Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On Top Of The World

"I’m on the top of the world, looking down on creation…"

Wow, there is nothing that compares to the feeling of being hurled through the sky towards earth. It is almost indescribable, but I will attempt to accurately share what the skydiving experience was like for me (I just went this past weekend!).

Firstly, my nerves never ceased. I was nervous for several weeks leading up to the jump as well as throughout the actual jump itself! The nerves were a constant companion. However, they did not consume me. I worked hard at keeping them at bay and relaxing myself. I made the decision that I was going to enjoy myself and have fun with the whole adventure, despite my anxieties.

A few days before the jump I began to mentally prepare myself. I envisioned falling through the sky with a smile on my face. I tried to feel the wind against my body and see the world grow larger before my eyes as I floated closer and closer to the ground. My heart would race and I’d stifle a small panic during these mental images, but I continued with slow, deep breaths to remain as calm as possible.

The night before my big leap of faith (trust me it is definitely that!) I ran through three possible scenarios in my head, beginning with me walking towards the plane and ending with me landing on solid ground. The first scenario I imagined the worst: my parachute failed to open and I died. I let myself feel the feelings of knowing I was going to die and allowed those last thoughts to float through my head. When I finished I had tears in my eyes. I moved on to scenario two. This is where my parachute opens and it all goes off without a hitch but I was so frightened I didn’t allow myself to enjoy anything. I was withdrawn and somber, face drawn tight with worry. I landed with relief but also with a sense of having lost out on something spectacular. I then began scenario three in which I embraced the day and went for it full steam ahead, determined to enjoy and make the most of this gift. I was nervous to be sure, but excited and ready as well. This scenario, out of all three, felt the best within me. This third visualization was the most comfortable one, it just felt right.

Therefore I made the simple conclusion that this is how I was going to face the day. I wasn’t going to deny or suppress my nerves, I couldn’t get rid of them, but I wasn’t going to let them dictate either. I would focus on my strength, my excitement, my anticipation and go for it!

In the morning when I awoke I inserted earphones and listened to a short, calming meditation all the while invoking feelings of peace, focus, and anticipation for the excitement that lay ahead. I listened to it once more just before getting in the car in an attempt to focus my thoughts and set a clear intention for what lay ahead.

My method worked! I was nervous as all hell but I did it with a huge smile on my face. I even have video to prove it! I alternated between screaming and laughing all the way down. Well, in the beginning it was mostly just screaming. That free fall is insane! It was so surreal, I couldn’t believe I was actually falling through the sky without any sort of container or vehicle. It was just me, Mark the instructor, and the parachute, a tiny dot in the vast blueness, almost impossible to locate. I was later told they knew where I was because of all the screaming but they couldn’t see me till I dropped a few thousand feet. A massive rush of adrenalin hit me hard, compelling me to yell over and over, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” Actually it was more like, “Ahhhhhh!!!!! Oh my gosh! Ahhhhhh!!!!! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Ahhhhhh!!!!!!” We were even spinning round and round like a top during the free fall. Mark raised one hand and we spun to the right. I screamed even louder. He stabilized us for a split second then raised his other hand and we flew to the left, the earth speedily circling below me. My brain was telling me it was madness, my heart was jumping for joy with pure exhilaration.

Seconds later (it felt like an eternity) Mark pulled the chute and I was jerked upright. This initiated our peaceful, graceful descent. I felt weightless, like a feather, gently drifting down, down. I tugged on a rope and we swung around to the right again, spinning and spinning like the teacups, only it was just me, I was free in the air, flying, floating, gliding. Again a powerful sense of surrealness enveloped me. Was this really happening? It was dreamlike, but not hazy or distant as dreams can sometimes be, it was jolting, it was electrifying, it was energizing. I was still shaken with fright but awed by my impossible reality. This is where the laughs came in (alternating with the screams). Laughs of amazement, of joy, of delight, of exhilaration, of disbelief.

I should note that during my descent I intentionally and forcefully expunged all thoughts of doom and disaster from my head. If any sort of negative thought began to form I immediately shut it out and replaced it with one of excitement, exhilaration or joy. I was determined to permit only good thoughts to flow. This was key. If I hadn’t done this I would have panicked for sure.

