Apologies. I’m guessing I haven’t offered enough of them in my lifetime. Neither I’m sure, have I received some that might have been deserved, but that bit is beyond my control. “Deserve’s got nothing to do with,” or so I’ve heard Clint Eastwood say, and so I’ll leave that be for now.Apologizing is the most potent acts of healing in the human relational inventory.A heartfelt apology can repair seemingly permanent damage. The act can even spark the rebuilding of ostensibly terminal relationships.Apologizing is a two-way wonder drug.So why is it that when it’s needed most this seemingly simple choice can appear so utterly unavailable to us?
Hello Ego!The pride-o-meter sits pinned at eleven.“Sorry?” I spit.“Ha, I’m not sorry, I’m fucking pissed!”Sound familiar?“It’s they, not I who should be asking for forgiveness.”Here I am once again, facing a barricade I’ve built obstructing the pathway to reconciliation and so created the need for the other person’s permission to move forward.Waiting for an apology is just that, waiting.Waiting in lieu of acting, of taking the chance, of creating an opportunity for resolution.
Pride is a fickle mistress.It can afford us the intense bravado needed to inflate our personal myth of invincibility, which in a fight or flight situation can be useful.However, when the peak intensity of such an engagement subsides, we are left with the stance we took based on pride, not on love.“Love,” where did that come from?Hmmm, from the idea that if we truly want peace, we have to choose it.Peace is my favorite, but clearly not a universal choice for ‘state of being.’Have you ever apologized to someone only to find that the words had no effect on them?Come to understand that your act of contrition bore no fruit in your effort to create healing?Me too!Some people thrive on conflict, and that is either a nature, nurture or both thing, over which we have no power other than a heartfelt, “ugh!”
Sometimes offering an apology is not a practical option.In such downward spiraling relationships, we may find the right answer to be ‘cut and run.’Sometimes we have to let things go.The real challenge lies in determining, and owning the difference between circumstances beyond our control, i.e., dealing with an ‘unreasonable’ person, and situations in which we have been party to the wrongs that might well be righted by a diminishment of our own ego posturing.Difficult yes, but not insurmountable. It is painful to think about lost friendships or loves that might have been saved by an apology. Could they still be?
These days I find myself apologizing rather frequently; though I’m sure I still miss some prime opportunities to take responsibility. I say “I’m sorry” to my sons when I’ve wrapped up a solid performance of being less than the father I’d like to be. I can see in their eyes that it lands, and moves them. Perhaps, more importantly, it may someday help them with the task of owing their own spells of less than stellar behavior. Hopefully, it will instill in them the notion that choosing to initiate the making of amends is not an act of weakness. Rather, it is an act of strength, or so I believe, survivable and often enriching.
Heartfelt apologies spring from a bottomless well within us. They are an infinitely renewable resource. The courage to make the first move of reparations may be buried deep. At times it may seem utterly impossible to grasp. Even so, I believe it is always worth the reach.
This random thought began as a journal note in 2014.
Table manners. Ah yes! A tiny window view into the vast array of merit badge earning opportunities awaiting on the shoulder-sash of parenthood.
My youngest son is hyperactive…seriously! I’ve been told that during his toddler years, when he was scheduled to attend mother’s day out the staff added an extra person just to handle him. Ha, that’s my boy. Nowadays he can often be seen orbiting the table while we enjoy family dinner, which at my choosing we share every night. It appears he came into this world with a wicked case of the “can’t-be-stills!” I could force him to sit…but why? Will he turn out to be a better citizen if I make him do so? Will he feel it’s okay to be him if I force him to “not be him?” Will any of us digest our meal more healthfully, or feel the world has been made a better place if I declare martial law at the dinner table? Probably not. However, at times, while chewing my food, seated within the gyroscopic whirl of his dining room orbit I do hear distant murmurs of a disapproving throng.
“Can’t you control that kid?”
“That walking about is not proper dinner time behavior!”
“Have the decency to teach the boy some manners!”
As though having trouble staying seated while masticating will lead directly to the unraveling of the social fabric of our entire culture.
As a nod to Emily Post and her followers, I have explained to my son that some people will expect the use of traditional, “proper” manners and that table-orbiting may not be considered acceptable in the homes of his friends. He gets it. He has managed to avoid becoming “that kid in the principal’s office” at school, etc. When required, he’s capable of masterful-ish self-control. Perhaps the best way to look at manners is in context. Are our opinions about the matter based on childhood experience? If so they are traditional, possibly passed down through multiple generations. Yes, these specific rules of behavior have been taught, but are they still supremely relevant? The doctrine of a flat Earth was too once widely taught. Do these lessons still hold their weight in the face of scientific, or in this case cultural evolution?
With that view in mind, one has to decide the goal, and more importantly the ultimate impact of one’s parental decisions. I find that after deconstructing most etiquette protocol and running it through the, “Does this rule truly make the world a better place” test, flexibility and acceptance usually win the day. Because really, are we here to “control” children, or help them flourish? I know which answer sits, or doesn’t sit (pardon the pun) best with me. I’m not advocating mannerlessness. I’ve taught my boys every social rule and regulation that I’ve ever learned. They are aware of and able to adhere to social decorum protocol at will. Afterall, knowing the rules is a perfect starting point on the road to doing the right thing, staying out of trouble, and for those of you who remember high school, avoiding embarrassment.
Long after we are gone, our children will unconsciously run their lives on the operating systems we’ve implanted in them. Our decisions about how to handle their youthful “behavior issues” will have shaped more than those teaching “moments.” That is why I let the kid orbit the table at dinner time. And no, I don’t let him do laps at Thanksgiving with the extended family. Even I have my limits. There are times and places for rules to be followed, and at least in my universe, times and places for their bending. Most adults unconsciously carry childhood memories of being brought to heel over issues of manners or rules. How the lessons were “taught” matters, even decades later. The cumulative effect of an upbringing may leave one with a deep-seated sense of self-acceptance, ambivalence or shame. I know which perspective I’d like to see shaping the future of this world. I bet you do too.
Do you have a similar experience to relate? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!
The living room of an old person’s home has a thing about it.“Their thing,” to be precise.Such a place usually has a particular feel, scent, dust/grime quotient, and a frozen in time quality, that is both haunting and intriguing.
The carpet, the furniture, and the wallpaper all have born witness to the arc of a life or lives that have gone from actively growing, reaching, and achieving to stillness, passivity, unwitting disengagement, and ultimately decay.Once the occupants of this place were counted in the numbers of an up and coming vanguard generation.The status quo creaked and groaned under the pressure of the change they demanded, finally acquiescing as a new world was forged by the sheer force of their will.So it is with each generation.Cliche warning: change is the only constant, until it’s not.
“Dad jokes,” ha!The beginning of generational culture division is humorously summarized in those two simple words.Dad jokes are the harbinger of connectivity obsolescence which makes them extra funny, or awkwardly morbid.Take your pick.
Getting older is a foregone conclusion, getting wiser is not.Dad jokes are optional. An aging generation can opt for continuing education, the conscious act of learning about and remaining connected to the next generation, or not.These options bear the seeds of individual cultural choice that if not planted wisely may well find their harvest in the living room of an old person’s home.
I’m not saying that redecorating is the key to staying relevant.Of course, such endeavors require the allocation of resources that may or may not be in short supply depending on personal circumstance.Following trends and continually updating one’s position in this world is a slippery slope to be sure.The justification for such efforts is inextricably tied to the end goal.What can we expect a quest for relevance to yield?
Social evolution is historically proven, factually undeniable.To remain relevant one must acknowledge, embrace and act in accordance with the principles lifting that wave.Here we are confronted with the specter of “Identity.”The crescendo of identity formation is represented by the metaphorical “brand new living room” conceived and actualized at the pinnacle of a life where we make our victorious statement, whether we realize it or not.“We’ve arrived,” and here’s the interior design masterpiece to prove it; insert modernist decor, steampunk accoutrements, colonial, mid-century or whatever statement seems fitting to illustrate the reaching of one’s personal triumph at the perceived summit of their material journey.This perch is a victory that in its very achievement can, if we are not vigilant, become a living tomb.An apex reached may by definition offer only descent as a next step.That’s where choice, and particularly choosing to step outside the box becomes an engaging, challenging, potentially life-affirming if ego-threatening moment, and at best, a most welcome alternative to programmed obsolescence.
I’m not suggesting that we don the sailor outfit our mother’s had us wear for our four-year-old portrait, or the nightmare ruffled pastel leisure suit style tuxedo we wore to the prom a thousand years ago.I am however suggesting that resting on accomplishments of any kind leads to the possibility of disconnection from the inevitable; from tomorrow, the day after, and so on. Retaining accrued wisdom while remaining open to fresh, if potentially identity challenging perspectives means we still get to be ourselves, but in liquid rather than solid form, metaphorically speaking.
Being relevant is not an inalienable human right.Being relevant is a quest that requires constant attention, adjustment, acceptance of that we do not yet fully understand, and most importantly the willingness to allow for the possibility that identity is ephemeral.In the game of relevance, personal commitment to evolution is the only winning strategy.Identity, if not fluid, becomes the anchor that prevents us from riding the wave of social metamorphosis.The real kicker is that our identity issues have the superpower of invisibility as it relates to our ability to honestly see ourselves as others see us.Ugh!
If I find myself in the weeks leading up to my death stripping wallpaper, tearing up carpet, and fondling paint samples, it will be no more than a physical manifestation of my desire to understand the current consciousness of my children’s or my children’s children’s world.My last valiant effort to understand and assimilate the language, challenges, and opportunities that are continuously spawning in perpetuity outside the soul prison walls of the living room of an old person’s home.
Right now I am not…in the company of chaos that is. If I choose that the boundaries of my home are the ends of the universe all seems to stand in a state of relative calm. However, should I venture into the realm of online news, social media, or wander into the wrong place at the wrong time I find myself in a veritable shit storm of well…chaos.
As a rule, I choose peace. Am I in the minority? More and more it would seem that whether chosen or not, some manner of war is the order of the day. Why? Why stir things up? Why choose a harsh word, or a bullet instead of lending a hand, or kind word? Why indeed? Why choose to inflict harm, be it physical or psychological, instead of help or even, as a commitment to the possible benefits of non-action, resort to silence?
Human drama, a sport, a whim, perhaps a necessary evil? Is it evil? To me, it feels that way, but I have been most fortunate in my life to always have Maslow’s hierarchy met, so who am I to say. Some in my same situation seem to feel more alive taking stands on behalf of those who sell division as a commodity. Ego is a tempestuous mistress. I feel more alive when more people have the chance to join me in that act; the act of feeling alive that is, and at peace.
Balance is ancient. Historically, balance seems to be the adversarial antidote to chaos. Chaos in turn, seems to be a human psychologically supported virus of sorts. A virus by nature identifies, attacks and overtakes its host in order to survive. Curiously when the virus has accomplished its goal the host is ultimately brought down, and so comes to an end. ‘The virus’ having attained its goal of domination ensures by its success its own demise. Chaos, if viral at its core is calling to the “Dionysian Being” in all those who will listen. We cannot live in chaos for long, pursuing chaos we ensure only our own temporary fix of adrenaline, followed then by our unavoidable ruin.
Does the desperate need for meaning lead to this ‘run of the lemmings’ in our human species? Some behavior I’ve witnessed would lend credence to this hypothesis. Could the need for meaning instead lead to a reach for calm, peace, perspective…a pause? One would certainly hope so. But where would we get our precious drama?
It is easy to imagine solutions when not under fire. Corrections or right answers seem so obvious in the tranquility of a placid, comfortable familiar repose. Many people struggle in ways I cannot fathom. Others live opulent lifestyles afforded them by hard work, commitment and no small turn of good fortune, for which they most likely take full credit. I’m not saying these beings don’t work for what they have but are we not all members of this world, and so potentially capable of perspective, empathy, and humility? Be these situations as they may, chaos stirs, in and around us all.
