Anyone who knows me knows I hate to fly. Correction… I don’t mind small planes, I despise big ones. Commuters, puddle jumpers, two seaters… All okay. The massive commercial jets? No thank you.
At different points in my life, I’ve had to fly pretty frequently. I lived in L.A. for five years, so the only way home to visit was via commercial airline. I traveled to different countries to experience various healing modalities, and most of those flights involved a combination of commercial jets and puddle jumpers, depending on how remote of an area I was traveling to.
It really ticked me off I couldn’t get over this fear. Of all I had been through and experienced living with SCI, I was scared to death each time I boarded a commercial airplane…The safest way to travel. No idea why or what Freud would say. Probably some “loss of control” issue. Whatever the reason, I was determined to overcome it. It put such a damper on the fun of my travel.
I decided to try skydiving. Don’t ask me why I thought this would work… Perhaps because it was a bit extreme…Like shock therapy. But just thinking of jumping out of a plane sounded better than traveling in one. I did some research, made some calls and found a jump school that would take me. I went with a friend who was jumping as well.
At the jump school, we waited around all day for the sky to clear enough to get a thumbs-up. The person I was going tandem with was the owner. He had decades of experience, done numerous stunts in movies and was totally supportive of me jumping.
The skies never cleared. The owner said we could come back the following day, but I took it as a sign from the Universe this wasn’t the right time for me to experience this. The owner was great… He said he wasn’t going anywhere and when I wanted to jump, give him a call.
About a year later, I made that call. This time I didn’t take a friend, just me and one of my aides. The school was about an hour away from where I lived in L.A. The day broke with sunshine and cloudless, blue skies.
In my gut, I felt this was my day. When I arrived, the owner and his team were ready for me. I had taken the required course the year before, so only needed a refresher on what to do and expect. Since I was going tandem, I basically just had to enjoy the ride.
I’ll admit… When the plane door slid open, reality hit me. I was jumping out of an airplane at almost 15,000 feet. I was jumping out. As my instructor scooted us into the right position, I rationalized my fear by thinking what are the odds of breaking your neck and having a serious skydiving accident in the same lifetime?
For once, the odds were automatically in my favor. And if something was going to happen, I must have some serious karma to make up for from my last lifetime, so I might as well get it all over with in this lifetime so my next lifetime is golden.
My instructor, Rich, had helmets that allowed us to talk to each other since my hands could not do the usual signs needed to communicate. I was in front of him, basically sitting in his lap. He dangled our legs over the edge of the plane, all the while calmly reminding me what to do and what to expect. Then came the moment of truth. I answered his, “Okay to go?” with a “Hell yes!”, knowing it was now or never. If I backed out, I knew it wasn’t a horse I would get back on.
And away we went. Sixty seconds of free fall that seemed to last half an hour. My brain was like a computer that had just crashed. Rich was reminding me to keep my eyes open… He must of had a sixth sense… They were squeezed tightly shut with sheer terror.
The adrenaline took over my fear about halfway through the free fall. When the time came, together we counted down the last ten seconds prior to pulling the shute. Even through my thick helmet, I heard the crack! of the shute opening.
As we were pulled up, my legs came up as well, with my feet coming up to my shoulders. We had weighted my legs down, putting some of my SCUBA weights on my ankles to prevent this from happening, but apparently we did not use enough.
Rich was asking me if I was okay. By the third time he asked, I could answer with a yes. It took me a few seconds to assess myself and see if I had pain anywhere. I was fortunate I was very flexible and stretched constantly in physical therapy. I was pretty shaken, but physically okay.
As the shute ballooned above us, my legs came down as we began to descend…the weights were now doing their job. As I took in the view, I was getting a glimpse of the world through God’s eyes. My fear was gone, and I didn’t want this incredible experience to end. I was in complete awe.
Our landing was timed to perfection. During the last five minutes, Rich communicated with the four guys waiting for us on our landing spot with my wheelchair. We landed really slowwwwly, and touched down as if on a cloud. Two of the guys caught my legs, while the other two untethered me from Rich. Then all four placed me in my wheelchair as carefully as a china doll, as Rich stepped out of our shute.
I just sat there, stunned for a few moments. The guys immediately help me take my goggles and helmet off, asking if I was okay. I could only nod yes. Rich knelt in front of me and asked, “Well kid, wadja’ think?”
I was full of mixed emotions. Within a short amount of time, I experienced extreme fear, a thrill, an elation I cannot put into words, awe, joy, appreciation… Mother Earth had provided me with a view I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.
With tears streaming down my face, I could only offer Rich a huge smile and a shake of my head. I was simply overwhelmed. Rich gave me a hug and we made our way back to the office and training building where my aide was waiting.
As my aide and I made the trip home, I leaned my head back, closed my eyes and just enjoyed the yummy after-shock feelings of what I had done. I felt wonderful inside. Suddenly, I opened my eyes and snapped my head up. “I can’t believe this!” I exclaimed. “I just realized… I’m still scared of flying!”