I’ve thought long and hard about The Jump That Broke My Neck (TJTBMN). And skydiving. And the people I love.
I’ve been thinking about these things for eight months but especially since my surgeon cleared me to skydive again in early February.
I’ve learned lots of things. First, TJTBMN happened for a whole fustercluck of reasons: the particular canopy, the jump I was on, my fatigue level, the way I packed, my body position, and the degree of baseline strength in my shoulders and neck. All of which I have control over.
Last fall, I bought a new (to me) canopy. I wanted one that had a history of nice openings — and that wasn’t the same type of canopy I jumped before. I’ve been practicing packing for the last six weeks and watched my sloppy jobs get nice and neat.
In February, I knew I didn’t yet have enough upper back, shoulder, and neck strength. So I’ve been lifting weights and, more recently, bouldering a few times, which is SO MUCH fun!
I thought about skydiving. More than anything else, there are two things I appreciate about it. First, while I’m doing it, nothing else exists. My mind is both one of my greatest assets–and, for sure, my greatest liability. Skydiving is a total vacation from my mind because it’s completely impossible to think about anything else while I’m doing it.
Secondly, skydiving taught me who I really am. I had to dig really deep to learn to skydive. Before then, I didn’t know I could dig that deep–so I didn’t know how intensely good it is. I like digging deep, which requires being out on the edge. I like edges. I like controlled risks. I like being as free as I can possibly be. Without those things, I don’t feel nearly as alive.
I thought about my lovely daughters and asking them to potentially repeat last summer. Or worse. If the tables were turned, there is no way I would ever ask them to stay away from the edges just for me. They will never know how deeply I appreciate their generosity and courage for not asking me to do the same for them.
I didn’t have to have that conversation with HHB. From the beginning, he said that he’d support me if I chose to jump again or not. Support has, for the last month or so, taken the form of us drilling on everything I ever learned, from my first license exam to the ones I haven’t taken yet, and reviewing emergency procedures.
Yesterday, we drove to a dropzone a couple hours north of us because it was open on a Monday, and we knew it would be a very casual experience.
I thought I might be nervous. I’ve certainly been nervous enough over the last months. But, once we made the decision after checking the weather yesterday morning, I was just excited. Seriously excited on the drive up. Poor HHB.
I thought I might be afraid in the plane or exiting. But, once we climbed on, it was like I’d done it hundreds of times. Which I have. Doh. Then jumping out was as fun as always–and skydiving with HHB was awesome. Seeing his smiling face right in front of me in the air, like I have so many times.
My canopy was awesome. And it was warm. Ish.
I jumped twice. And that was enough for the first day back.