It’s true that I spent the first 17 years of my life in a protected, little suburb in St. Louis, and that I was relatively shielded from urban life, or drama that extended beyond boyfriends, new cars and English papers. But, it’s also true that there were some special things about my ‘hood, things that I wouldn’t have found beyond the granite gates that fenced us in.
One of those things was the community pool – accessible to all (though not free). And we’re not talking about a little dinky pool. It was, and still is, an Olympic-sized pool with an Olympic-sized diving tank complete with regulation diving boards and platforms. Yes, platforms – because you do not want to stand on 18 inches of skinny diving board when you’re above a pool of water that looks to be about the size of your bathtub because you are so far away from it. I’m just sayin’.
Let’s put this into perspective:
- The low diving board is 1 meter high.
- The high diving board is 3 meters high.
- The first platform is 5 meters high.
- The second platform is 7.5 meters high.
- The third, and highest, platform is 10 meters high. (which is really very, very high)
I spent my summers (before and after camp) at this pool. And, as afraid of heights as I’ve always been, I did jump off those platforms. Once.
I wanted to. I needed to. I knew it was something I had to do because when I thought about not jumping, it didn’t feel right in my body. I knew that I was being manhandled by my fear in the not jumping – and that just wasn’t who I was, (isn’t who I am). But the fear was strong. I remember the stories that flared up in my brain. If I climb up that ladder and jump, my terror told me, then:
- I won’t have the option of turning around and climbing back down.
- I’ll be trapped.
- I’ll have no control.
- I’ll freeze.
- I’ll panic.
- I’ll be all alone.
- No one will help me.
- I’ll look like a fool.
- I’ll cry.
- I’ll slip.
- I’ll fall.
- I’ll die.
And then, I’m guessing with the cajoling of friends or because I was only 10 years old or because I tapped into the part of me that refuses to fail or because of all of the above, I climbed up (and up and up and up) the ladder and I jumped off.
I didn’t love the jump, and I didn’t ever do it again – but, I did it once, and I survived. And it was no where near as bad as my imaginings. None of them came true. Well, almost none of them. I was, in fact, alone…but that turned out to be okay. Like I was supposed to be alone when I jumped from this great height when, after all, the build-up of fear had also been created and endured a la solo.
And in that moment, I started to learn that the build-up is so much scarier than the actual jump.
It’s a lesson that’s hard to remember when you’re in the before/build-up phase. But when it can be recalled, it’s wonderfully comforting. Like gaping at 100 flights of stairs…and then looking over and seeing a sign for an elevator.
I wish I could send an ‘elevator’ of help to Haiti. I know times are hard for people all over the world right now, but if you have anything to spare, please text “haiti” to 90999 and make a donation to the Red Cross’s relief efforts. You can also make a donation via their website. May the pain and suffering of these people somehow be eased by the care and support of people everywhere…
Three other charities that are working to help Haiti: