Jump on Two
The little plane inched its way up through the white puffy clouds that had replaced the ugly storm clouds of just an hour prior. There was barely room for the instructor and I crunched up in the cabin behind the pilot. A former Army pilot, who decided to fly thrill seekers after his military retirement. I felt comforted by his experience, less comforted by the duck tape peeling up at the edges on the wing. Surely if he could navigate service members under combative circumstances, he could safely get me a mile above air where I would acknowledge his great flying by jumping out of the aircraft.
Second jumps are better than the first. You know the process, what to expect, when to act, and when to stop and take it all in. Sure, I had a fear of these death tubes that defy gravity, but I also have a fear of getting to the end of my life and wondering if I truly lived. Am I going to stand before God and see what my life could have been if I hadn't been so afraid? I hope if that's how it goes, God and I will have a laugh about the relatively meaningless things I may have missed, but share a high five over the breathtaking moments that I seized. I want to laugh with him about how he showed me beauty in the most unexpected places.
No longer a novice adrenaline junkie, I hunkered down, knowing that all too soon it would be over with. I wanted to drink it in. I looked out the window, taking mental pictures of the spiral clouds we seemed to be climbing. Joe told me to look out the window and below, I could see the aircraft's shadow on the cloud below; we looked tiny! He told me, if I heard correctly, that is called a cloud puppy. It wasn't the smoothest ride (I'm sure the duck tape repairs had nothing to do with that), so its possible he said something way cooler. I didn't imagine if the clouds felt like cotton candy, because my first jump proved that little droplets of condensation in the cloud feel more like bee-bee gun pellets when you are free falling at 100mph. Appearances can be deceiving and my cotton candy dreams were dashed!
After break ups, I don't eat Ben & Jerry's and drink my woes away, that only creates self loathing and who needs that when they're already in the dumps. I prefer to jump out of a plane! The first had been after someone I had dated off and on for four years, this one was with the man that I had married and made a family with; a man that I had adored and took years to unlove. The betrayals came out of left field, without warning, at least not to someone with love goggles securely on. It shocked my system in the worst of ways; I will spare you the details, most of us know deep sorrow, and that was what it was.
I needed a jump, an adrenaline rush, a good shock to the system. I hadn't laughed in months, the deep belly kind that come from joy and pure delight. I found a willing fellow thrill seeker in my dear friend Marissa, and booked the jump, hoping to feel something that didn't feel like pain. I am grateful she was courageous and came with me, fun things are significantly more fun when shared with a great friend. And that night as I got ready for bed, I realized my face hurt. I'd showed my mom the photos and told my children detail for detail about the jump, and she noted, that she hadn't heard me laugh in months and it was good to hear. That's it! With an amazing friend and co-conspirator by my side and a brush with heaven, I had laughed and smiled so much that my happy muscles were hurting from the workout. Mission accomplished!
When the plane reaches the altitude for jumping, you walk or crab crawl if you're in a bite sized aircraft, to the door. Your instructor is behind you. You grab the sides of the door, wind rushing by you and the earth below. "Okay, we're going to jump on three," he says to prepare you. Then "one...two..." suddenly the earth is rushing towards you, the wind hitting your face at nearly 100 miles per hour, your heart quickens with excitement, no room for dread or demanding what happened to "three" now. You yell with excitement "woohoo, yaaaaas!" The earth is so small up here, your problems even smaller still, if you could run around up here like a child on a sugar high, you totally would...jumping from cloud to cloud... I'll do that when I get to heaven someday, I'm sure God won't mind, maybe he'll even join! That would be awesome!
I'll never jump alone, some instructors let you pull the parachute cord when you reach the right altitude. I am that person that gets so lost in a moment that I don't feel the tap on the shoulder or see the persistent pointing at the altimeter, indicating that it's time to pull the cord...or, well, ya know, become a human pancake. Fortunately the instructor values his life and ultimately pulls the cord. Thank goodness!
The chute opens, and there is silence like you will never experience walking on earth. No birds, no traffic, no breezes through trees, no buzz of appliances, nothing. Complete silence. Maybe some of us could use a little bit of that in our lives, complete silence, void of any noise constantly filling our minds and hearts, distracting us from our destination.
I have a confession to make. I have been playing it safe for a long time. I have been waiting for someone to count to three, and then I will jump. Sometimes God, like the tandem jump instructor, doesn't let us wait until three, because he knows if he lets us finish our count to three, we may never jump. I'm not sure that I am ready to jump, but I am certain that sometimes feeling ready isn't the same as being ready. People wait to have children until they are financially ready, wait to find love until they've been established in a career, wait to open that business until they've learned every facet of it, wait to get help until they've built up the courage to ask, wait to love people until their own heart is ready, wait to forgive until they've received an apology. We sit around in the waiting place...where everyone is just waiting (if you don't know the reference, your literary repertoire is sorely lacking and I feel sorry for you, Dr. Seuss holds the lessons to life!)
There was a period in my life where I seemed to be attending funerals on a regular basis, too many of them where I was on the receiving side of the receiving line. Young people. People who I sometimes wonder, with their last breath, wished they'd jumped on two. I want to stop waiting for someone to yell "three" before I step out in faith. At some point we have to lean forward, catch the resistance of the wind, see the potential to crash and burn, and jump anyway.