In a class years ago, I viewed an outstanding motivational film called You Pack Your Own Chute. It features psychologist Dr. Eden Ryl in training to pack her own parachute, face her fear head-on, and ultimately jump from a plane into the Pacific Ocean. The purpose of her documentary is to inspire us to face our own fears and control our destiny.
I thought I'd NEVER want to jump out of a plane. Not even if I took a very thorough training course. What if I forgot something, as I often do? I could just see it: I'm on my way down, time to pull the chord, it's not happening. I look up and yell -- "Hey, I've changed my mind. This isn't working for me! Pull me up! I'm not ready... read... y... eee..."
My fears were further grounded when a recently divorced, middle - aged classmate returned the following week with her leg in a cast. She'd become very excited about no longer letting her life pass her by without taking risks. So, she'd found a local pilot to take her up. She'd gone and jumped out of a plane!
Recently, however, I decided that I actually MIGHT like to jump out of a plane -- once. Since they'd send me down glued to an expert. I could do that.
I started mentioning this to my family, thinking, maybe I AM serious. Then came my birthday and the present: an introductory indoor skydiving package. Hmmm.
On the way to the "experience," I felt neither excited nor nervous. I wasn't sure what I felt! I'd never done anything like this before.
I checked in, signed the waiver, took the 20-minute training course for newbies, suited up, and chose my place in line to await my turn -- last! I was in a class of 8.
It was thrilling to watch each person in the vertical wind tunnel bobbing, soaring...falling. I took in everything while rehearsing what I'd learned in training. It was cool that the instructor was in there the whole time, adjusting arms and legs and giving thumbs-up. I knew I had a 1-minute flight. I figured I could certainly handle that.
My turn. I walked through the door into the tunnel. It was a bit of a shock: the strength of the wind and the noise. The instructor pulled me forward onto my stomach and began to adjust my legs and arms as I hung there, floating horizontally. I checked a time or two to be sure I was breathing. Yep.
I recalled the 3 basics: relax, stay as still as possible, and keep my chin up. Let the wind and instructor do the work. I saw him use the hand signals to indicate when to bend my knees or straighten my legs and when I was doing just fine on my own!
I remembered that part of the training was to keep my hands out in case I hit the wall -- just to stop myself, maybe gently push away, not overreact and send myself spinning out of control. I bumped once and gently bounced away.
It was a long minute. But I enjoyed it and allowed myself to relax -- maybe too much: I was surprised to find, when I stepped out, that I had drool all over my face!
I watched the others go back in for round 2. They all improved, now that they knew what to expect. Even the older guy, who had thrashed around and grimaced the first time, was more relaxed and having some fun.
At the end of each flight, the instructor grabbed the student's arm and leg on one side, swung him around in circles, and flew him to the top of the dome and back -- 2 times!
When the others had completed round 2, the instructor asked me if I wanted to upgrade my gift package so I could go again--only $20 more. I couldn't resist. I wanted to fly to the top! We went back in. I bobbed, I rocked, I floated. And then suddenly we were spinning and soaring to the top and down -- 2 times!
This was one of the coolest experiences ever! I was grinning the rest of the day. It was one of those rare occasions when I feel like every cell in my body is smiling and saying, "Ahhhhhh"!
My flight experience also reinforced some life lessons. The basic rules that insure a successful flight are similar to the basics that help insure successful interactions with people: Relax. Keep your chin up. Be still, so you can better observe and listen. Be ready for contact so you can easily interact without overreacting.
In other words, stay open to the unexpected, don't fight it, adjust in the moment. Go with the flow. And try not to drool!
[My thanks to iFLY Seattle - www.iflyseattle.com - and Michael, my instructor, for an awesome experience and a perfect sales pitch!]
(Mar. 1, 2012)