it’s been a long time since i leapt off the high dive, felt the whoosh of my body — bare skin, wet suit — free-falling through air.
it’s been a long long time since i last mustered the courage, flung myself out into the unknown.
but, i was reminding myself, i’ve done it plenty before.
i can do this.
there was the time, long long ago, when my mama and papa drove me downtown. to the hospital, they told me. you are going to get better, they told me. and i did. but not before being scared out of my wits.
and there were long nights in college when i had no clue where i was headed. but one saturday night in the library i decided i knew. and i decided that to get there i was going to snare myself a solid line of straight As. so i did.
there was the night my papa died. and i never wanted to exhale the breath in my lungs from before he was gone. could not bear to take in a swallow of this new oxygen, depleted of the great love of my life at the time, my hero, my papa.
but i did.
not too many weeks after that i picked up a telephone and told a man on the other end of the line that i was a nurse, but i wondered if maybe they’d have room in their school to teach me a thing or two about writing.
he did. so i did.
and then, not long after that, i walked into the great gothic tower of a newspaper i’d grown up reading. i bumped into a fellow who wore purple high-top tennis shoes, and spilled chunks of oil-drenched salad all over the pages, my pages, that sat on his lap. he read along, looked up, said, “i think i can use this.” i let out a yelp. said, “i think you just made my life.”
not long after that, the lady in charge of plucking recruits out of the masses, enlisting them in the summer army of interns, she called me up, called me in for an interview. last thing she said to me in that tiny broom closet of an interview room was this: “around here, you sink or swim.” i looked her straight in the eye and said, plainly, “i’m a swimmer.”
and so it’s gone, over and over and over again.
we forget sometimes, until we need to remember, just how brave we can be.
and then, once we remember, the oddest most curious things start to happen.
once we stare our fears in the eye, once we decide, okay, universe, we’re not going to be bound anymore. not going to stand here, frozen in time and space, thinking of all the things that could go wrong, might go wrong. we’re going to step off this ledge, and try that free-falling move once again.
once we do that, just as goethe, the great german philosopher, long ago said, “at the moment of commitment, the universe conspires to support us.”
in other words, all around, from out of the darkness, folks start extending a hand. taking our shaky one in theirs, and holding it soft and tight.
the phone starts ringing, and people say things that give you tingles up your spine. because how did they know–out of the blue–that you needed to hear those very words at that very moment?
emails pop into your mailbox. and you click here or there, not really thinking what you’re doing, and next thing you know you are reading something that slides right sweet into the place where you needed it to be.
might be that the fellow you married — a guy known to be plenty cautious and not keen on rash, irrational moves, pretty much the life-long grounding rod for your high-wire act — keeps telling you you’re doing the right thing.
might be your 10-year-old boy, who lets out a whoop, pipes up during dinnertime prayers, “dear God, thank you for the bravest mommy there ever was.”
trust me, i’m not launching myself into space. not about to set up a colony on the moon. not tackling a cure for cancer.
just putting one foot in front of the other.
but, for the first time in a long time, headed in the direction of my heart. instead of the way that’s been slow-dripping, leeching the pink right out of my cheeks.
and once i got through the talking to myself, reminding myself i’ve moved my own personal mountains before, i have been utterly and joyfully buoyed by the power, the knowledge, the wisdom, of the universe to make like a marvelous tunnel of hands and hearts, each one reaching out, giving me the nudge, the squeeze, the full-throttle embrace i need to keep this free-fall from feeling like a death-dive.
instead, i am slowly, solidly, catching the wind.
and one of these days, i just might look down and realize i’ve started to soar.
what a bummer. can’t let you in on specifics. not yet. will when i can. but in the meantime, what freefalls have you knowingly, bravely, stepped into in your life, and who were the great good souls who reached out and let you know you were going to be all right, and no one was letting you splat flat on your face? what are your moments of personal courage?