When my feet finally touched the graveled ground I could barely contain myself. I felt like I had conquered the world! It was incredible! The feeling of astonishment at what I had accomplished poured through my core, mixed with pride, joy, satisfaction, exuberance, and appreciation all powered by a huge sense of relief that I had made it safely. I was thrilled to be alive, I was thrilled to embrace my children as they ran to greet me, and I was thrilled by the extreme experience. My body shook with emotion and adrenalin, as though I had worked out hard for an hour, drank five cups of coffee and then learned that I won the lottery. I was one happy girl! What an incredible experience!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"My Body Just Felt Like It"

I was sitting eating lunch with my 23 month old daughter. Her face and hands were plastered with red sauce as she happily devoured a plateful of spaghetti, with carrot sticks on the side. I was enjoying left over grilled chicken and a salad. About half way through lunch I noticed the house was suspiciously quiet. My middle child, who just turned five, refrained from joining us for lunch stating he was not yet hungry. The three of us normally eat our midday meal together but on occasion my son just isn’t hungry. No big deal, I just whip him up a plate later.

Today, however, instead of playing with toys or talking to us as we ate, he managed to disappear, undetected. I called for him and a minute later he materialized before me, saying “Mama, someone, NOT me, wrote with marker upstairs. NOT me, I don’t know who it was.” Obviously this adamant denial about an occurrence I knew nothing about triggered some major alarms in my head. “What happened?”, I asked. “Someone, I don’t know who, but it wasn’t me, wrote with marker upstairs. It was NOT me.” More alarms began to sound. I must admit that this statement had me somewhat confused. My kids rarely intentionally destroy the house, or any sort of property for that matter. Of course they have many times but it’s usually accidental. Their preferred form of misbehavior is to fight with each other. I am constantly working with them on name calling and physically hurting one another. But deliberately ruining an item then outright lying about it is not typical for them. Still, I was pretty convinced he was guilty of the crime.

“Where did you see the marker?” At this point he actually handed me a marker, a black Sharpie (oh, great) that he’d been holding behind his back. “Here.” He plopped it in my hand. “Is this the same one the person used to draw?” I asked. “Yes.” Now I am convinced of his guilt. “And exactly where did they draw?” He shifted uneasily but I gave him the mom glare with a slight tilt of my head indicating I was not messing around and he better answer me now, thank you very much! “Um, um…” He stalled. I tilted my head further. “Um, on the mattress and on the bathroom floor.” I leaned down and looked at him directly in his eyes. “You did it, didn’t you?” I asked. His better judgment finally emerged and he confessed.

I exhaled loudly and deeply but surprisingly didn’t get upset. I was more focused on the fact that I wanted to keep eating so I told my son to wait and show me the markings after the meal. He sat on the floor behind me. A few minutes later I looked over at him. He had a most peculiar look on his face, as though he were staring off into space, deep in thought. “What are you thinking about?” I asked. “Nothing.” He replied and grinned, having been caught thinking this secret thoughts. “Are you thinking about how you’re going to be in trouble?” I inquired. “No”, he said, “I’m not getting in trouble.” This answer caught me off guard. I thought for sure he was busy running all the possible scenarios of discipline through his head. “Oh, you’re not?” I asked curiously. “Are you sure about that? Did you do something naughty?” The grin faded from his face and he replied, “Yes.” He looked very sheepish now. “And when you are naughty you are disciplined, right?” His head lowered, “Yes” he whisperd.

I completed my lunch, cleared the table and cleaned up my messy daughter. My son raised his head and I saw huge tears in the corner of his eyes, threatening to spill over. “Mama”, he croaked, “My stomach feels scared.” I quickly stifled a giggle at his expression and said, “Well, yes, that happens when we know we are in trouble. Let’s go upstairs now and you can show me what you did.”

We walked into the bedroom. He pointed out the squiggles he drew on the mattress. It wasn’t very bad, hardly noticeable. “Ok” I said evenly, “Now show me the bathroom floor.” The door to the bathroom was pulled shut. He opened it and looked down. Three dark circles were drawn in the middle of the floor. “Why did you do this?” I asked, incredulous. He started to cry then shrugged and said “My body just felt like it.”

Again I forcefully refrained from smiling and instead dealt with the issue. He had to clean up the marker, all by himself (yes, it was hard work for him, but that was the point) then he was further disciplined for lying to me. I made a clear distinction between the two. He had two separate punishments for two separate acts. After completing his discipline he was back to his normal sweet self within a matter of minutes.

I understand the kid though, it is hard to fight tempting urges when the body just feels like it, but acting on these urges does come with consequences, for all of us.