tie your shoes and take the leap

by | Jan 18, 2023 | blog

When my oldest was about to turn eighteen, his father, my adoring husband, asked him, “If you could do anything for your birthday, what would it be?”

Our resident daredevil said, “Take skydiving lessons and jump on my own.” This means there is no expert attached to your back doing all the work. You must pull your own rip cord to not die! His father booked two tickets to the “safest” jump school in the nation…one for the kid and one for me. Notice he didn’t volunteer himself for this death-defying stunt. Oh no. He volunteered the wife whom he promised to love and cherish “until [her untimely parachuting] death.”

To be fair, I really wanted to do it and was more excited than scared. In fact, I was so disappointed when the weather was uncooperative and forced us to wait an extra day to get to jump that I cried. Some of that was from the time and money we invested in the ultimate birthday gift, but only some of it. Okay, a lot of it.
And then we did jump, and it was spectacular. For the kid I mean.

Everything was fine on the plane, even sitting butt-to-front in a fuselage tightly packed with strangers, until I noticed as I made my way to the open door over the drop zone into 13,000 feet of atmospheric nothingness that my shoelace was untied. What are you gonna do? There’s no bending down to tie it with harnesses in all the bending down places of my body, and I probably would have tumbled out the door, so I jumped like a kindergartner at recess, with my shoelace flapping in the wind.

Once I pulled the cord, and all the parts worked like they were supposed to, and I knew I wouldn’t kiss the earth at 120 mph, I relaxed. Well, not so much relaxed as maintained laser focus on steering toward the landing zone so I wouldn’t drift off course and get stuck in a tree or become alligator bait in a marsh. Then, through the one-way headset in my crash helmet, my instructor, who condescendingly called me “mom” even though we were the same age, told me to get ready. I slowed the chute by pulling down halfway on the handles. He said, “Go,” and I pedaled my legs in mid-air, anticipating a perfectly executed landing. What I failed to do was pull all the way down on my handles and instead belly flopped in a field with one leg behind me and the other in my face. I’d only done part of my job. Not die-check. Slow down-check. Start running as you brake hard-oops.

While the instructor who was about forty yards away yelling into my pressure-clogged ear, “Stand up so I know you’re okay,” I flailed in a sea of cords and rip-stop nylon, completely unable to stand and unaware that my child has safely landed on his feet like a gazelle on the Serengeti.
My post-skydiving lunchtime reflection: “Who knew I could do the splits?!” My post-post skydiving reflection of the experience was that facing your fears and taking a big leap is always better than keeping yourself safely stuck in a rut, never venturing beyond your comfort zone.
That’s what I’m doing now, facing my fears of criticism and of people not liking my work and just writing. More than that, I’m actively showing my work to strangers and allowing them to glimpse my soul, and when the rejection and the negativity come (and they are), I keep reminding myself that it’s better than staring up into the sky wondering what it would feel like to free fall but never having the courage to take the leap.

Maybe jumping out of fully operational planes miles above the earth holds no appeal to you, but something does. Do you have an extraordinary dream, but you’ve let fear or failure hold you back from experiencing it? Be courageous and take the leap, but tie your shoes first.