Jobless – Part 3

Trajectories aren’t linear. Life’s just a roller coaster. If you’re getting a chance to do cool stuff, and it’s varied stuff, just enjoy it. I guess I’m a believer in the randomness of life rather than it being a linear trajectory or an arc, a consistent smooth arc, towards anything.” – Riz Ahmed

“Happiness is a critical factor for work, and work is a critical factor for happiness. In one of those life-isn’t-fair results, it turns out that the happy outperform the less happy. Happy people work more hours each week – and they work more in their free time, too.” – Gretchen Rubin

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

It’s a rollercoaster. A sometimes scary one. OK…..I admit I am having more fun than many would have in my situation and most of the time I’m enjoying this time in my life. I’ve always liked roller coasters. Well, except for the ones that beat up your body along the way. But while most is fine with me, then there are the moments of sheer panic when I think “What if I can’t find a job?”

We’ve already established I am crazy analytical, skills developed by being anxious by nature but not a fan of that particular state of mind. Equilibrium is important to me, so I have learned to quickly look at worse case scenarios and find the truth in them. And the humor. I know I can get by at my current state of living at least through the year. I also know I can reduce my expenses and get by longer. I could actually never have another job and be OK living a crazy vagabond life. But I want to work. I like the purpose it brings to my life. And I enjoy my current life, so don’t have strong desire for major changes.

One of my severance benefits is the use of executive career counselors for six months. I wasn’t sure how helpful that would be, but I suspect it is as helpful as you make it. I had my first “counseling” session last week (I had already made my way through the sessions with their branding expert), and was pleasantly surprised at how helpful it was. It had been a particularly frustrating week, where I got rejections for jobs fir which I felt highly qualified, without even a phone interview. I got to unload a bit with the career counselor. He handled it well. His calmness calmed me. He reminded me it was not personal….but the result of electronic review. He said “We just have to get your resume past the system and in the hands of people.” Which is a matter of having just the right keywords to put you over their limits. I had paid attention to that with my resume, but he said we just needed to tweak them a bit. So we will tweak. Again.

This morning I got another email about one if the jobs I got a rejection for last week. This one was “Congratulations! You have the skill set we are looking for. Please sign up for a telephone interview for this job.” I actually got two of these emails for that same job. From different people. The job already in the reject pile. I guess in an electronic world anything can happen. I almost signed up for the two phone interviews in case I bombed on one. But I didn’t. I figured that one would have to do.

The career counselor is also looking at my Linked In account. That’s important these days. I had ignored most of the suggestions their branding specialist had already shared with me a few weeks ago and had to confess this to him. Mostly I ignored them because I didn’t want to do them. Especially recommendations. I have a difficult time asking for certain things and one is for people to write recommendations for me. It’s asking “Will you please say nice things about me in a public forum that I’m going to be able to see?” Goes against my grain. Plus I know some people hate to be asked and you never really know who those people are. But I needed them.

I was having a conversation with a friend checking in to see how things were going, who is also an insurance company rep, over the weekend and asked her if she would do one for me. Her enthusiasm helped tremendously. She did it right away (late on a Saturday night). She didn’t mind doing it at all. It gave me that last bit of confidence I needed to ask others. I started with a few people who came to mind because they had offered their help if I needed it. I emailed to make it a bit easier for them to say no or ignore. It was gratifying to get a couple of great responses immediately. And humbling. I will admit their words made me a bit tearful. That task I totally didn’t want to do, resulted in making my day.

I still haven’t put myself on that regular schedule a couple of my friends recommended, though I do agree it would be a good thing. Overall I believe I’m doing what I need to do, however. A lot of time is spent perusing job boards and websites and applying for jobs. Sometimes it seems fruitless….you can comb the same board for an hour and find nothing, then something will pop up from that one more keyword search you do that is one letter different than the previous one. There aren’t a lot of jobs I want to apply for, and yet I don’t want to be too hasty to rule some out. I do know what I like to do and what my strengths are, and also what I don’t want, so I try to match the jobs to those things.

My goal is just one significant thing done a day that may put me closer to finding something (today it was asking for those job recommendations and signing up for that telephone interview. Yes, you do that online these days through a scheduler. You don’t talk to real people for the first part of the process.)