Do we look, or look away? Hiding our heads as long as we presume ourselves safe. If the floodgates that have until now kept chaos in check finally burst, there will be no hiding from its faceless wrath. What then? What solutions will we wish we had committed to when we had the chance. What sacrifices will we wish we had made. What courage will we muster when the gun barrel finds us, be we armed, or empty-handed?
Have thoughts on the subject? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!
Being single at 50 something on the dating scene is like jumping off the high dive aiming for a glass of water.
Divorce is fun…for masochists. It’s that moment when you realize everything you promised will end up broken. You may be an angry narcissist, in denial of course, or you may just be angry…no judgment. You may be a giver; give, give, give never take. You may be afraid of conflict. You may be a bully. You may be a nice, well-balanced person who made a bad choice in the partnership department. Whatever your position on the spectrum of coping mechanisms, behavior patterns or denial, divorce is the shits.
Will it be hard to start over? Maybe. Are there fish in the sea? Plenty. Will any of them appeal to you? Absolutely! Will those who do appeal to you be age appropriate? Highly unlikely! Online dating: Men with their bare-chested, or fish holding pix, rock on you silly geese! Women with their rudimentary photoshop skills shouting out “look at me” from the polished profile pic saying, “no really…I’m young” looking for a second chance. How could that pool have gotten so small?
It’s not easy to find what you had looked for so many years ago. You may have kids now. If you don’t want more kids the pool narrows. You may want dogs or cats in your life, you may not. The pool narrows. You may have voted red state, you may have voted blue. The pool narrows. You may like hiking or kayaking, or wine tasting, cooking classes, running, volunteering or even knitting/gunplay…the pool narrows. The pool narrows until you look between your two big toes and see that the pool has shrunk to the size of a glass of water. Should you jump?
Are you willing to come to grips with why your marriage/relationship ended? It’s easy during a divorce to cast oneself as the hero. I was exceptionally good at it. The facts more likely point to two sides of the story, and I bring this up for a reason. If we don’t at least attempt to understand our contribution to the chaos then we will visit that same ill fate on whatever poor soul awaits us in that tiny glass of water below.
So what positives can we pull; what gems can we glean from the denouement of a primary relationship, and ensuing diminished chance of future relational bliss? What understanding can we assimilate as we stand on the platform poised to dive into the narrow cup of opportunity that awaits us? An insight gained in the sleepless hours before dawn perhaps? Appreciation for the now not so rare moments of silence afforded to one who has no other? Pausing long enough to hear a truth about ourselves whether we want to or not? If we learn anything…it is everything in that moment. A moment of victory!
Have thoughts on the subject? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!
The kitchen faucet in our house has been dripping for at least a year. The jar for our blender has hence become a fixture in the sink. It’s been dutifully catching the drops of life-giving H2O so that they can be poured into our Berkey Water filtration system rather than down the drain. That solution, until yesterday accomplished the goals of A. Not “wasting” water (my California drought guilt at work), ironic since it has rained here at least every other day for the last two months, and B. Not having to fix the f’ing faucet, I mean really, time is precious right? If you’ve ever done plumbing work on a 60 plus-year-old house (which all of my homes have been) you’ll know this logic is sound. If you haven’t you’re in for a treat. Why? Wait for it…
I woke up Saturday morning to this text from my seventeen-year-old.
Hey I don’t want to wake you up
But the bathroom sink is leaking
It wasn’t until I ran water
Underneath it is absolutely soaked
I was looking for duct tape to patch it but couldn’t find any
I cleared out the bottom of it and put a towel down
It only leaks if you run water
He did the best he could then left for work. Love that kid, and the fact that he has a job. The obtaining of which I had no part in.
So… great, excellent! The bathroom too! Looks like it’s time to address the elephant in the pipes. After a to the brim full cup of black coffee I surveyed the admittedly heretofore overlooked bathroom situation, assuming that the faucet had gone bad. Wrong! I cranked the taps, crouched to survey the outcome and discovered that the drain pipe had a leak, and was shooting a firehose-like stream of water into the vanity base. Awesome! Well I may as well replace the thousand-year-old faucet while I’m at it right?
