Ten years ago, our 8 year old son watched a movie about skydiving and immediately wanted to do it. A quick internet search revealed he needed to be 18 years old before he could jump, providing me with much relief. Thinking there was a lot of time for him to change his mind I agreed to take him and even promised to jump with him. “I’ve always wanted to do this,” flew out of my mouth.
Fast forward ten years, we jumped out of a plane together for the first time at 15,000 feet overlooking the NASA Space Center on a clear and beautiful Florida day. It was a tandem jump meaning that an expert skydiver was attached to each of us who directed the way and controlled the parachute. It was amazing, exhilarating, breathtaking, and revealing about forgotten lessons which needed to be revitalized.
Be careful about the promises made. While it was true that I always wanted to try skydiving, it is also true that I never thought it would be a real possibility. It is far easier to vocalize a fantasy than it is to attempt to live it. But the consequences of failing to fulfill this promise were even worse. As a parent, it is important to regularly demonstrate a willingness to confront difficult things head on, stand courageously in the face of fear and transform anxiety into action. Living boldly is not just for the young, it for everyone. A promise made should be a promise kept even if the only one listening is you.
Everyone should do uncomfortable things. As a counselor, clients are asked daily to do something outside of their comfort zone. Likewise counselors should continue to stretch themselves beyond the ordinary. Actions do speak louder than words. Even if that action is not discussed, it is evident through an attitude of encouragement, empathetic feelings, and inspirational words. Doing difficult tasks builds character while exhibiting continued growth and development. Never stop growing is a solid moto.
Once a decision is made, it is made. The only next choice to make is to follow through on what is previously decided. When we arrived at the airport, the first decision made was to sign the twenty pages of liability waivers. Then we patiently waited till the tandem master placed the gear on each of us giving basic instructions of what to expect. Loading the plane full of jumpers naturally came next as the excitement for the final choice built to a crescendo. The ultimate decision to jump was not done in isolation rather it was a progression of many smaller choices already previously decided. Jumping became the end of the sequence, not the beginning.
Pay attention to the small things. Breathing is a good example. Right before the jump, the tandem master said, “Don’t forget to breath.” This seemed like a silly statement at the time, but after jumping out of the plane it transformed into a very wise remark. The rush of adrenaline, the disorientation of the horizon, and the sheer excitement literally “take your breath away.” What once is done without any effort or conscious thought; now needs to be reiterated. “You have to breathe,” was stated in my head over and over till it became natural again. Sometimes it is the little things in life that matter the most.
Imagination is often worse than reality. My imagination is very active stemming from a family inheritance of anxiety based on worst possible scenarios. If there was a contest in dreaming up crazy situations, I would win. Before the jump, there were thoughts of the plane going down, hurting the tandem master in an attempt to avoid jumping, losing control of bodily functions, the parachute not opening, and slamming into another skydiver knocking us all unconscious. None of this happened. By choice, emotions and thoughts ran wild stealing up precious time that could have been spent enjoying the present. It is good to confront fear and anxiety alive in dark imagination and bring them to the light of reality.
So the question that is repeatedly asked is, “Would you do it again?” The answer is a simple, “Yes.” Because the person who needs to be reminded of these lessons is most often myself and there is no better way to do it than by taking a huge leap of faith.