I do not subscribe to the theory that your job when you don’t have a job is to spend all your time job hunting. It would make me nuts. I look for some time each week to spend with friends, especially friends I haven’t seen in a while. I also make time to do something for someone else so I don’t get too self-absorbed. Today I made a last minute decision to go to Winston to give platelets. As with much that I do, it wasn’t much of a sacrifice….it was nice to sit in a comfy chair for a couple of hours and watch a movie and get a snack afterward. Platelets are used for things like cancer treatment, which several folks I know are receiving now. Giving them is a reminder that there are way worse things than being without a job.

While I do try to make my days count, there are days when I don’t get dressed and after a bit of job hunting I read a novel and take a nap. It’s OK. Balance.

I’d love to take a vacation, and go somewhere exotic, but I don’t feel comfortable doing it yet. My barriers are the work ethic engrained in me that won’t relax until I find a job and the fiscally conservative side of me that wants a regular paycheck. I’d like to abandon all and just do it and am trying to talk myself into it. The adventurous side of me is in favor. But the rest of me is not there yet. Maybe later.

So that is where I am, six weeks without a job. The roller coaster ride continues. Thanks to those joining me on the journey.

Advertisements

Sore Afraid

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11 KJV

My pastor Steve mentioned this passage in church today and it got me thinking. I’m not particularly an everyday King James Bible fan. I know that is sacrilege to some, but I am a believer that God speaks to us in our own language and while I won’t deny the beauty of old English and the warm remembrance of the tradition of my childhood where that was the only translation used, now I prefer to use a translation that is closer to the way I talk. And listen.

But one thing I love is when a phrase attaches itself to my brain and I can just ponder it. I began to think about being “sore afraid”.

If you are someone with fears, and I am convinced that includes most of us, haven’t you had times when that fear seems downright painful? When it festers like an open wound that simply won’t heal….and becomes infected and takes over more and more of your flesh? When it takes over your mind, and you can’t think of much else? When you are faced with it and there’s just a feeling of pure panic?

You hear the old saying “Love makes the world go round”….but often I believe it is fear that drives it. Fear seems to be the reason for so much of what we do and how we live. Why do wars begin? Why do relationships end? Why don’t people live fulfilling lives? Why do people stay in jobs they hate or that drag them down? Why do people turn to substances or food to make them feel better? Why do so many people spend much of their life angry or anxious? Why is there so little joy? I think often the answer to those questions is fear.

Sores can heal. They usually need attention They need to be cleaned. Sometimes they need air. Sometimes they need to be covered. Sometimes they need ointment and medication. Sometimes stitches. Sometimes they need amputation. Sometimes they simply need you to quit picking at them.

How do we get rid of that “sore fear”? The same way you deal with any other sore. Usually it means you do something….get support, talk it out, make changes that will fix it, and sometimes just shift your mind and/or face it head on. Often it requires a plan of care…or a plan of attack.

Oh, there is a healthy fear. I’m not talking about that. I tend to think of that fear a bit more on the level of a healthy awe. But so much fear is unhealthy. It paralyzes is, keeps us from living life to the full.

I spent a lot of my life living in fear. I was scared of so many things. Sometimes….OK often, that fear existed because I fed it and tried to avoid these things that caused it. I built it up in my mind as something bigger than it should have been. One day my outlook changed. Logic took over. I don’t know exactly what made it so important for me to overcome my fears, but I believe it is simply because I came to see how much acting out my fear insults God. If I trust God, why would I invest so much of my life in fear? Angels are messengers of God. What is their message in Luke 2, and at several other times? Fear not.

But my first instinct is still to fear. Fear is a feeling….it’s OK. We can’t necessarily control those initial feelings. But where do we let that feeling go? How do we handle it? That’s where our responsibility begins.

As the Christmas story comes to life, we learn that “fearing not” brings great joy and great change. It’s a gift to us and a gift to the world. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t scared as we face fear….but that we face it in spite of being scared.

One of my favorite things about scripture is watching God use some really flawed humans to make miraculous changes. I am one of these flawed humans. But each time I face a fear, I believe it glorifies God. It brings scripture to life.

You were not created for fear. You were created to bring joy to the world. Really, if you have to choose, which sounds like it will lead to a more fulfilling life….fear or joy? As a former fear-monger, and now a self-proclaimed fear facer, I can tell you my opinion. Give yourself a gift. Become a fear fighter. Choose joy. And remember….you don’t have to do it alone. There is an arsenal and a legion of troops at your disposal. God will bless you in your attempts. The sore will heal.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I Love……..Overcoming Can’t

I love OVERCOMING CAN’T.

