Yes, we really did it. Rob and I did a tandem sky dive jump on his 50th birthday. I wasn’t nervous until about five seconds before we jumped. We were both hooked to a professional jumper who was in charge of the hard part…pulling the chute, making sure we survived the adventure, and most important, keeping us (alright, me) from panic and any resulting hysteria.
The whole thing was surprisingly simple. Signing the release forms took a lot longer than the very brief instruction for a successful tandem jump. There were three main directives: first, you arch your back when you are in free fall; second, remember to breathe; and third, once the chute is opened, you can open your arms and stretch into the wind. That’s it. That’s all you need to know to jump out of a plane.
The short flight up to 13,000 feet was fun, sitting on a crowded bench with fellow jumpers. Most of the group was jumping without benefit of a professional attachment, which I didn’t really appreciate until I was standing looking out of the open door, staring into the air, faaarrr above the ground. I was just starting to say out loud, “I don’t think I can do this,” when I suddenly realized that I was HOOKED to this person I had paid to jump with me, and HE WAS GOING OUT THE DOOR. Obviously, that is a critical part of the experience. I would have been too paralyzed to jump if I had not been attached to another person who made it impossible for me to stay inside the plane.
As soon as we were out the door (didn’t see the first several seconds, my eyes were too tightly shut) I focused on breathing and holding the arched position that was required for the free fall. About the time I was opening my eyes I felt the chute open and the whole experience went into a sort of slow motion. It was beautiful and smooth, and I left the fear way above me, in the space just outside the door of the plane. The instructor gave me a little flight-seeing tour, pointing out different landmarks above San Diego and taking us through a series of gentle turns as we floated toward the landing area.
Would I do it again? I doubt it…not that I couldn’t, but I think it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. Once was enough.
And what did I learn? It was an amazing illustration of the power of connection, of having someone to push me beyond my comfort zone, and then to create a soft landing from a beginning that was frightening.
I thought of how often life is like that: two people connect themselves to each other, and at any given moment may switch out the roles of the professional leading the way and the novice along for the ride. Each person brings their expertise and their courage to the experience, and together, if the jump is successful, they navigate to solid ground and land right side up, feet first, in spite of having times of being upside down on the trip down.
Maybe I’m reaching in my analogy…but it seemed perfect to me. Life sometimes seems upside down, like I’ve jumped out of the plane and am looking for the landing zone. Sometimes I’m in the free fall zone, and sometimes I’m in the peaceful and inspiring space of floating, taking it all in. The key is the jump buddy I’m attached to. Well, it’s an interesting ride, and sometimes unpredictable. But I’m with the same buddy I’ve had for almost 30 years, and I haven’t crashed yet. Must be doing something right.
Here’s to jumping out, taking the plunge, and careful selection of your jumping partner. It makes all the difference when you’re standing at the door, looking out. Be sure you’re strapped on tight, and that you’re connected to someone who will be good for the ride! It’s an amazing experience, but the most important choice is the one you make before you leave the ground. It’s the choice of the jump buddy.