explain the sheer terror and adrenaline of it is to say it’s like that feeling you have when you think you’ve gone down all the stairs, but there’s one more step you missed, and you have a mini panic attack as your foot doesn’t find solid ground where it expected it. Times a zillion.
One thing I’d heard was that it’s over before you even know it, but I had a different experience. I think I lived a lifetime in about 30 seconds. I think I still might be up there somehow.
It was amazing and empowering, and the perfect way to celebrate some of the very difficult life changes I’ve made recently that completely knock out the status quo. For a very long time leading up to the split, I used ‘jumping’ as an analogy for going through with it. I was scared — so scared — that my ‘life chute’ wouldn’t open, and I would crash to the earth a broken and bloody mess.
It came to the point that not jumping became a scarier thought than letting go, so I got myself as prepared as possible. I did my safety checks. I talked to people that had done it before, and what their experiences had been. I examined the potential (and the certain) negative outcomes that would occur if I did this.
Ultimately, even though the actual skydiving was something I had wanted to, and planned to do — when it came to that split-second moment of truth, I didn’t want to go through with it. But a little push out the door led to feeling more alive than I ever have before, and I have no regrets.
I not only got some closure today for my broken marriage, but I got some weird closure for my broken relationship with My Pastor. If things hadn’t happened the way they did — if telling Leif I was leaving him had been left to me entirely — I honestly have no idea if I could’ve gone through with it.
I thought I could. I planned on it. I prepared for it. But could I have ‘jumped’ out of my marriage of my own volition? I don’t know anymore.
But I’m glad I did. Yes, there’s some terrifying freefalling at first when you feel like you’re inside a gyroscope and you’re spinning and the earth is spinning in the opposite direction around you … but then you’re flying.
Er, um … falling with style.