Finding Meaning at Terminal Velocity

Yep, totally cool as a cucumber.
Yep, totally cool as a cucumber.

I always used to pride myself on being ‘tough’ and ‘strong’.  I always had everything under control, I was organised and driven and un-emotional. At least that is what I thought. Until the illusion I had been living under came crashing down after the birth of my daughter, nearly three years ago. Suddenly my identity was gone, all the things I thought defined me were either not there anymore or no longer seemed important. And I realised, I had no idea who I really was. I think this is a really common experience for a lot of first time mums, but it’s definitely not limited to mothers, nor does it affect only women. For me working through this takes time (and continues to) – and a whole lot of love and support from my husband, family and friends… and my therapist.  But probably one of the biggest breakthroughs I’ve had recently came from jumping out of a plane. Really! Hear me out.

That is me in the picture above, jumping out of a plane from 14,000ft.  I can safely say that it was the most terrifying thing I have ever done, EVER.  But then again the expression on my face probably gave that away. The fear didn’t start there either, the anticipation of having to jump out of that tiny, rickety plane was bloody nerve wracking and I doubted whether I would actually do it, until 2 seconds before I jumped – and by ‘jumped’ I mean dragged along by the dude I was strapped to…  So why in the world would I do that to myself, you ask?

At this stage I could just blame my husband.  I mean technically he is the one who booked it for me, without my knowledge and then “gave” it to me (it didn’t quite feel like a gift at the time).  But quite honestly, I had been silently crying out for it.

You see two days earlier, seeing that I was moping around like a little ball of misery, hubby reluctantly asked “Are you ok?”  To which I responded (in an embarrassing-to-admit toddler-like whinge) “I’m just so boooored! Why does life have to be so haaaard.  I wish we had our old life back”.  And by ‘old life’ I meant our life before becoming parents.  I was going through one of my ‘episodes’ again. Admittedly, it was pretty mild compared to only a year or so ago where I would be curled up in a ball, not wanting to get out of bed and crying my eyes out. But it was that same heavy feeling of feeling confused, sad and trapped

So the next day hubby casually asks me “Have you checked your emails?”  Umm, no. Why would I check my emails on a Saturday, I thought to myself. I gave him a strange look and then went to find my phone.  I check my emails and found an email from Red Balloon in my inbox and thought, whaaat?  Then I get a second one pop up with Confirmation of your Skydive Booking in the subject box – FOR THE NEXT DAY!!

From the moment I read that email I started to get waves of nervousness, interspersed with feelings of complete disbelief that it was going to happen, then doubt that I would be able to do it, complete confidence that I could do it and of course fear that the parachute may not open and that I would die at the ripe old age of 37.  Those waves lasted until the moment of actually leaving the plane.  The whole flight up my palms were sweating, I was shivering and my heart was beating like crazy and I tried to keep calm by regulating my breathing (thank you yoga) and staring out the window at the beautiful view of the Sydney skyline.  Just as I started to calm down there was movement. Someone opened the door and people started shuffling towards it, one by one everyone in front of me started dropping out of the plane and I thought, WAIT! I’m not ready for this, no-one’s asked me if I’m ready!  But before I could get words out of my mouth my instructor was shuffling me towards the open plane door. ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ I thought at that point.  Then as I dropped out of the plane adrenaline and pure unadulterated fear took hold.  “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god” I kept repeating, which is weird because I am not even remotely religious.  Then I finally started to smile, the biggest joy-filled (and wobbly-cheeked) smile.

Before I knew it the parachute opened and the first thing I noticed was how quiet everything went.  There was a peace that came over me, a calm and also if I’m honest a sense of relief that the parachute had actually opened.  We gracefully floated down to the ground, and for those 6 minutes and I felt so full of joy, so full to the brim with gratitude for my life and an indescribable feeling of freedom.  Being up so high was beautiful, but for some strange reason looking down at the world like that gave me a sense of optimism, I felt that the world was an absolutely amazing place.  Somehow being removed from what was going on below made my perceived problems seem so small and gave me so much perspective on my life.

And you know, sometimes life IS hard, juggling work, children, groceries and cleaning – all the while trying to work out who you are and how you fit into this crazy world.  But one thing that I realised, as a result of my skydiving experience, is that it wasn’t so much the difficulty of it all that I was struggling with so much as the monotony.  We seem to work so hard to set up this life of a nice home, good job and nicely organised routine (that makes fitting in the aforementioned elements of life actually possible) that we sometimes make everything too “easy” for ourselves and start living our lives on auto-pilot.  It seems to me that who we are is forged not in doing what we always do and being who we’ve always been, but in challenging ourselves to grow, be better, to try things we’ve never done before and push ourselves to the boundary of what we thought we were capable of.

Since becoming a Mum I had written off the idea of ever sky-diving. I thought that it was something that I just couldn’t do anymore because I just had too much to lose. It was a risk that I couldn’t take*. But taking that leap made me realise that there is risk in everything, and I don’t want to go through my life fearing everything, not growing, not venturing beyond my comfort zone.  I want to be an example of courage to my daughter.  I want her to embrace the full spectrum of experiences that life has to offer.

So I urge you – get out there, get uncomfortable, push yourself past where you thought you could go. It’s the only way you’ll really know how AWESOME you are (and you really are, if only you’d let yourself believe it).

Love Jane xx

*Skydiving is actually remarkably safe, especially doing a tandem jump. You are more likely to die driving on the way there (not that you will… I’m just sayin’).

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