While some people may see me as an optimist, my natural instinct is usually pessimism. Especially when it is about trying something new. I’m a scaredy cat. I don’t like failure. I feel that I am naturally inept at a whole lot of things. Some is due to my short attention span, some is due to my lack of hand/eye coordination. Most is just due to my fear of new things and not wanting to try.
I think we often want to live life wrapped in bubble wrap…..protected, but still able to see the outside. We don’t think about the fact that the bubble wrap distorts our vision. Keeps us from really seeing the true beauty of the earth. Keeps us from interacting with life. That bubble wrap may keep us from getting a bruise if we fall down, but may cause us to break our ankle because we can’t see things in front of us.
As I’ve gotten older I have found I am going in the opposite direction than I ever thought I would. I thought growing older meant I earned the right to try fewer new things. Really….that’s what I thought. (Evidence that I felt pressure to try new things and didn’t want to!) The great thing about aging was that you got to remain in your comfort zone and no one pressured you to do anything else. “Old people” didn’t do anything new….they did the expected “old people” things. (You know…. eating at the K&W, driving slowly in front of people who are late, and taking naps.)

As I got older and got closer to earning “old people” status (I officially got there when I qualified for a AARP card, right?), I saw things were a bit different. My friends and family members that are older than me didn’t all do what they were supposed to. They didn’t meet the stereotype. Well, some did…..but they are not the ones that I wanted to be like. The ones I really wanted to be like were the ones of whom people would say “Don’t they know how old they are?” The ones who didn’t slow down…who not only kept going, but seem to be having the time of their lives! They may have retired from jobs, but not from living.
I have found that I have a different view of fear now that I have gotten older. It’s OK. It’s natural. We are weird if we don’t feel it. That doesn’t mean that we have to avoid it. One of the best feelings I have experienced in life is going beyond what I think I can. I don’t always understand why I do things. Often I think is because I am tired of the word “can’t”. Tired of being bested by fear. Tired of meeting my own expectations….but those expectations being low.

I don’t use the word “can’t” much any more. I may say “I don’t want to.” I may say “I don’t like the odds.” I may say “That’s not where I want to invest my time or resources.” I’ve learned that “can’t” is only powerful when I give it power. There are many more options available to me than I ever would have thought. Lack of attention and lack of hand/eye coordination? They’re just excuses, that can be overcome. I have other strengths that can compensate if necessary. We usually aren’t good at things the first time we do things. We fear the new. It’s not just me. It’s the norm.

Great rewards come from doing those things that we thought we could never do. I love overcoming can’t….because I most definitely can.

Running from Reality

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”  T.S. Eliot

 ———————————————————–

There are just days when I want to run away from the reality of the world. While September 11 brings all kinds of thoughts to the minds of people everywhere, for some reason it most reminds me of this part of myself that wants to flee. 

I vividly remember that day.  I was on my way home from working out at the Barium Springs Y, sweating and tired and happy, thinking of my workday ahead, and had Bob and Sheri on the radio.  I was only half listening at first, but realized quickly that something was off on their regular patter tempo.  That got me listening.  At first I thought it was something on the level of a modern day “War of the Worlds” and thought to myself “What are they thinking?  This just isn’t working!”  But it wasn’t a dramatic production….it was the reflection of the confusion, fear and horror of an event that was real and happening as the world watched in vivid color….and those in the media grappled to figure out to do next.

I got home in time to see the second plane hit the building and it was just all so surreal.  I watched for quite a while and then turned off my TV.  I didn’t turn it back on for a long time.  I still feel the same….I don’t have the need or desire to watch the events over and over.  Once was enough for me (though I haven’t been able to completely avoid seeing it again and again, I have tried.)  Those images are seared on my brain.  The horror the people must have felt.  The sight of people throwing themselves from the building.  The conversations of those who called people from the airplane or from their offices when they realized what was going on. The chills I still feel from the words “Let’s roll.”  The absolute horror of how little it takes to change a world and change the direction of many, many lives.  The aftershocks of it have shaken our earth.

