Stepping outside our comfort zone is how we work on letting go of fears and can truly grow. It reminds me of a BIG leap I took back in the fall of 2011 when I went tandem sky diving. I always wanted to try it but never had anyone daring enough to go with me. Enter stage right, Dan, my then new boyfriend who has since become my husband.
When Jump Day finally arrived I was exhilarated beyond belief. The scariest part for some is the fear of heights, a broken bone or worst case, death. Well not for me. I was more concerned about the embarrassingly ugly leather helmet my gentleman trainer made me wear and the red body suit I was supposed to somehow squeeze my (then) fluffier self, dressed in layers, into.
As a thoughtful and surprise gift, Dan, paid for my jump to be video recorded. As we walked to the plane and I wore a nervous yet happy smile, my every move was being painstakingly recorded. I thought, “GREAT...I look like an absolute fool in this get up. How the hell am I going to climb up into this small plane without splitting the crotch in this jumpsuit? All the guys (plus Dan) are gonna have to work together and try to hoist me up while the camera rolls."
Followed by, "OMG…now I can’t remember anything Mr. Trainer told me in our pre-jump class. Ugh. Wait! He said something about keeping my mouth shut during the jump. Sure, with my luck I'll catch a bird in my flapping jowls on the way down and will be the brunt of jokes for years to come. Yeah, because this is all being captured on a lovely DVD I get to take home and will have to share with my family AND it’s going on Sky Dive Milwaukee’s website. What the hell was I thinking?! Someone. Kill. Me. Now.”
To my surprise, the jumpsuit flexed with me nicely as I was kindly helped into the plane. As I looked around at my fellow first-timers I realized we all looked foolish – it wasn’t just me. As the plane ascended Mr. Trainer reviewed all the steps from our training session again while he hooked us tightly together. As the plane ascended higher I got real quiet. I decided it was time to let go of racing thoughts, get still and breathe, and enjoy the moment. Once that sense of calm hit me the videographer conveniently noticed and flipped the camera back on for a quick segment to ask how I was feeling. I smiled big and said, “Great!”
When it was our turn to jump I was supposed to kneel at the edge of that open door for a moment, but for whatever reason I sat down instead. Then I looked down. At the ground. 10,000-ish feet below. I let out a mighty loud "holy shit," took a deep breath, and surrendered allowing my trainer to push us out of the plane. (I can tell you honestly that the least attractive thing a woman can be captured doing on video is the initial uncoordinated rolling fall out of a plane wearing a skin tight red jumpsuit! There’s nothing you can do that can help your butt look less huge in that moment!)
Knowing I was being recorded, I worked very hard at keeping my mouth shut and attempted to breathe through my super inflated nostrils during the – what seemed like forever – free fall. I remember feeling so at peace and also full of excitement with what I was experiencing at that present moment.
My trainer continued talking to me during the free fall to ensure I was doing okay, explaining our next steps, and then guiding me to find and pull the rip cord. Once the chute deployed and after the big thrust upward slowed us down and my stomach fell from my throat back to its proper place, another level of peace came over me. All you could hear was the wind and the view was so beautiful. I got to take control of the chute and turn us in different directions for a while. I could see the earlier jumpers descending below us, and I remember smiling and laughing and feeling so present in every second of that experience.
The last part of the jump…the landing…can sometimes be challenging depending on your speed as well as the positioning of your legs and feet when you touch the ground. Our landing was as graceful as one could have ever wished for, or at least that’s MY version. In reality I kept my knees bent and pulled up toward my chest forgetting to put them down on the ground. Mr. Trainer was about my height and with the speed we were coming down at his two legs couldn’t do the work for both of us. We landed on our butts and slid about 20 feet before coming to a stop and he basically ended up beneath me. I had to stop myself from laughing in order to hear him say, “What happened to you putting your feet down Jodi? OKAY, you need to get off me now so I can unhook us.” I finally snapped out of my giggle fit and was able to get up.
That day entailed not only a BIG leap, but five small ones…
1) Courage and Living a Dream: Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane took a lot of courage. A LOT! It was always a dream of mine, and at 40 years old I finally got to live it.
2) Noticing, Ignoring and Returning to the Present Moment: The smaller leaps came in noticing my overly excited brain running all sorts of random self-conscious thoughts – like a TV news ticker – and then seeing them for what they were, just thoughts, not giving them anymore attention and returning to being present in the moment.
3) Surrender and Trust: I allowed myself to surrender right before we jumped and trust that I was going to be safe – my trainer would stay attached, the chute would deploy, and I wouldn’t break my leg – and I’d live to brag about the awesome experience!
4) Accepting Myself: This experience was also a reminder that “adventurous, real and transparent, loves living life, not afraid to challenge her fear while wearing a silly hat and tight jumpsuit Jodi” is who I really am!
5) Letting Go: Finally, it was also a pivotal opportunity to bid ado to any worry and self-defeating thoughts that resided in my head as they only get in the way of living fully and happily!