I know it sounds awfully pessimistic, but it seems life has been one big struggle since 2001. Have you ever had that experience where a huge block of your life was entirely off-track? Two major events that year had a real impact on me. One was the death of my Dad in January 2001 and the other was the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001. Ever since, nothing has been normal, easy, or anything resembling life as I once knew it.
This morning, I woke up at 4:30am from a dream that surely reflected what my new normal sometimes feels like. In the dream, I had agreed to go on a skydive with my partner. I was a little reluctant to go on the dive because I’d only done one skydive (true, in real life) and had frozen when it was time to jump.
THE REAL SKYDIVE
In that real skydive, my freezing up occurred at the exit door and was stretched out for an eternity as the plane ran out of jumping range and needed to circle back for me to make the jump. So, not only was I clinging fiercely to some metal bar while standing at the edge of an open door 13,000 feet up in the air, but I was made to do so for an obscene amount of time while the plane tipped and turned to reposition. When it was time to jump, my tandem instructor asked if I was ready, to which I promptly and truthfully answered ‘No!’ But this did not matter because the question was not a question at all and he stepped out of that plane with me in tow whether I wanted to go or not. For the first minute where free fall is the name of the game, I spent the time trying to smile into the camera while in a panic–unable to breathe with the wind suffocating my face. I was never so grateful as when my tandem instructor forced me to pull my own cord and we were yanked in unison by the opening chute; it was then that the absolute opposite of sheer terror became part of the same experience. In this new part, I was drifting on a breeze, playing with the air currents, twirling, turning and loving the ride.
So, back to the dream . . . All I can remember now is that I had agreed to do this jump. Last minute, I had said, “Awe, what the hell. I’m in!” And off we were heading, my partner and I and a large handful of other folks, to our target jump point which was quite some distance away. It was to be over a lush, scenic area like Hawaii–some place I had never been. We were in for an hour’s flight before needing to prepare for the jump. We’d gone about half way and suddenly the plane began to shake. Something was wrong. Within seconds the plane lost altitude. We had to prep for an immediate jump. We were all moved up toward the front of the plane and the jump door was wide open as the plane tilted. I was hanging on to a metal post just opposite the open door; my partner was fitting the parachute on me. I wasn’t clear whether I’d be paired up with him or have to jump on my own, and that fear crept from deep in my belly and up into my throat. Air was scarce and the tightening of my muscles made it even more difficult to breathe. Still, I knew I had no choice. I knew this is what I had to do. There was absolutely no choice but to jump and I knew it.
And then I woke up. DAMN!
I don’t often have vivid dreams like this. Clearly, as I face the next slew of challenges that is my life, I am physically exhibiting my fear. There are things that have presented themselves in the past couple of weeks and days that have me walking around with worry. I am eating with worry. I am breathing with worry. I am sleeping with worry. But, I suppose I’ll just have to jump with my worry in tow, because I have no choice. This is what I have to do, and I know it. There is no place to go but forward. Clinging to the plane is not an option. If I’m lucky, half way down, I might find that I’m enjoying the ride.