It seems especially poignant to me today, in 2012, because there seem to be an extraordinary number of those I love are who are facing their own life terrors.  Their own personal time of fear.  Some are self-inflicted, most are not.  All tear at my heart and make me feel helpless.  What can I do to make it better?

For those facing fear because of the choices they have made in their lives, I struggle with how I should feel.  I am someone who is not prone to being an enabler, and am a firm supporter of there being consequences in life for all we do, whoever you are. Yet when it is someone you love, part of you wants to shield them from those consequences, even knowing that would not be for their own good.  But these people need to bear the weight of their own burdens, or they will never learn to make pure-hearted decisions. 

The things we choose to do set off little chain reactions in the lives of those we know and don’t know.  We don’t always see the result of the havoc we cause.  But if you think about it, every single thing we do or don’t do has a consequence in this world.  Those who live their lives selfishly and sinfully and hatefully and rebelliously don’t notice the impact they have on all of those who surround them.  Those who flew those planes into the buildings were so caught up in their own stuff that they had no vision for the ways their actions would hurt people for generations to come.  Or maybe they did know.  I don’t discount that there are people who are that evil.  We see them on a small scale all around us, and would like to make excuses for them, but some people do seem to live to create havoc and pain in even their smallest actions.  They never seem to learn, they never seem to care about the impact.  I figure they must create stories and justifications in their mind as to why what they do doesn’t matter.  They are so self-absorbed, they can’t look beyond themselves. But they hurt people and the story of their lives just very well may be that they destroyed and walked away, never turning back around and facing the destruction they caused.  Frankly, they are losers.  They lose not just because of their bad choices, but because their lives burden instead of brighten.

In contrast to that type of people, are our real life winners.  Those who face tremendous obstacles and it brings out the best in them.  They may have a horrid disease, sick child, a parent with Alzheimer’s who doesn’t recognize them, they may lose or hate their job, get a divorce, lose their money, or have an accident that limits their abilities.  Yet regardless of their circumstance, these people face their challenges with grace and faith.  Even in the midst of it all they notice that there are others around them in pain, and try to give comfort.  They may say “Why me” on occasion, but then quickly follow that with “Why not me?”  They use the terrors of their lives to bring peace to others in the world.  We see them live their lives and find inspiration.  They show us that when someone builds their life on hope and truth, they may be shaken but they will not fall.  They brighten the world, and while they would endure their own burden, we want to help carry it. 

On this 9/11/12, I encourage us all to pay attention to our choices.  We must learn to be people of balance.  We should love others as we love ourselves, but sometimes we also need to remember to love ourselves as we love others (once again, check your balance!) We need to make sure our well stays full, so we are prepared to offer a drink to those who are thirsty.  We need to know that many of those around us have experienced, or are experiencing, horrors that we may never realize.  Sometimes it has created scars that make them ugly….and sometimes it has created scars that make them vividly beautiful.

We need to watch out for fear.  Fear drives so much of the pain in this world, but we often try to hide it with our habits and our emotions and deflect it with our humor or our anger.  We need to be on the lookout for masked fear.  The baby who crying because they can’t see their parents, the child who is afraid of the dark,  the teenager who is afraid that they don’t fit in,  the young person who can’t seem to get a handle on how to live an adult life,  the middle aged person who is looking at their life and feeling much of what they have done is worthless, the older person who is seeing their friends die all around them and are scared of being alone.  Fear is a commonality, and often is the reason why a lot of terrible things happen.  Those who are afraid sometimes do crazy things.  Isn’t it better that we try to ease their fears (or our own fears) before that happens?  Fear makes us angry, fear builds walls, fears keep us from experiencing real life, fear incapacitates us and makes us unable to fill or find our purpose. We shouldn’t always run away from fear.  Sometimes fear is healthy and to be respected, but sometimes we need to run right into its path.  Facing our foes and standing our ground.  With righteous minds and kind and strong hearts.  Sometimes with a hug or a handshake or a hand of support.  We also shouldn’t always run from reality, though sometimes we feel the need to escape it for a short time. 

To those who lost a piece of their reality on that certain 9/11 and carry scars, I pray that these days bring you peace and contentment.  To those who are suffering their own tragedies today or who have already suffered other tragedies in your life (your own personal 9/11), I pray that not only will you too find peace and contentment, but that also that you will find a way to get beyond the pain and find a way to commemorate that thing or event with positive purpose.  I don’t believe these terrible things are allowed to happen by chance….and I believe that somehow they can help others see the face of God.  Wouldn’t it be better to re-purpose the pain, instead of recycling it?

