Our connected bodies rush into the freezing air and are sent hurling down, down towards the cold, hard earth below. For what seemed like an eternity, we are free falling and I can feel the wind push against my face. Kind of like when you have a fan blowing and you position yourself in front of it and say in your best Darth Vader voice “Luke, I am your father”, but at a much faster speed.
Yes folks…I went skydiving!
Now, I have never been afraid of heights, but you have to admit that jumping out of a plane — on purpose — is not something done on an everyday basis. And I’m sure many people feel why would you even want to do that. Why not?
After some cleansing experiences during my first few weeks on my 50 Weeks to 50 journey, I knew it was time to do something a little more thrilling than meditation and colonics. It was time for some real fun, and what better than to take a jump of faith, to sort of speak, with one of my partners in crime, Lacy. We both had our emotions spill out from last week’s Tarot Card reading, which was somewhat exhausting, so we needed an adrenaline rush.
On the drive south to the Otay Lakes area where Skydive San Diego is located, I did notice some grayish looking clouds, but I thought nothing of it since at least it wasn’t raining like the day before. Once there we took our sweet time reading and initialing the liability waivers, asking to look at the case law they cited and making sure copies were made for our records. I also pointed out that although I do have high blood pressure and take medication, there wasn’t any place to actually waive the warning. (Lacy is an attorney and I was a litigation paralegal in past years.) So, by the time we actually finished the paperwork we were relegated to the last group…and was told the jumps were on a weather hold. Apparently there’s some FAA regulation that you can’t jump through clouds. WTF.
So we waited, and waited, then the weather hold lifted, then the clouds came back, and we waited and waited.
Skydive San Diego has their own private runway and grass landing area, so guests can freely come watch the jumpers and don’t have to drive around to follow the group. There’s a food truck available so while we wait, we eat. I have a tasty nutella peanut butter croissant – I will definitely need to try that at home. Lacy orders a BBQ beef sandwich. And we sit, and eat, and walk around, and sit in the lobby, and sit in the car, and talk, and think.
The problem with idle time is you start thinking and over-analyzing everything. While we start to have some deep conversations, I also start thinking about the jump. (Lacy, I was listening to you too.) Why am I doing this? Because I can. Are you trying to prove something? No, not really. Did you totally empty your bladder in those porta potties so you don’t pee in your pants? Yes. Are you sure there’s no residual nutella or peanut butter on your teeth for picture taking? Yes. Did you make sure to wear nice undies, just in case of an accident? Yes, with lace too.
As I start to nod off into a dreamy state, I look up and notice the clouds opening right in front of me, exposing the once hidden clear blue skies. The clouds continue to clear as if beckoning us to come up for a visit. I’m chanting “open, open” and voila, the opening is there waiting for us to take advantage. Next thing you know, it’s announced that the next group is ready to go.
We rush over to put jumpsuits on – not the most flattering cut – and get strapped in very tightly, which is a good thing, right? I immediately try to remember the details from our tandem training hours ago: kick legs back, position your body in an arc, hands by shoulders, two taps then hands out in a U, when landing kick feet straight out, when told feet down on ground and stand up. Got it.
No, I’m not nervous, I’m fine…just fine. Remember, I keep a strong exterior; while my interiors want to come out. Please do not throw up I tell myself, especially on my Tandem Instructor Joe. Next thing you know it’s time to go. The videographer/photographer Shane keeps us all in light spirits as I’m sure he notices that I really am starting to feel queasy about this whole thing – what the F am I doing! No time to think, I’m climbing up the ladder into the jumpship, seat-belted in facing the open door and away we go.
As we fly up to the proper jumping altitude of about 13,000 feet, we all make small talk to keep our minds busy. And when Joe tells me to sit on his lap, well ya. Oh, he’s just strapping me to his body – now in another context this would be very erotic don’t you think?
From there things just happened. The door opens up and you feel the pull. The instructor right before us has his seatbelt stuck, and Joe needs to help release him, as I’m frozen between both their bodies. Then they are gone, and somehow we are huddled next to the door…and we are out.
My first thought is that it is so frickin’ cold! And I quickly realize we are falling…it was only for about a minute in time but it felt like forever. Shane is right below us and I know he’s taking video and photos, but I really wasn’t concentrating on smiling for the camera. All I could feel was the skin on my face being pushed and pulled here and there. Boy, those are going to be lovely photos.
As soon as the parachute is opened, you feel as if you are floating slowly down. Joe tells me he’s going to loosen up the straps so I’ll be more comfortable – no really the strap pressing down against my breasts are okay, really. But it does loosen me up and I was even more relaxed. Joe points out different geographic points: Tijuana, Downtown San Diego, Chula Vista Olympic Training Center. And the calm Otay Lakes mirror the skies above. The view – simply beautiful.
Just as soon as I feel like I’m in a dream, I notice we are heading towards the grass landing. We land upright – woohoo, no broken bones and I didn’t clumsily tumble over like I thought for sure I would. Wow. Shane, with cameras rolling, asks how it was – awesome! And if I would do it again – absolutely! Lacy was just as excited as she gives her instructor one big bear hug, and is soon reminded that uhh, other people are landing and she’s in their way, that Lacy!
Any profound insights after the jump? Skydiving really was about doing something fun and not waiting until I was 75, 85, or 95 to do so. But I will say that sometimes you just have to trust and have faith. If I can trust a total stranger with my life, I have faith that everything will always work out for the best. We all grow when new opportunities are provided to us, and with each new accomplishment we gain more confidence in ourselves. Now, I may never trust myself to jump solo, but when it comes to future challenges set before me, I have gained a little more “can-do” spirit.
When it’s time to jump into something, I will do so with my eyes wide open and peace in my heart.
Son: “Mom, was it sick!”
Me: “Oh ya, it was sick…and I got sick too.”
So after we hit the ground, went to take off our gear and collect our photo CD, I did start to feel a bit queasy again. You see, I do tend to get motion sickness, and quite frankly, the thought didn’t even occur to me that I might get so from the jump. Well it did. It may be due to that time when Joe decided to do some twirling moves (I didn’t dare ask if that was on purpose or due to some sort of parachute malfunction), and it felt like we were riding the Tea Cups at Disneyland.
Small sips of water should help, and since I was driving I thought I would be fine. Well, after moving along some S-curves, by the time we got to the freeway, I was hurling that once tasty nutella peanut butter croissant and my door didn’t open wide enough. It reminded very much of the one time we took a Helicopter Tour over Kauai and I got sick as soon as we landed. Hmm…we’re supposed to learn from mistakes, right?
My lesson here – keep a dose of Dramamine with me at all times.
Skydive San Diego, 13531 Otay Lakes Road, Jamul, CA 91935, 800.FREE.FALL (In California), 619.216.8416, http://skydivesandiego.com/
Tandem jump is $249, but check for special online and Groupon deals. Video and photo packages are extra, but worth the cost.
Nutella peanut butter croissant – $3.50. Cost of cleaning that awful smell in my car – thanks Dad!
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