I jumped from a cliff in Oregon last Friday. Actually, I ran straight off. There was nothing unpleasant about that particular patch of grass high above Oceanside. But standing with my feet planted on the ground was preventing me from completing an item on my “bucket list:” flying. Strapped to a harness, an emergency parachute and my instructor pilot, Todd, I launched into my first paragliding experience (for an explanation of what paragliding is, click here): http://discoverparagliding.com/Pages/faq.html#WhatisPG
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Jumping Off a Cliff
It was glorious. I sat against the back of my chute and felt the wind against my face. I felt birdlike, calm, free. Todd steered over the tops of pine trees and the roofs of houses. I waved to a man on his deck below. I listened to waves crashing against Three Arches rocks and inhaled the salt air.
Flinging yourself from terra firma isn’t easy. I could’ve knit a sweater between my knocking knees, I was shaking so much. But the desire to soar triumphed over attachment to the safe and sure (and if, as Todd told me, his 80-year-old mother could paraglide, then I could, too).
I’m about to leap off another cliff. This time, it’s metaphorical, and involves neither a parachute nor an instructor. The solid ground I’m leaving is my job as Marketing and Communications Director at Greater Spokane Incorporated. I have decided to flout “conventional wisdom” about “not making any big decisions in the first year” after Sean’s death. Three months after losing my partner and father of our kids, that cliché doesn’t fit me. It feels like a straitjacket. Don’t misunderstand - I have always loved this job - I’ve felt more a part of this community, at the table with decision-makers and dreamers, than I have in any other position. And the way my work family rallied around my own family during and after Sean’s illness and death reinforced the character of GSI’s staff, members and volunteers.
My position and its responsibilities keep me running out the door most mornings, away from a 4 and 6-year-old who need me now more than ever. And even though many days (most days) Fiona and Finley drive me nuts, my heart still thumps out an S.O.S. to be near them. Holding, watching, talking with those kids feeds my soul, even if some of our conversations sound like, “We don’t hit…ever…” and “Stay in bed; Mommy’s tired...” Waiting it out one magical year post-death simply leaves us one year older. One more year of rushing off to work. One more year of, “Mommy, will you stay home with us today?”
One of Sean’s many gifts to us after he died was life insurance. Not enough to facilitate a permanent workforce withdrawal (and really, I do enjoy working), but enough to quit my outside job and navigate the home seas. I figure we’ll have about a year together, God willing. For now, I’ll keep my contacts, coffee dates and comforts of Spokane; I’ll need kind words and references for re-entry. I am also not, in the near term: selling the house, finding a new job or joining a convent (although the last option is somewhat appealing).
Questions? I love FAQs. Here goes:
Q: When are you leaving work?
A: My last day is set for June 10th, which will allow me to wrap up some projects at GSI. And Fiona’s last day of school is June 11th.
Q: Who’ll take your place at GSI?
A: That’ll be up to my boss, CEO Rich Hadley. Attempts to bribe the current Marketing Director with wine and chocolates, while nice, probably won’t get you anywhere.
Q: Now that you’ll have loads of free time on your hands, will you join my group/committee/cause/accordion trio?
A: No, and I can’t play accordion, anyways.
Q: How about freelance work?
A: Unless St. Croix has a position as Electric Slide dancer or rum punch taster, probably not. I am, however, always open to voiceover work, if the script is decent. I’ll also write stuff someone may or may not want to read some day.
Q: What will you do after June 10th?
A: Breathe and be.
I know, I’m taking a risk. Once you’ve kissed death on the forehead, life and its choices look different. I’ve had lots of practice the past eight months jumping off metaphorical cliffs and making decisions reactively. Decisions like, “Cremation versus burial?” “Preschool or daycare?” “Stay or go?” It’s time to live intentionally (as my friend, Lucinda, likes to say), and make the leap. You can’t fly until you’re willing to leave the ground.