Trumping Fear


“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear.”   Ambrose Redmoon

“I am the Lord your God.  I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid.  I am here to help you.”  Isaiah 41:13 

“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

“I tried to contain myself, but I escaped!”  Gary Paulsen

When I worked at Jefferson Pilot my office was on the 12th floor in downtown Greensboro.  It was a beautiful view…..with a window that took up almost a whole wall looking out onto a magnificent vista.  On a clear day I could see Pilot Mountain from this office.  It was beautiful.  Unless I stood by that window and looked straight down at the sidewalk below.  Or if the window washing guys were out there hanging on a small board hung by cables and washing my window.  Then I got a bit queasy.  (I left the office when the window washers came.)  It creeped me out.  Those were the times I had little appreciation of the window or the view.  I only noticed how high it was up there on the 12th floor and how only a piece of glass stood between me and a big fall. The truth is, I don’t like heights very much.
“I don’t like heights very much.”  I always thought that was a unchangeable declarative sentence (one that ends with a period, for those who have been away from school for a while…or were dozing when we learned it), or a sentence that continued with the words  “so I can’t…” , followed by a laundry list of all of the things that require you expose yourself to heights. I’ve found, however, that the sentence doesn’t have to end in that way.  In particular, adding a few “buts” to that sentence can make some major changes in my life.  In changing that sentence in that way, I change me.
I don’t like heights very much, but….
  • I enjoy being at the top of a hill on a roller coaster.
  • I love riding in airplanes of all kinds.
  • I ride in a hot air balloon and peer over the sides.
  • I parasailed and felt absolutely no fear.
  • I glide through the air on a zipline.
  • I walked off a 46-ft tower on command (maybe with a slight hesitation.)
  • I sat in the doorway of an airplane in flight.
  • I hung from the wing of an airplane and dropped.
My love of flying seems to supersede my fear of heights.  I didn’t realize this until lately, when my friend Damien convinced me (relatively easily, in fact, which still mystifies me) that instead of just doing a tandem jump like I planned (which was still a HUGE stretch for me in itself), that I needed to do it on my own.  He said “You want to fly.”  It was true.  I just couldn’t argue that statement.  And now post jump and after a bit of reflection, I find that Damien, who really didn’t know me at all at the time, crystalized something for me with those words.  At some point along the way I began to change the sentence to “I don’t like heights very much, but I do love to fly.”
Fears are natural.  We all have them.  Whether we are willing to admit it or not.  We all deal with them differently.  Still there is something we all have in common.  To conquer that fear we have to want something more. Something has to be bigger and more meaningful than the fear.

Sometimes it is pride.  (We don’t want people to know we are afraid, or we don’t want them to ridicule us for being so.)  Sometimes it is what we gain if we overcome it, versus what we lose if we don’t.  (We ask someone out because a chance of a relationship with them is worth the possibility of rejection.)  Sometimes all it takes is us not wanting to be scared of it anymore, not to let it paralyze us.  (We go to that doctor’s visit we have been putting off because the truth of finding out what is wrong with us is easier to deal with than the constant terror of the possibilities of what actually is.)  Sometimes it is just because we want to prove to ourselves that our own expectations of our self are not necessarily valid.  (We skydive!)

For some reason it has become very important to me lately to face my fears.  When I started to mentally make a list, it was a long one that kept getting longer.  It was keeping me from living life to the fullest.  While some of my fears were very valid, there are others that are simply phobias or just things I wasn’t keeping in perspective.  I knew there was no rational reason for them, yet I let them control some area of my life. They had no power in themselves….I gave them power and kept restocking it.   In some ways these fears become our little gods…..we worship them.  Nothing can come before them.  They are dynamos and we are the generator.

But there is great freedom in facing fears, in rejecting them, dismantling them, and denying them power in our life.  When we make the decision to not nurture our fears, to not worship them, we can get out of the bindings and make our escape to freedom.

