I’ve made no secret that the past two years have been difficult for me personally – concerns for my health, my family, my family’s health, and major life changes have all been placed in my path. There were days I couldn’t see past the next minute, and some that I could stretch that focus to only an hour. I looked to yoga, to exercise, to books, to conversations with people who had wisdom far beyond my perspective. If I hadn’t had my husband I would not have made it. He held me up. I also found I was being supported in ways – and from people – that I would have never suspected I needed or that would show up. I was thrown life preservers from people who didn’t even know I was drowning. As the light began to return I began to seek out conversations of a different kind. Conversations that would continue to help light my return to a more balanced, peaceful place.
In January I was lucky enough to have a conversation with a woman whom I admire greatly. Frankly, she’s a bad ass: she owns her own company, is the top in her field, is an engaged and present mom, a good friend and a competitive athlete. I look up to her, and the way she is able to make me feel like an equal when her list of accomplishments is clearly longer than just about every woman I know and certainly my own. We were talking about her growing business and some opportunities she has created for herself that are exciting — and scary. She said, “It’s so funny because I told my staff at our January meeting to plan the year that this year I wanted to do something that scared me to death. Something outside my comfort zone and different.” I have to admit I am not sure what all she said after that — if you know me you know I can drift away when people are talking. It’s not meant to be rude or inconsiderate — it’s a mere fact of life with my imagination. I began thinking of all she had done and wondered how “doing something that scared her” hadn’t been done already!? How was her comfort zone so big? She is so accomplished – in personal and professional capacities – how did she get there without doing things that scared her already? Why did I always feel such perpetual fear? How could I step out of the box I had created for myself?
She had planted another seed of curiosity for me. What could I do if I let the fear that had consumed me the past year go? What would I do if I wasn’t afraid? What would I do that scared me?
Last week we were in Jamaica for J’s senior spring break. We swam with dolphins, climbed water falls, swam in the ocean, rode horses, tubed a river, and jumped off cliffs into pools of water high in the mountains. We started small, jumping a few feet, swimming to the next stop, climbing and hiking to the next jump off spot, then the next. I was afraid from the beginning, because why wouldn’t I be?
At the first jump I was hesitant and I climbed down to the lowest spot I could before leaping into the water. When came up for air I realized … I had fun! It was fun! My boys were smiling at me – I heard “Good job, Momma!” and had kisses on my cheeks. I said, “E I did it!” and he said, “Of course you did.” He wasn’t surprised. Of course I did!
I kept climbing and jumping and swimming. I was afraid, but something settled over me. Peace? Confidence? When I first walked into the jungle and climbed to the first jump I was looking ahead, wondering how many times I could jump before I just couldn’t overcome my fear. Somewhere along the way I lost the paralyzing fear, the fear that I couldn’t was replaced with a fear that said I could even if I was scared. By the time the last jump came, I climbed to the top and stood in line — not everyone decided to jump. The leap wasn’t extraordinarily high — but to me it could have been from the top of the Eiffel Tower. I watched a few people in front of me turn around and decided not to do it. I watched others jump with wild abandon. I waited my turn.
I walked to the edge of the platform — I hesitated, I did — but I forced my fear to allow me the control and I jumped.
One of the beautiful things about life is that it changes. Dark rises to light. Rain becomes sun. Moonlight turns to daylight. Fear becomes surmountable.
Jumping off of a platform built from the side of a hill into a crystal-clear blue pool of cool water deep in the Jamaican jungle is a bit like publishing my book. Last Turn Home is the product of a decade of learning and growing and in particular two years of facing fear and learning to create my own light no matter what the circumstances.
I had seen myself as small. As not having an impact. And although this book will not change the world, it won’t be on the New York Times best seller list and I may only sell copies to my family and friends – it has changed me. Jumping off the cliff changed me. I don’t have to live small. It’s not a matter of fear versus courage. It’s a matter of fear being controlled, of fear being a catalyst and of looking fear in the eyes and accepting that it’s ok to be scared — and moving forward anyway. Do you know what else I learned? I do things that scare me every day. Fear is defined by me, and so is my ability to move forward to spite it.
Three weeks from tomorrow Last Turn Home will be available – May 1, 2018. I jumped. I hope you find a way to jump today, too.