I Took the Plunge; Now I’m dancing in the sky
by David Lacy
For the most part I mean that metaphorically of course, but on one occasion, I actually sailed through the air, staring open-mouthed at the cartoonish checkerboard landscape thousands of feet below me. I hovered in near-silence — that is, until my entire body erupted into fits of uncontrollable laughter.
A few months ago I wrote that I had escaped the rather painful end to my marriage by putting the brakes on my rapid free-fall into depression and anxiety. Ever since then I have made the repeated conscious decision to not only fall no further, but also to FLOAT as often as I possibly could.
Yes, you read that correctly: to float.
To hover. To sail. To dance in the air. Suspended animation and all that crazy shit.
For my 31st birthday I joined my sister and a best friend in skydiving. My entire life I’ve been afraid of heights; I’ve typically needed to take a pharmacy along with me just to travel without clenching my white knuckles stiffly around the armrest (much to the annoyance of whatever travel companion is with me, or stranger who had the misfortune to be assigned near me).
That’s probably why it came as a surprise to my good friend when I texted him and informed him that I wished to go skydiving the following weekend.
“Are you having a mid-life crisis?” he texted back. (It probably didn’t help his interpretation of events that I’d inked a second tattoo only days prior to this correspondence; then again, it was this same friend who had been encouraging me to jump from a perfectly safe airplane for several months now.)
“Nope. Just living,” I replied. “You game?”
And with that there was no going back.
I’m not going to lie: When the first jumper slid back the door to the plane, exposing 13,000 feet of a 360-degree playing field, I let out a stream of rapid-fire expletives. They blurred together into something that sounded a bit like fuckshitgoddamnfuckdamnshitfuckfuckfuckshitshitnofuckingway.
Actually, it sounded exactly like that.
And then I stood at the doorway to the plane, my instructor Nick Armstrong strapped to my back. Below me lay EVERYTHING: Every fear, every anxiety, every human I had ever interacted with. Quite literally, they were below me … below the hover zone, below my world of interactions, insecurities, and uncertainties. It’s not that these people and things were irrelevant; it’s that they appeared (almost imperceptibly) comically like ants, scrambling around in a world I was temporarily excluded from.
The free-fall part of the dive scared the hell out of me, but the floating did something inexplicable in my brain. Standing in a “Matrix”-esque pose in the sky, I discovered a sense of self-contentment I had never felt before. I was delirious for two separate reasons: 1.) I was conquering one of the most substantive mental blocks I’ve dealt with for decades and 2.) I was floating through the motherfucking sky. (Sorry for the explicit language, but very few terms capture the intensity of the emotion of the experience like a Samuel L. Jackson catchphrase.)
Since that birthday dive I have been feverishly chasing that same floating sensation, and the good news is, unlike synthetic drugs, this sensation IS replicable. Drugs provide diminishing returns, requiring increased dosages and providing less impactful outcomes. Lived experience — especially novel experience — is infinitely obtainable. You can always do one more thing in one more place in one more way than you ever have before.
They say the sky is the limit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t next practice your back flips in the sky. And when you’ve got that mastered, try dancing in midair.
My desire to “float” so to speak, has sent me across the globe, dancing in crowded Amsterdam clubs (dancing is a major insecurity of mine); stumbling dizzyingly through cobblestone alleys with groups of strangers at 5 in the morning; racing bicycles across cobblestone streets while narrowly missing mopeds and pedestrians as I pedal with fervor; screaming my lungs out at a haunted Belgium carnival ride at 11 p.m — the type of horror house that United States regulators would shut down immediately; stared naively but knowingly at images in a Red Light District Erotica museum, and scampering up hundreds of wooden steps to the top of an ancient Belfry in Brugges, just to get one more view of that cartoon checkerboard I had not so long ago seen from the other side of the world.
As I flew home from Europe two weeks ago, the bumps of turbulence that had once sent my hands scrambling for the armrest were now not in the least bit frightful and even … I daresay … a bit adventurous.