There are fears that are valid and should be respected.  There are others that are bad medicine that will incapacitate us and paralyze us and sometimes kill the essence of who we can be.  Those we need to conquer.  Letting my fear of heights be trumped by the fun of flying has changed how I approach the fear.  The fear has not gone away.  But it is not the massive roadblock in my life that it used to be.  From the office view, the picture is clear and the scenery is my focus.  I won’t look down….I will look ahead.  So come on…..join me.  Let’s throw the harness on (we’re not stupid!) and jump.  Add a few positive “buts’ to the things that scare us.  Give it a try.  And learn the joy of trumping fear!

I don’t like heights very much, but you know something….I really do love to fly. 

    Falling into Neophilia (or "Yes I Did Go Out of That Airplane at 3500 ft")

    I must be honest.  I really didn’t jump out of an airplane (or a “perfectly good airplane” to quote most people.)  Here is what it is really like.  Or at least how I remember it.  I fully understand that those two things could be slightly different.

    I had to sit in the open doorway of the airplane in flight, my feet dangling over the edge. (Yep….I looked around as I sat there and noticed quickly that earth was pretty far down below, but before I had time to dwell on it, I remembered the sage advice I had been given throughout the day and turned to look at the airplane instead).  Then I had to brace one hand on the right of the doorway and the other on the wing, slide onto this little step as I grab onto the wing while standing up, scoot over on the wing until I got beyond the step and supposedly had both hands inside these black lines that were painted on the wing (yep….that means beyond the step and with nothing beneath your feet but air very quickly) and turn “confidently” over to my left to look at my instructor Amanda, and wait until she gave me the thumbs up to drop from the sky at about 3500 ft.  Yeah, really.  Sort of shocked and horrified me, too, when she first described what would happen.  But when she gave me that thumbs up I let go and let myself fall without hesitation.  And there I went…..falling through the sky all by myself.   My security blankets, Amanda and Damien, still in the plane.  I know…..why would I do that?

    So OK.  I wasn’t totally by myself for long.  As soon as I felt the jerk back that they had told me would mean that the parachute was opening as it was supposed to, a voice started to talk calmly over the walkie talkie strapped to my chest and coach me the rest of the way down on the things Amanda and Damien had been going over with me all day.  At first he had me do lots of test things in the air.  He said “Let’s practice landing position…”, and I did that.  He had me turn it to the left, and I did that.  He had me practice landing position again.   And then turn to the right.  And then a series of rights and lefts until it was time to get into position to land for real.  There was no time for just hanging out and examining the view….there were things to do for the whole flight.  But I did happen to notice a few glimpses of land as I was doing it all (since I am female and can multi-task)…..and I have to say that Walterboro is prettier from the air than it appears on the ground.   I didn’t get the perfect stand up landing, but it wasn’t horrible either.  I landed quite softly on my knees (the lessons on the proper falling and rolling technique if you couldn’t stand up on landing….I must not have mastered.  Or probably more accurately, they just didn’t come to mind.  But I still think my technique worked out quite well.)  I underestimated how much force I would need to apply to the straps at the end, or I think I could have stuck it!!!  But that was it.  The voice on the other end of the radio comes in a golf cart to pick me and my parachute up and we head back to the hangar.  I had skydived!

    If any of you read my very first blog entry (“A Time To Begin”, March 31) I talked about Ed Ristaino, a balloon pilot friend (and skydiver) who I had been getting advice from when I decided that 2012 would be the year I skydived.  Ed was killed in March in a ballooning accident.  Damien is his son, and after I wrote that blog Damien offered to take over advising where his dad left off.  One “small” difference. Where Ed had been advising me on where to take a tandem jump, Damien wouldn’t even entertain the idea of me doing a tandem.  He decided I would enjoy a static line jump more (let me point out that this was before he had  even gotten to know me.)  It was ridiculous how easily he convinced me.  But I am glad he did.  I can do a roller coaster ride any day.

    I had wanted to jump tandem for years, and the one time during those years I let me mind explore the idea of jumping out of an airplane (just tandem), I got unreasonably scared.  Pure mental horror, to be exact. That fear actually lasted for about 24 hours.  It was very weird. (Note:  No plans had actually been made to jump at this point.  This was pure daydreaming.  Or nightmaring.  Reality is not necessary for me to scare myself to death.). But that was the worse fear I ever had about skydiving.  It surprises me.  While I probably was petrified underneath when I was doing it, what I honestly felt was better described as confusion and bewilderment.  “I’m really doing this?????”  “Amanda was right?  I actually can hang from the wing of an airplane??????”

