Monday, September 27, 2010

My Skydiving Experience

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.”

So thoughtful.

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.

Jumping Out

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:


The Verdict

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


  1. ...and now you never have to do it again! Good for you.

  2. that's a very nice quote! thanks for sharing =)

  3. love it love it love it. I am still terrified to do it, but I'm making sure I take new risks and try things every day!

  4. you didn't mess yourself?! that's impressive in and of itself :D

    i'm wayyyyyyyy jealous and impressed that you did this! i'm totally think i'd have vomited hahah

  5. "my desire to jump exceeded the fear" - says it all. Way to have the balls (so to say) to make that leap!

  6. Awesome awesome job!

    I felt the same way after I jumped. Glad I did it but didn't need to do it again.

    The altitude change just about killed my ears and that was enough for me.

    Nice photos!!!! Can't wait to see the video. You'll laugh at the flapping skin. :-)

  7. Well done!
    "Get busy living ... or get busy dying." Sometimes it takes the possibility of dying to truly live.

  8. I got goosebumps as I read that post. What an awesome experience! Can't wait to see the video!

  9. my heart is in my stomach just from reading your post. I don't think I will ever jump from a plane, and I don't think I will ever regret not jumping from a plane.

  10. So exciting even just sitting here reading about I think I've said this in just about every blog reply I've made, but I just can't believe how inspiring all of you bloggers are. it's been a blessing finding this community.

  11. You rock! That is amazing and I love how you did it together and that meant something to you. You guys have a great marriage and that is really cool!

  12. Awesome! I declined jumping this summer (just a month ago!) but your last paragraph gave me the courage to do it. Thanks for sharing your amazing experience!

  13. AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME!!! :D your are incredible! Im so glad that you are glad you did it! :) That's so cool that you ended up going with Ken! :)

  14. To paraphrase your comment - my desire to complete a marathon outweighs my fear of failure. THAT is my "thing."

  15. i skydived when i was in my 20's and i loved it. i did the same type of jump. i recall the sensation of free falling and watching the clouds whip past me. it was truly amazing. i just went to six flags yesterday with my kids but momma took some time all on her own and went on 3 roller coasters...i went on the kinga ka or something like that, the tallest in the world. it was sick and made me think of my skydive. not sure why but i love the thrill of it.

  16. smiling, laughing, and trying not to choke up. Its makes me so happy that you have such a great relationship with Ken. It makes it even better that you know it and appreciate it and then share it with the world :) Good on ya chica!

  17. Let me share a story with you b.

    When I was in training in the air force, we had to do two jumps in parachutes which we did not want to do - why would a pilot jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Bad marketing we thought. Anyway - we had to jump - those where the rules. We were a bunch of hotshot pilots.

    So we are in the training area and we fell a few times on pullies into a sand pit and a few times into something like a big net with sponges in it, and then we get some training on how to deploy the emergency chute.

    Sergeant Major: boys, when you pull the cord of the first chute, reach back and punch up under the bag on your back, it will help loosen the chute if it is stuck. When you feel the drag of the chute pulling on your crotch, look up and count how many chutes you see. You should see one.

    Officer Cadets: [grinning to the sergeant's humor]

    Sergeant Major: so boys, does anyone know why we have a K-Bar knife attached to the chest strap under out chins?

    Officer Cadets: [many try to answer] if the chute tangles we can cut it loose and deploy the emergency chute?

    Sergeant Major: no son, the strapping is far to strong to cut through with a knife, just unhook the latches and the first chute will release, then pull the emergency chute, punch the bag to make sure the chute deploys fully and then look up and count how many chutes you see. If you see any number except one. Unzip your fly, pull out your private parts with your left hand, and with the right hand pull out the K-bar and cut your private parts off and through them away - cuz you ain't going to need them anymore.

    The Sergeant Major was with the Canadian Airborne (Army) Unit, while we were all Air Force, so he always reminded us how stupid we were. In the plane when we were about to do our first jump he got on the intercom in the C-130 and said, A frightening image just came to mind, they did teach you to count to one in the air force didn't they?

    Looks like they treated you a little better than we were treated a couple of decades ago!