As it happened my youngest and I had a date that morning to attend the premiere party for the new TBS show Final Space created by one of his youtuber faves Olan Rogers. Great show! Loved it, and Jackson got to meet one of his heroes; a “Mr. Rogers” for a new generation. Olan that is.
On the way home I informed JJ that we would be stopping at Home Depot to pick up the plumbing supplies needed to deal with our “situation” at the house and that his help would be most appreciated. I also informed him that when committing to amateur plumbing on an aging home one must expect several same day return trips back to Home Depot…I estimated a minimum of four. He winced, and said a silent “ugh.”
Upon returning home, I went straight to it in the bathroom. Replacing the drain was easy enough. Then, while assessing the faucet replacement scenario, I noticed evidence of the amateur plumber’s nightmare. No shutoff valves under the sink! Water to the whole house would have to be shut off to pull the old faucet and place the new one. My thought at the moment…”fuck it!” It’s not leaking, so I’m not going to mess with it. Jackson and I cleaned/mopped up the bathroom mess and closed that case. On to the kitchen
“Thank god,” I thought as I worked my way through the frat house mess we’ed created under the kitchen sink, at least there are shut off valves. But wait, new lessons in amateur plumbing lurked in the very near future. I stood up, stretched, gave the blender jar an informal salute for its twelve months of service, then dove back in. The stuck cold water valve resisted for a minute then reluctantly gave way. I closed the valve and moved on to the hot water side. My past experience informs me that things are going smoothly, too smoothly. My cynicism was soon rewarded.
I grasped the hot water shut off valve and began wrestling it to the off position. This house was built in 1950. Who knows how long this demon valve had waited for its moment. Well, the wait was over. As I broke it free from its wide open position something miraculous happened. I didn’t know such a thing was possible. While cranking the handle to the closed position hot water blasted from the valve in all directions. Within two seconds I was thoroughly soaked head to toe and water was rushing across the kitchen.
“JACKSON, I NEED TOWELS PLEASE!”
“How many” he shouts.
“ALL OF THEM,” said I.
The valve was only gushing for a few moments, but in that short time, I found my drenched self sitting in a quarter inch of water. To stop the flow I had to turn the valve back to the on position. The physics of this solution made no sense to me, but so it goes with plumbing, a dark art to be sure.
“Damnit!” I have to shut off all water to the house in order finish the operation. Tools in hand I make my way to the street. The water main valve lay is a muddy housing, a spider-filled joy box if you will. Leaning over the edge I tried with all my might, and with all the tools I had at hand to wrench the valve closed. The value was neither impressed nor willing. Shit! There must be a shutoff valve in the crawl space. By crawl space, I mean belly crawling under HVAC ducts in the dark, dank underworld of our humble cape cod.
As I made my way to the presumed location of the sacred “shut off valve” I was greeted by the overwhelming stench of cat shit! Really! Simultaneously, I identified the location of the valve and realized the fact that one or more of our cats had removed the vent covers to the crawl space, and had claimed said space as their personal outhouse. A veritable cat shit minefield presented, complete with pools of cat piss rippling in the pockets of the vapor barrier. Had I a free hand I’d have plugged my nose, but alas… Scent notwithstanding, I dragged myself toward the shutoff. A quick twist and it’s closed…I hope.
From the black abyss, I contacted JJ via cell phone, “Turn on a water faucet on please.”
“Nothing’s coming out!”
“Excellent!” I exclaimed.
I dragged myself, somewhat disgusted by the state of our crawl space back to the opening and marched toward the car; a new hot water valve had to be procured; Home Depot trip two.
I retured with the new valve and proceeded to remove the old one. Some hack rig coming from the wall that had male threading at all three connections. I bought the house from a plumber…it figured. Of course, the valve I purchased at Le Depot is female, male, male. So, Back to the car.
Home Depot trip three engaged! I wait an eternity for a turn with the plumbing guy.
“We don’t have that fitting…where’d you find that?”
“Under my kitchen sink,” I said…(in my head “duh”).
“Try this Shark Bite fitting; it should grab on to the pipe and work fine.”
“Chaa, thanks.” I left…at a brisk jog.
Back at home, hours into this ‘simple task’ I affixed the fitting, tightened the new valve and put Jackson on alert.
