“If at first you don’t succeed then skydiving definitely isn’t for you.”
― Steven Wright
Me. I’m that woman who somehow lost her daring over the years. At least that’s how it feels. What happens? Where does that “I’m invincible” attitude go?
When I was a kid trying to keep up with my two older brothers, not much daunted me. Heaven forbid they caught me being a “scaredy-cat,” because the teasing would be worse than any dare.
Climbing trees? Check.
Riding half-tamed horses? Check.
Belly-worming my way through questionably built hay forts? Check.
Going into the blackness of the attic where they (my evil brothers) swore the Ghost of Granny lived? Check.
But somehow as adulthood replaced brotherly judgment, I grew cautious.
Heights became a particular issue. Me, the teenager who used to sunbath on the barn roof, now needs to stand waaaaaaay back from scenic overlooks, glass elevators, and lighthouse railings. My stomach flip-flops at the thought of falling. And falling. And falling.
On one memorable road trip to Colorado, I became so frightened of my husband’s nonchalant driving-style while going over Independence Pass that I curled up on the backseat floor. My daughter still mentions that, by the way, as we talk about family travels. (In my defense, who fiddles with the vehicle’s radio dial while mammoth motor homes are coming at you on one side of the highway, and death, in the form of a sheer dropoffs, are yawning on the other? My husband, that’s who.)
And then there was the time hubby and I rode mules into the Grand Canyon. In complete honesty, the National Park Service people show you photos of where, and how, the ride goes. They ask you, repeatedly, if you are up to the terrain, the heights, and the unpredictable mule behavior. “Pffft,” I said, “Looks fun. Here’s my money.”
Yeah. So fun was a poor choice of words. Once we got on the teensy weensy ledges, and my mule kept kicking at my husband’s mule–probably because my husband was looking for a radio dial to tune on the saddle–I was terrified. However, there was nowhere to go but down if you know what I mean. So, at times, I closed my eyes and prayed my mule was a survivor with big plans for the near future.
If you’ve read this far…heights are a problem for me.
So what did I do last weekend? Me?
Jumped out of an airplane.
Okay, so there was a good looking guy tightly strapped to my back, but still. It was a 13,000 foot drop of I’m crazy for doing this. Yup.
So here’s the thing…
I’ve been a fan of Aging But Dangerous (ABD), https://www.agingbutdangerous.com for years. I love what Jean Ketcham* has built–a place for women over fifty to find their daring again. A place to laugh at aging and its ambushes, and a place to have fun.
In 2010, Jean and 106 like-minded women did the first Martini Skydive. It made national news. It still makes the news. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20100824006871/en/101-Aging-Dangerous™-Women-50-Check-Skydiving
Jean and ABD have carried on the Martini Skydive every year since 2010, and I knew I had to be part of it.
However, the last two years I had conflicts when the jump took place. But this year, when Jean asked at a chapter ABD meeting who was going, I looked up to see my hand raised. Gulp.
Did I mention I’m afraid of heights?
When I told my husband I was going to jump out of an airplane, he was so sweet. I saw his teeth clenching. I saw the fear in his eyes. But I heard him say, “Have fun.” His fingers were probably crossed behind his back.
A few weeks before the jump was scheduled he broke his ankle. I told him it was probably better if he stayed home and kept his leg elevated. I would be fine. You know. Jumping out of an airplane.
He insisted on coming with. He also bought me flowers a few days before we went in case they would be the last flowers he ever bought me. Didn’t I say he was sweet?
I’d love to tell you all about the experience, but it’s probably different for everybody. Fear wasn’t precisely what I was feeling…it was more a reclamation of my sense of adventure.
As I teetered at the edge of the airplane door, I let go of all control…not easy for me.
Come what may this was happening, and I was calm. And yet, uffda, that free-fall hit pretty much every emotion on my human scale. We dropped at 120 miles an hour for about a minute. My face skin rippled in the wind, but the video shows I was smiling.
What did I learn?
Me? Oh yeah. A total badass. In your face, Ghost of Granny!
*(Jean did her first jump at the age of 60 with her 90-year-old father, and intends to jump with each of her granddaughters as they turn 18. She’s just that sassy and awesome. Jean turns 80 in January, and I know she’ll be putting on that harness for years to come.)