  18. I am so glad you detailed your jump! I am scared of heights and do not like to fly but will (been to China twice and all over the country). You are so brave to face up to that fear and just DO it!!!! Very happy that you and Ken were able to experience something like that together!!! Congrats!!

  19. Oh my gosh - it sounds like you had a great time. And it was wonderful that you and Ken got to share it . . . for the rest of your life. Life . . . isn't it wonderful. ;-)

  20. So excited for you, Beth. The happiness and closeness between you and Ken brings tears to my eyes. You guys rock!

    And I'm jealous. My dad and I have been talking about skydiving for years. Thanks for posting this, I'll show it to him. Maybe this will be the year!

  21. oh my goodness! i am so excited for you... i am totally teared up reading this post! i want to jump out of a plane too! granted i would be just as scared as you but life is way to short not to go crazy!!! :) sounds like a great time!

  22. impressive! Takes guts to face your fears like that.

  23. A skydiving anniversary gift! I got one five years ago...loved it, will never do it again...

  24. I found your link for Anne Marie's GFTW. I had to read. I did 5 solo jumps when I was in college (I was in the Air Force). Each one was scarier than the first. I think I might do a tandem jump sometime, but only once.

  25. Awesome! "my desire to jump exceeded the fear" - great attitude! Thanks for sharing your experience - now I want to see the video!

  26. Awesome! This nearly makes me want to do it!

  27. I loved reading this! I love that you did it and I love that you shared it with Ken! Awesome! I am terrified of jumping...but, you almost make me want to do it...almost. Instead, that's what we offered our son and his fiancé for his graduation. :)

  28. Aw I loved this post. Made me teary, happy, scared and overall ready to take on the next challenge. Congrats to you and Ken for conquering your fears!

  29. Congrats on the jump. My friend did it this summer and her video was awesome. Can't wait to see yours.

    I guess it's ok to tell you that when you jump in an area of higher altitude, you actually fall faster. Learned that in my math class the other day, but didn't think I should tell you before the jump. :-)

  30. Yep, I love that line..."Here is where life really happens!"

    Can you run across burning coals next?? What would it take to break Beth? Not much, she's tough but she also has a heart of gold.
    Congrats tough girl!!

  31. Totally in awe - LOVE that you two did this, and that your children are not orphaned. ;)

    A friend of ours back in DC went skydiving as part of a bachelor-weekend and actually FAINTED after they jumped (they being him and his instructor/fly guy). The video is Hilarious, but also scared the sh*t out of me... YOUR experience, on the other hand, makes this seem as life-changing as it probably should be :)

  32. Rock on! (And the part about sitting on the instructor's lap had me in tears laughing.)

  33. why did YOUR sky diving experience make ME tear up???

    andy and i have mentioned it several times and never did it...we may just have to!

  34. Amazing! Congrats on getting it done. You definitely had me in tears at the end.

  35. You rock! That is something I will never try, and I'm a never say never kind of person. Way to stare down your fear and go for it.

  36. Very well done! And this brings to mind my favourite quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
    Mark Twain

  37. How absolutely WONDERFUL, in so many ways. Thanks for sharing.

    Winks & Smiles,

  38. Amazing. Just amazing. I don't even do roller coasters (true story) so this is just beyond me. Way to go!

  39. I got goosebumps reading this! Sounds like an amazing albeit scary experience. Skydiving is definitely on my bucket list...I just gotta get the balls to actually do it!

  40. Awesome, awesome, awesome! I loved reading this post! I am so excited for you that you did it! yay!

  41. I am sooo moved by this post and the video. I have chills and my eyes are a little wet. What an experience! Thanks for letting us in on it with you. I can honestly say this is something I never thought I would do, but I'm pretty much ready to go and sign up for a jump right now! Ha! Don't worry, I'll sleep on it!

  42. I seriously felt right there with you in that process. Absolutely perfect description. I ALSO felt goosebumps and my heart racing as I read! The best part was how it made you and Ken even closer. And thanks for the end. I need to reread that paragraph and concluding quote again and again.

  43. amazing to read. I love that you and Ken did this together.

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