“I’ll call you from under the house. Let me know if it leaks.”
As Buddy, the Elf might say, “I passed through the crawl space trap door, past the sea of swirly twirly cat poops, and then I crawled to the magical water shut off valve.”
“IT’S LEAKING!” He yelled into the phone.
“SHIT!” I don’t think I said it ‘under my breath.’
Back up through the crawl space hatch to the living floors of the house; which were now steeped in the waning February afternoon light filtering through the rain-spattered windows. Resigned I went, back to the car, back to home depot. As I stepped out of the car, I checked for my wallet. On a typical day this gesture would be a gift to all pickpockets in the area, (so that’s where he keeps it), but not today! “FUCK!” I’d left my wallet at home. Back in the car, I raced toward the wallet. Twenty-two minutes later I was back at the Depot. The wait was longer this time, and when I finally get advice it was:
“That valve you just brought back will do just fine, simply remove those unnecessary parts in-between and attach it.”
“But what about a dielectric union? You know the thing you’re supposed to use when you attach galvanized plumbing to brass or copper?”
“We don’t have those. Just use a bunch of Teflon tape.”
In my head’ “Are you fucking kidding me?” From my mouth, “ Ok, thanks.”
“Ok JJ, hold the faucet steady while I loosen these bolts.” The faucet bolts don’t budge. “Please go grab me a hammer,” I asked, in a regrettably peeved tone.
He appeared in a flash with a hammer. After a bit of a beating the faucet fixture came free, but try as we might the sprayer socket would not budge. I climbed from under the sink, lower back complaining all the while for plumbing is a younger man’s work, and grabbed a pair of vice grips. As my son looked on in horror, I unwittingly released a stream of awesomely vulgar obscenities while beating the sprayer nozzle viciously with the vise grips. When it is over, and I had returned from werewolf to human form the sprayer was loosened, but still stood defiantly in its battered socket. Jackson appeared to have mild PTSD.
Resigned, I climbed back under the sink and asked him to cut the sprayer hose.
“Use Scissors, hacksaw, knife, whatever please.”
He dutifully grabbed our bread knife and made quick work of severing the hose. I learned later that the following moment made all the stress of this escapade worth it for him. As he cut the hose and it snaked back through its hole in the sink top, it sprayed me in the face with its residual water load. addingInsulttoingury.com! Hose sprayed face notwithstanding I was finally clear to install the new faucet. Ten minutes later I was back in the cat shit forest, earbuds in, JJ on the line.
“Ok buddy, I’m turning it on now!”
Me, “Really? Awesome!”
My joy at this news overshadowed the scent of feline occupation as I belly crawled my way out of that ‘shit box.’ It was now 6:30 pm. We had somewhere to be at 7:00. Back under the sink. On when the valves, no flood, winner, winner chicken something. To avoid tainting the new faucet I removed the aerator, closed my eyes, and turned the handle. Water poured through. Clean, pure-ish, life-giving water. Success!
We collected the multitude of saturated beach towels from the kitchen floor, washed our hands, piled into the car and made our way to the “Final Space” Premiere After Party. On the way, Jackson told me that for him it had been a stressful day watching Dad go maniac-style on the household water service. We had a good laugh and spirited discussion about it after which he intimated that he thought we should keep the bludgeoned sprayer in our family museum as a reminder of this ‘special’ day. So be it!
Do you have a similar experience to relate? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!
I gripped the frame of the exit door with Hulk-like strength, except for the Hulk-like, and strength bits. Suffice it to say I used everything I had to hold on. In my experience, there’s no greater motivating force within a human being than fear. The jump light turned from “two minutes” yellow to green. Time to go. I don’t know if I remembered to take a breath. Forgetting to breathe in everyday terrestrial life is an issue for me as it is, no doubt at the moment of exit I had accidentally become nearly ‘oxygen free.’ Air starved brain notwithstanding I did remember to lean out, lean in, then launch, and let go of the plane.
My body tumbled in the wind wash created by my earthward trajectory coupled with the rapid westward bearing of the Twin Otter aircraft.
