I love to jump off cliffs.
This runs antithetical to just about every way I was conditioned growing up.
I come from very fearful people, stoic Protestants who practice “keeping things in the family,” “never let them see how you really feel,” and “stick close to home.” Cautious, careful, deliberate action-takers. Spontaneity? Not so much.
I never questioned it growing up. It was normal to me. Things like traffic and weather dictated activities. Never let them see you cry. Don’t show weakness. Therapy might as well have been witchcraft.
It is imbedded in my code, this desire to avoid potential problems. This fear of something bad happening if you are not careful at all times.
I am no adrenaline junkie or extreme sports athlete. While I do enjoy a good rollercoaster ride now and then, I have not been ticking off a list of things I must do such as skydiving and bungie jumping, though if the occasion arose I might do those things.
Years ago, at a quarry in Vermont, I discovered that inside me is a kind of a dare devil all the same. That there are times I want to take risks, when I must, in fact, take the leap.
I love to stand at a precipice and then jump off into a deep body of water. I just love that sensation in my body as I step off into the air, my heart in my throat as an unheralded scream of joy-fear comes out of my mouth. Those moments of being totally free and falling through the air are just so life-filled, so in the moment. I experience the rush of my own full life force. There’s a feeling of being at one with something outside of me and yet within myself all at once. And then, the landing into the water. Being encompassed, becoming one with it in those moments in the muted depths before surfacing. Astounded at having been saved once again.
Maybe those moments are my church, my sanctuary.
For those seconds I am not thinking, not watching, not taking care.
I just am, and I am far from alone, and it feels great.
I know that experience now, and I seek it out in other ways. In my work as an actor. I feel that same way when I fully invest in my character and truly lay deeply personal life and death needs on the line and take that same kind of leap into the scene. My partner and I leap into the air of the play and sometimes find astonishing moments of true experience together. Surprises, places unexpected. When it is over, the same astonishment and gratitude for having landed safely. This is also my church, my sanctuary. It, too, is holy.
My early conditioning and the family encoding have not gone away, maybe never will. I can still catch myself getting very anxious when it is raining hard and I am in the car with my husband, feeling as if we should go straight back home. I carry unwarranted dread around at times like a Pashmina shawl. It can feel comforting and necessary.
But that’s OK.
Today, I consciously choose times to allow my spontaneity to take the front seat, put caution and fear in the back and assure them that “I got this.” I look for more places to find my free-fall worship, and I’m so grateful that I do what I do for a living.
Acting as I know it is not for the feint of heart, and I am honored to embody the lives of people who are fighting to live better lives, love more fully, taking risks to get what they need.
For them, and for me, I am happy to take that step off into the air and see where it takes me.
#freefall #risk-taking #acting