    Not only did I make that jump, but in jumping by myself I went totally exploded the limits of what I thought my capabilities were.  Back when I was talking to Ed at that Mongolfier party in November, even jumping tandem was a stretch for me. It was beyond comprehension that I would jump on my own.  Of course it was also beyond comprehension that Ed would be watching my jump from above.  But I think he was and I think he was delighted.  With both me and Damien.  I was wearing a bracelet that Damien made me in Ed’s memory.   He was a part of my team.

    (Steve Brady….I also was wearing the “Magcell Warriors” shirt you brought me back from Iraq.  You still trump me for bravery, but also it reminded me if you could do that, I could do a little skydive!  Though Scarlett Johannson was not around for me to have my picture taken with her at any point in the day.)

    Amanda, my coach, was a great blend of encouragement and determination.  She always kept the edge of “It is important that you learn this and do what I say or you will die,” but always appeared very optimistic that I wouldn’t.  I believed her.  Most of the time.  Except when she told me that I would be able to hang out on that wing while in the air that high and it wouldn’t be as bad as I imagined.  She even proved to be right then, though.

    Now I just may have nightmares of the “If you see this thing going wrong, this is what you need to do” part of the skydiving training.  My junior and senior years in high school my history teacher, Mr. Gainey, would give us “picture tests.”  Mr. Gainey’s room had pictures from floor to ceiling….anywhere there may be wall space were pictures and some other place’s too.  Thousands of them.  With each unit of study we would have something like 100 pictures to learn.  We’d get tested on maybe 50 of them.  He would hold up the picture and you would have to tell him who it was and where they were from.  I usually did well on picture tests, but they created agony for me in the learning process and until the test was over.  They did not come easily for me, and were probably the thing that I studied for more than anything else during those high school years.

    Damien and Amanda returning from their jump

    Let me describe the skydiving “picture test”.  Me all harnessed up with skydiving gear, almost hanging, but not quite, Amanda on one side of me and Damien on the other.  Amanda would give the order and we would drill through the procedure that I was supposed to follow when hanging out on the wing.  (A concept I still wasn’t wrapping my head around.)  Then I was supposed to look up (as if I were looking at my parachute overhead) and Damien would hold a picture over my head.  I was supposed to tell them if anything was wrong with the picture and if so, drill through the procedure I needed to follow if there was.

    Let’s just say high school picture tests did not fully prepare me for this.  My mind did not work fast enough to figure out what was wrong.  Was it the ropes or the canopy that was messed up?  It sort of looked like both, but then again, maybe it was supposed to look like that and it was OK?  Then I would get distracted….what was that thing called that kept the ropes from getting tangled and was supposed to be above my head when the chute opened?  At the time as my mind was trying to think, both Amanda and Damien would be trying to get me to answer quickly and instinctively and do something!  We did it over and over and over again.  Yeah, that was the most stressful part of the day.  And I still don’t know for sure that I could identify any of the issues in the air and make the proper adjustments.  But I am quite confident I know where the pull for the reserve chute is and I have that procedure DOWN!

    When I was in the plane and getting ready to jump, I noticed the bumper sticker to the left on the door.  Funny how small things bring comfort.  It really did relax me.  Well, that and knowing that I didn’t see any anxiety on Amanda’s face.  I knew she wouldn’t let me ruin her perfect record of not losing anyone in a jump. She is a competitor.

    So yeah, back to Saturday’s post.  I think I am a neophiliac, even though I still need to take the written test.  I recommend it.  Be it skydiving or some other adventure.  Go ahead and give it a try.   You can and should go beyond your own expectations for yourself.  Though I recommend you have a good team to back you up!

    “If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good”
    Dr. Seuss, “One Fish, Two Fish”

    Teetering on the Border of Neophilia

    It was just a little blurb I noticed in a magazine this week.  “Neophilia [n ‘fil]: noun A love of novelty and thrill-seeking.  This trait has long been associated with impulsive troublemakers, but researchers have recently identified it as one predictor of health and happiness.  Do you like traveling to unfamiliar, far-flung places?  Are you one to make decisions quickly without much information?  If you answered yes, you might just be a neophiliac.” Health magazine, June 2012

    So it got me thinking….am I a neophiliac?  I definitely have a love of novelty.  Always liked the thing that didn’t belong with the others the best.  Everyone who knows me at all knows I love traveling to unfamiliar, far-flung places.  I make some decisions quickly and without much information.  Usually only big ones…..I agonize over little things like what color to polish my toes or what restaurant to choose.  But I think that the scale of the decisions I have made with very little thought or information would probably weigh down all the others.

