In Writing

I don’t jump into things. I haven’t jumped into a pool since the Reagan Administration. I used to love counting how many steps I could clear on my best friend’s stoop, climbing ever higher each time, then jumping down, but that was during the Ford Administration, when I was four.

But I was just on vacation, in a house with a pool, and it was only a matter of time before someone noticed.

“Why don’t you jump in?” someone asked.

“I like giving my body time to get used to the cold water.”

“It’s ninety degrees. It’s not cold.”

“It feels cold to me.”

“If you just jump in, you get it over all at once.”

And therein lies the rub. I don’t “get things over all at once.” Not ever. Not once. I ruminate. I consider. I plan, then second-guess my plan. Might be okay to pull that off while categorizing monthly expenses, but it’s less elegant as a strategy for getting into a pool.

I spent the better part of the week walking meekly into the shallow end of the pool, letting the water creep up my body, each inch claimed with a minor annoyance, the clamminess on the thighs, the discomfort of coldness climbing up my back.

Then, the next to the last day we went zip lining, an activity which takes a ton of strength and stamina, and which I absolutely rocked. I felt so capable, figuring out the complex redundant safety lock system that required unlocking of one before the other one could be advanced, holding myself trapeze-style while swinging from tree to tree.

I was considering skipping the next degree of difficulty and going straight to black (the hardest), when I got to the end of my green run. I’d held myself up with upper body strength alone across an obstacle. I’d balanced on a wire. I’d held my core firm as I traversed logs that had been made to be deliberately wobbly, giving the sensation of that old rope bridge you see in movies. I felt bad ass.

Until I got to the end.

The dismount was simple: attach your two safety hooks to a rope, and step into the abyss about twenty feet off the ground. And trust that the rope would catch and lower you down gently.

Like a jump into a pool, but with no water to cushion the fall.

My daughter went first and made it look effortless. She got to the bottom and I reeled the rope back up. I attached my hooks. She looked up at me, just waiting to get to the next course, while I pretended to check the attachment of my safety hooks. I nonchalantly looked around the platform to see if there was a ladder I’d missed. Nope. Only one way down.

“Come on, Momma. You can do it.”

“That’s a really long drop.”

“It’s fine. You saw me do it. It lowers you down gently.”

But there’s the rub. I can power through on sheer willpower alone with the best of them. I can push myself beyond my physical boundaries. But trust? That’s a whole ‘nother thing altogether.

I sat on the platform, trying to get closer to the ground so the drop would be less dramatic.

A worker ran over, materializing out of nowhere.

“No, no! Not like that!”

“Why?” I asked. I pretended to be miffed, like sitting had been a lifestyle choice, not a grasping for a sense of safety.

“It needs to feel your full weight to catch you, and if you’re lower down, it’ll happen closer to the ground.”

That sounded unappealing.

Unmasked, I showed my vulnerability. “I can’t,” I said.

“You can.”

“You’re sure there’s no ladder?”

“No ladder.”

“I was doing really well before. On that wobbly log thingie. And the wire. I know you didn’t see me, but I was.”

“You’re still doing well.”

Damn, that’s some good training. She was so gentle and encouraging, I imagine she’d managed more than one control freak in the process of letting go of control.

I looked down again. I gave several false starts. “Just step off,” said the worker, never once sounding impatient. An excruciating minute dragged by while my heart pounded and I felt humiliated, absolutely convinced there was no way I was stepping off that platform. My daughter watched, saying only positive and reassuring things. I made a mental note to tell her how amazing she is when my hands stopped shaking.

Finally, I’m not sure where I found the resolve, but I stepped into the abyss. The feeling was nauseating, the “catch” not nearly as gentle as I’d hoped it would be. But it did catch me, and I glided to the ground. The adrenaline kept crashing through my system and I fought the urge to go on a massive sprint to nowhere.

I rested a while and went again. Jumping into the abyss will never feel natural to me, but I like the alternative even less.

When we got to the house, I figured it was time to get over the pool thing, too. The moment was captured for posterity, all the dislike scrawled on my face but going for it nonetheless. Have I been converted? No, I still hate jumps. The trust that’s required for them is way out of my comfort zone. But I guess sometimes, that’s where I need to be.

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