“Breathe, and calm the fuck down,” I said to myself.
After a bit more negotiating my body finally arched into a V shape. Legs up, head up, plummeting toward earth in gravity’s firm embrace. With the flight of my person finally stabilized I could take a moment to connect with this singular experience; moving through space at over 120 miles per hours without mechanical assistance. The sensation is indescribable, and not commonly known. Why? Fear? The result of good decision making? You decide.
I can’t speak for others who choose to jump from 14,000 feet with no more than a nylon lifeline, but I have to believe that some of them leap, or at least made their first jump for the same reason I did; to slay a dragon. To confront fear in the now, or never. To stand over it, perhaps for the first time with a triumphant smile. If only a smile of sweet relief once we’ed reconnected with mother earth.
One’s inaugural exit, that first jump is exponentially more mind-blowing than any of the next hundred, thousand, or infinity and beyond. It’s a threshold that cannot be recrossed. On my very first solo jump, I experience a minor equipment malfunction. I say minor because in hindsight everything worked out. However, as it was all going down, I thought I might have a one jump career, and be remembered as the most unlucky skydiver of all time.
On a first AFF jump, (Accelerated Free Fall, Category A) one exits the aircraft at 14,000 feet gripped by two instructors. At 6000 feet the ‘pull’ sequence is initiated. If you the student have freaked out, one of the instructors, assuming you haven’t shaken them loose in a wild tumble, pulls for you. As for the “wild tumble” bit, youtube.com offers an endless supply of “oh shit” scenarios @AFF SKYDIVE GOES BAD. On my first AFF jump, I pulled the ripcord, at which point I was on my own. Thankfully the chute deployed. I dialed my freak from 11 to 9. Next order of business, fly the thing. I reached for the control toggles, gripped and pulled hard to free them. One complied, the other did not. Suddenly I was in a death spiral; corkscrew spinning under canopy plummeting from 5000 feet. I distinctly remember thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me???”
The six hours of ground school that morning had scared the shit out of me. Videos and anecdotes had elaborated on everything that could go wrong, and there I was starring in a new episode. Somehow I found clarity in this “now or never moment.” I let go of the left control toggle and went after the right ‘stuck’ one with both desperate hands. Eventually, it came free at which point the ocean blue Saber II canopy leveled out. Just like that, I survived.
It’s a numbers game, skydiving. I’ve known jumpers burned severely when their path crossed a set of power lines. I’ve known jumpers who are dead now due to equipment malfunction. I’ve jumped a mere fifty-five times, mostly without incident, a total novice. I know the odds are that if I keep jumping one day I’ll end up taking “reserve ride.” Also known as a ‘cutaway,’ a reserve ride occurs when one’s main chute fails at which point that panicked soul pulls a handle to cut/release the bad chute, and pulls another to deploy the reserve canopy.
Though I’ve not had the pleasure, I assume this operation is accompanied by increased heart rate, heavy breathing, and a healthy dose of holy FU#K style “oh shits!” The beauty of a reserve chute is that, well, it’s available. It’s a second chance to survive the day. Your day. Your kid’s day, assuming you have kids. Your parent’s day if they happen to still be with you, your friend’s day, and your life insurance company’s day. If the reserve fails, someone’s looking at a lot of paperwork!
I’m currently on hiatus from the sky life. That said, I know that learning to skydive has been one of the most transformational experiences of my seemingly endless life. Seemingly endless? Yes! Once I entered the red zone known as midlife, time while flying by seems to have been doing so for eons. I will go back to jumping when the time is right because the experience is life-affirming, and it gives me something I just can’t get inside “a perfectly good airplane.”
If we have roadblocks in our lives, they are most likely made of fear. If they are in fact made of fear, they are most likely difficult, if not seemingly impossible to surmount. We as a culture have a fair amount of shame attached to fear, and so we bury it, deny it, negotiate with it, and finally relegate it to the ego basement. Avoiding fear is comfortable, useful, life-saving …or is it? Nowadays when I find myself in a place of deep fear, I remember my time in the sky. The only way forward, the only way through, is to let go of the plane.
Have thoughts on the subject? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!