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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jumping Off a Cliff

 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

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.


  1. OUTSTANDING JOB. Thanks for being strong enough to take a leap. Enjoy the time off and know that the rest of us support you. We love you.

  2. Your courage and faith are, as always, an inspiration, Dawn. My prayer for you is that your journey with this leap is even more breath-taking and more of just what you need than was the leap from the cliff last weekend (which truly was something, wasn't it?)

  3. Dawn - for years I was involved with a college youth group and for years I heard dreamers talk about what they wanted to do but felt powerless or afraid to pursue. My words to them were always the same...."Fly and be free." I am a big proponent of living today, using the good china, lighting the candles for pizza and beer or chasing after your heart's dreams - scarey or not. Congratulations and best of wishes to you. Fly be free my friend and may you enjoy the view!

    Hope to stay in touch! Hugs, Sally

  4. Good for you, baby. I'm proud of you. You are living intentionally.

  5. Dawn, I've come to many important places in my life while spending a few days in Oceanside. I've watched the paragliders but never taken the plunge. Good winds whatever you decide to do.

  6. ... just say yes to life. And you are. Well done.

  7. I don't really know you but I feel like I have been a voyeur to your grief. Watching with intent, your openness has been captivating to say the least, really life not reality tv. I have learned things from you and this is just another one of the lessons. Do what you need to do when you need to do it so you do can what you want to do when you want to do it.

    Keep the faith and the fight. Your kids need you and you certainly need them.

    Margaret Croom

  8. Dawn -

    Wow! You are amazing and an inspiration!

    GOD has, is and will continue to be with you and yours!


  9. Thank you, everyone! I am continually inspired and motivated by your words, too. They're comforting. And I love Sally's image of using the good china and lighting candles for pizza or beer. Yes!

  10. Good for you Dawn. I hope you get lots of time to spend with the kiddies and have some down time. You deserve some rest. :)


  11. Oh Dawn, I'm so proud of you! A leap towards your kids; what could be better?

  12. I am reading these posts now a year later and then some. So much has happened. This is truly a magical story..one with humor and tears and great bravery...flaunt the courage girl..flaunt it and fly high...