    Am I an impulsive troublemaker?  Yeah, maybe sometimes.  Usually by necessity.  I would much rather plan and savor making trouble, but usually trouble needs to happen when it needs to happen.  (Though I want to make it clear that I always try to make trouble for the good…and hopefully never out of pure meanness.)

    But am I a thrill seeker?  I never have thought I was, but yeah….maybe I am starting to lean in that direction.  We’re going to see for sure tomorrow.  I will be giving skydiving a try.  I have wanted to do it for a while, though my mental visual was doing it tandem…fully attached to someone who knew what they were doing.   While that still would have been scary for me, I am sort of an anti-control freak so the idea of someone else being in charge of it all appealed to me (though I did intend to make sure they loved their lives before we jumped and that there was no history of depression or mental illness.)

    But according to my friend Damien, that is not enough for me.  No, evidently skydiving tandem is“just a roller coaster ride” (though I love roller coaster rides) and I really“want to fly.”  For some reason I bought his theory without hesitation.  OK, there was some hesitation.  But not a lot for a person of reason.  Which I think probably still goes back to my anti-control freak tendencies…I’ll do what he advises, since this is something he knows more about than me. But also it is because he is pretty persuasive…and yeah he’s right, I want to fly!  Though he doesn’t get the responsibility for my decision.  Has anyone ever known me to do much of anything I don’t want to do? 

    Tomorrow I “fly” (or static jump) with Damien’s girlfriend Amanda as my instructor.  She assures me she hasn’t lost anyone yet….and she sounded confident that I would not break her perfect record.  (Come think of it, I didn’t clarify the term “lost.”  And Amanda doesn’t know me well so she may be a bit optimistic.)  I have purposely not found out a lot about it so I wouldn’t think much about the reality of it, so about all I know is that I will have to climb on the ledge and jump off the plane myself (though Amanda and Damien will be there coaching and encouraging me), and the chute will supposedly open on its own.  While I haven’t researched at length, I can promise you that tomorrow I will pay attention in class.  While I have a tendency to have a wandering mind, hopefully this will not be one of those days!  Funny how fear makes you pay attention.

    So I’m not afraid yet, though that’s probably because I am just not thinking about it in much detail.  The idea of stepping off of a plane….that’s actually about a mile up in the air….is inconceivable to me.  Probably one reason I want to do it, but as someone that is so terrified of heights I don’t really even want to stand on a ladder, I know that it’s a little crazy.  When it becomes a reality, and the plane is in motion, I am sure I will be saying to myself “What was I thinking?”

    But do I think I will back out?  Probably not.  I generally do what I say I am going to do.  The truth is that I do love to fly.  I love airports, I love big planes, I love little planes, I love hot air balloons…..why wouldn’t I love this?  Well, except for facing the fear of heights thing.  And having to actually step off the plane onto nothing but air.  But gravity will be taking me down, and the parachute will be softening the blow. 

    When I para-sailed a couple of years ago I was a bit disappointed.  It was nice and beautiful (I was in Bermuda), but it just didn’t seem as adventurous as I had anticipated.  It was like being on a ferris wheel.  So this just may bring a bit more fun.  That is my hope.  Being scared certainly makes you feel strong emotion….and surviving that fear makes you feel strong.  Stay tuned…..and I will give you my perspective after going to school and making a jump! 

    The magazine I was reading (Health) was supposed to have a quiz online so I could see if I am a neophiliac.  It wasn’t online, so I will just have to use this as my real life test!  I hope I am.  Healthier and happier…..definitely those are primary goals in my life!

    Some people have told me they think I am crazy for doing this because of the danger.  Risk avoidance may keep you safer, but does it increase the pleasure in your life?  The reality is you can’t avoid risk.  Every year my company pays tribute to 175 of our colleagues who were killed in the 9/11 attacks.  That day they just went to work. 

    “And wow! Hey! What’s this thing coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding word like… ow… ound… round… ground! That’s it! That’s a good name – ground! I wonder if it will be friends with me?”   Douglas Adams, ‘Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.’

    “…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”   Isaiah 40:31