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Saturday, September 20, 2014

When You Cannot Take a Leap of Faith...

Chillin' in the jeep...ready to go!

My friends and I made a lot of trips to Canada during our college years. Summer, winter, 20mph on I-5 through an ice storm...I frequently gave my mother cause to have a heart attack. I have always been up for an adventure; they have just grown a bit tamer with age. What started with the lure of a younger legal drinking age quickly became visits to people and places, befriended and claimed. It felt like a home away from home and these new friends welcomed us like family. 

Posin' for a picture!
One weekend they took us to Lynn Canyon Park for some waterfall 'jumping'. On the way to the falls we crossed a 160 ft. high suspension bridge that I almost did not make it over for fear of heights. As one of the young men gleefully swung the bridge, two others recognized my paralysis and helped me across. We passed a marker warning of the dangers of jumping the falls; it listed the names of those who had died. But of course there were dozens of people all over the rocks and jumping off the cliff of the falls.

The guys drank a couple of beers and were ready to jump. My girlfriend and I declined. We sat in the sun, sipped Koakanee, and watched more crazy Canadians jump off the 60-90 ft jump…depending on your point of departure. Perhaps it was false courage fueled by a couple cheap beers? Maybe I had to go pee? Or my inner tomboy adventurer became bored (the guys were gone a long time...we thought they ditched us)...we decided we would do it. I don't even remember who went first. What I do remember is there was no way in hell that I could see that drop and willingly leap off the edge! Friendly locals demonstrated that if you sat down in the very cold, seriously flowing river, and braced yourself between 2 large boulders...all you had to do was let go. I only had to be brave enough to let go. This I could do. 

Crazy Canadians!


The sound was intense as I fell. I held my breath from the moment I let go of the rocks. Because when you go that way...you are really more 'in' the waterfall. Which is sort of insane when I think about it. But I was pretty good at not over-thinking back in the day. It felt as though I was under water a long time. I clawed my way to the surface, in full survival mode. I started to swim and could not stop. I could not breathe and my ears rang. In hindsight I was probably hyperventilating. Finally some Canadian dudes said "Um...you can stand up ya know?"  Unbeknownst to me, by this time, I was swimming for my life in 3 feet of water.

My friend and I made it to the shore and sat to catch our breath. It was then that we learned it is a 'series' of falls and there would be three more jumps to go.  All considerably smaller than the first; the next was only 30 ft.  However, there was no option to just sit and let go. A running leap was required. I could not do it. So they showed us to some cables that we could use to climb up the side of the canyon. Barefoot, because we had failed to notice the protocol was to leave shoes on. 

One brave act of letting go was followed by at least 30 painful minutes scrambling up the steep walls of the canyon to get back to safer ground. We were muddy, scratched and incredibly proud of ourselves for the rest of the weekend. The guys were quite amused that we actually climbed back out of the canyon, apparently much harder than if one just continue down the falls.

Was it the smartest thing I’ve ever done? The stupidest? Neither. Do I want my children to do something like this? Good heavens no! (In fact I almost did not post this…lest they throw it back at me some day).

In the end I could not resist sharing such a simple lesson. Or two.
Sometimes, when you need to make a change and do not have the courage to take a leap of faith, perhaps you can just let go. When you think about it, that is the braver choice. Just let go. Don’t try to outrun or outjump whatever you fear. Sit in it. Let go and let yourself be one with your fear for a bit. You may not be able to breathe, it may hurt, and it may feel like a struggle to survive.
When you come up for air, find a friend. A reliable one who will stick with you as you move forward, even if it is on the more difficult path. At the end of the day you will feel stronger, alive, changed. It is okay if you cannot make the next jump yet.

Be proud of yourself. It is brave and courageous to just let go.

Feeling triumphant!