Thursday, September 19, 2013

Owning the Whole Jump

There's a great video of a guy and his girlfriend atop a cliff. You've probably seen it. She's harnessed for a jump off the cliff to then ride an insane rope swing out into space, but she's having trouble getting herself to jump. The first two minutes of the video are her trying to work up the nerve. What happens at 2:20 is just...well, you should just watch.

I love that whole thing. Her fear, his support and humor, him throwing her off the cliff, and her screamed break-up (which, if you're curious, doesn't take; they're back together as soon as she climbs back up). But more than just amusing, I'm seeing that moment as some kind of metaphor.

Most of my life I've been the woman in that video. I'm harnessed in, I've got all the tools I need, but I'm not ready to jump. I know I want to jump, I know I'm safe, and I know that I'll regret it if I don't jump. Still, I stand at the edge of the cliff contemplating the vague notions of all that can go wrong.

Notice that she's not just some yahoo walking off a cliff to her death. She is surrounded by people who know what they are doing. She is harnessed in the most professional way. She is prepared. This is not some spontaneous thing. In another video I learned that she had been waiting two days for her turn to jump. This is a prepared adventure she's ready to embark on.

Still, she can't do it.

I know the feeling. I keep longing for adventure. I'm suited up for it. Trained, ready, able. Yet I'm still on the cliff counting down from five over and over hoping that somehow things will be different. Hoping, in many ways, that someone will come along and shove me off the cliff. She gets that help -- yes, it's help, not cruelty -- from her boyfriend. I could have that same kind of help if someone fired me, but wouldn't it be better to step off the cliff myself?

Which leads me to the guy in the video. He too is harnessed since he's at the edge of the cliff as well. Instead of being set to swing out into space, he's tethered to the safety of the cliff. I imagine that he has already done his jump and I picture him checking the lines, having someone else check them too, then standing at the edge and throwing himself off for the adventure he has been waiting for.

Thinking about that moment when he happily jumps over the edge, I just about tingle.

I'm ready for adventure. I've got the harness tight, the ropes checked and double-checked, and the cliff is right there waiting for me to step over. I can wait to be pushed, but why?

I've been pushed before. It works out okay but the feeling initially is terrible. The push feels like death, like the end of things, like there really will be no tomorrow. It takes a while for the ropes to become tight and catch me. It takes even longer to believe that they will hold. And sometimes it takes years to believe that it has all worked out.

Meanwhile, the times that I've jumped, I'm not desperate for the ropes to go taut. I enjoy the fall like it's a flight. I feel the pull of the rope and know immediately that I am in a great place. I don't have to learn to believe because I stepped off the cliff already knowing.

I could get pushed off the teaching cliff easily enough. I know how to get fired. Nothing to it really. When it comes down to it, the result could be the same. I would be out into the world and finding what's next. But none of it would feel the same and it wouldn't be as sweet.

The woman in the video is thrilled to have taken the swing, but I bet you that she wishes she had stepped off on her own. That way the whole thing would have belonged to her. She would have owned the jump as well as the fall. That sort of thing matters.

So I'm pulling on the straps of the harness. I'm checking the knots in the rope. The cliff is right over there and the view is spectacular. All it takes is one step. That and the will to believe in the adventure.

And I know what I'll scream as I jump off. You do too.

Write on!