By now you know that I jumped out of a plane. Not only did I live, but I did not mess myself. Two major victories in the world of skydiving.
The video is not done yet. The minute I get it, I will post it here. I cannot wait to share it with you all. And better than sharing the video from labor and delivery, right? Awkward…
I slept like crap Saturday night. Tossing, turning, trying to wrap my head around jumping out of the open door of an airplane at about 17,500 feet and then free falling at 130 mph for one full minute. Forget about it. There is no preparation.
Sunday Ken and I were up early.
Me: “They said not to wear jewelry. So don’t wear any.” (Not that he does anyway, barring the wedding ring).
Ken: “Dammit. I was going to wear my gold chain.” (He still has the one he wore in high school buried in some drawer. It used to be cool. I don’t know why, but I find gold chains rather sexy).
He ate. I couldn’t.
Ken: “Better try again to get something out,” he said heading for the bathroom.” I don’t want to leave anything on the instructor.”
Me: (When he emerges from the bathroom), “I changed my mind. I want to go up together. The plane’s not going to crash. I want to be with you.” (You might remember that in an effort to not orphan my children I wanted Ken to go first and get safely onto the ground. What seemed more important that morning, however, was sharing the full experience and supporting each other through the terror and excitement).
We arrived at Mile Hi Skydiving around 8:30 a.m. Winds were calm. Sun was bright. Mountains were breathtaking. By all accounts, a perfect day to *gulp* jump. I was oddly comforted by how many people were there to skydive that day. Kind of like there was nothing out of the ordinary about doing this. It normalized it for me…slightly.
My mom, dad, kids and several friends were there. We signed 29,000 liabilities, none of which I read. I thought they would freak me out further with their “In the event of you plunging to your death we are not responsible,” clauses. They suited us up. Purple is def my color. I thought the jumpsuits would be mildewed and smelly, but these were quite nice. I might trade in my designer Snuggi for one.
Before we knew it, they called our names and we all got on the trailer to take us out to the take off/landing site. I hugged my friends and mom and dad and cried a bit. The kids ran out to the runway for one last hug as we boarded and that made me cry too. My mom, like me, is fearful of flying. I know she both hated and loved watching me get on that plane. She felt so much fear for me, only as a mom could.
Here’s the thing. If I was so scared that it made me lose sleep and cry, why do it? Because my desire to jump exceeded the fear. Because in life, you have to keep living and sometimes that means doing things even when it makes your knees tremble and you think you can’t. Here’s where life really happens.
We buckled in, deafened by the roar of the engine. We were put at the front of the plane, which meant we would jump last. There were about 7 jumpers in our plane. I had been told you should jump first to minimize the fear, but my fear was already so maximized, I didn’t think it would matter. Not that we had a choice anyway.
Half way up
8, 750 feet. I’m continuing to silently cry a bit. My instructor, Dave, told me to sit on his lap. Woah, guess he wants to cuddle me a bit, give me some comfort. Then Ken’s instructor tells him to do the same thing. As scared as I was, it was hilarious to see Ken sitting on another man’s lap
and caressing his thigh. Dave pulled me so tightly to him that if he had a boner I would have felt it poke my back. He strapped me to him. Ken said, “Now things are starting to get really special.”
I kept telling myself that I needed to relinquish all doubt and put my total faith in this stranger named Dave who had me belted to him. There was simply no room for questioning if I was going to make the jump. My heart was beating out of my chest. The door opened. 17,500 feet. Go time. People started jumping out. One after another. We slowly moved towards the back of the plane and the *dreaded* open door. Dave told me to take a deep breath. Then another. He said it would only be scary leaving the plane, (which did not end up being true for me). We stepped up to the open door.
This was the moment. Three seconds that simultaneously flew by and lasted a lifetime. As I heard and felt the cold, strong wind and stood looking out into openness that was only sky, I took a second to look down. “Fuck” is the only word that came to mind. Every molecule of my being felt it was wrong to jump from the safety of the plane. But, every part of me also knew I would do it. The photographer video-taping me climbed onto the outside of the plane (WTF?), waiting for us to jump. My instructor rocked us back and forth three times, then we dove out.
Tumbled was more like it.
The first five seconds were a sensation of falling. Think roller coaster or tower of doom. Plunging to the earth. Dave tapped me which was the signal to take my hands off of my harness at my chest and to put them up, kind of like making the “Y” in the YMCA song, only not quite so high. No I did not start singing our going through the moves. Although that would’ve been funny.
Suddenly, we were floating. Flying. Although we were moving at speeds faster than most cars are capable of going, there was no sense of falling. The wind noise was deafening as we fell. I remember looking at the photographer, just a few feet away and giving him the thumbs up. I remember looking down. I remember thinking that one minute felt like a very long time. I remember smiling. Wide. I remember being completely and totally present.
BAM! The chute opened and we were yanked upwards. Uncomfortably so. The photographer continued falling and I watched him disappear towards the earth. Dave maneuvered us in different directions so I could take in the view. Make no mistake. I continued to shake in fear at this point. As beautiful as these moments were, I wanted to be on the ground.
I could now see, like the size of a postage stamp, where everyone was waiting for us to land. It took 5 minutes from the time we jumped until we reached the ground. I looked to my right and saw Ken nearby parachuting. We waved. Here’s Ken’s soft landing. Like a pro:
Would I do it again? Probably not. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. I would go so far as to say it was life changing in some ways. It was the most thrilling, exhilarating and exciting thing I have ever done. Sharing it with Ken was amazing. After 15 years of marriage, experiences can still bring you closer. I will never forget looking into his eyes and reaching for his hand as we climbed into the air on the plane. I know he was scared, but he didn’t let on because he wanted me to feel safe. I will never forget kissing him after we both landed. It means so much to relive the moments and to know Ken “gets” exactly what I’m talking about. He told a friend his scariest moment was watching me jump out (I went right before him). He wasn’t scared for himself. He wanted me to be safe. I love you Ken. Thanks for it all.
My advice? If you have even the slightest inkling that you want to skydive or do anything else that fills you with some fear (be it running a race, joining the Peace Corps, whatever), do it. I promise it will only make your life richer and will instill within you a sense of “yes I can” about anything and everything in your life. Skydiving might not be for everyone, but what is your “thing?”
“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.” – Leo Buscaglia