the clubhouse was one of many jumping opportunities that beckoned me as a kid. i scaled trees and jumped from rickety branches, dropped sheets out of my bedroom window to create exciting escapes from home, scrambled up icy rock ledges and propelled myself into snowy banks, or, my personal favorite, mud-puddle-jumped my way through rainstorms at summer camp.
as time passed, i continued to find myself climbing and jumping - dancing on bars at clubs, shimmying up 10 walls to catch a glimpse of a great concert, etc. i remember the last time i took a great, youthful leap. i was in barbados with a group of friends at a beach called cranes (at least i think that's what it was called). we followed a group of local kids up a 40 or 50 foot cliff and lined up. one after another, the kids ran their fastest and let out a giant whoop as their bodies canonballed and pencil-dived into the aqua caribbean waves, barely avoiding imposing boulders below. when i stepped to the front of the line i assessed the rocks and surf. (at age 24, i still relished in the treasured "youthful invisibility clause" but i was old enough and smart enough to be careful.) i deemed it safe, back pedaled 15 feet, revved up and dashed forward.
free as a bird!
on the long way down toward the sea, i felt a shift. a very mortal shift. i remember plummeting and thinking, "i should have hit water by now. was i that high?" my legs started pumping frantically and involuntarily and i felt an incredible desire to get the hell out of my body. i was terrified. i finally hit water (hard) and decided i wouldn't try that again.
and i didn't.
for a long,
as a mature adult (choke, i'm choking), jumping does not come second nature like it once did. i'm too aware of discomfort, mortality and early morning wake-up calls, of my aging bones and tight lower back muscles, of hangovers and bruised knees, chilly walks home and sand in my underpants.
as my sistress (sister from another mistress) K would say, "it sucks getting old." yes it does, K, yes it does.
but it's not all creaky joints and gensing. not yet, anyway. there are moments of youthfulness that we can still capture if we are mindful. about 7 years ago, i had a chance to taste my younger, jumpier days. i was vacationing in maine with my hubby's family. we caravanned to beautiful mountain hiking trail and were thrilled to find a treasure deep in the forest: a stunning natural pool surrounded by waterfalls and stone water slides. a high rocky ledge bordered one side of the pool and hanging above it was a gnarly old rope. i watched my nieces and nephews bound up that ledge with their parents, eager to grab hold of that sucker and ride it with delight into the chilly water beckoning below. i watched. i watched. i watched. i played peacefully with my one year old baby and i watched.
they were having a ball. as i sat on the edge of the pool - all dry, cozy, quiet and warm - a quote popped into my head. my friend CF always ends her emails with this line: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."
i asked myself, when was the last time i did something that took my breath away? for years, i'd been playing it so safe. i remembered that time i took a flying leap in barbados. it scared the shit out of me, but i sure remembered it. because i lived it. had i sat back and watched that day, i probably wouldn't have remembered that beach at all.
i decided to live that day. live. live it. live it up. there would be subsequent days that i would decide not to live it up, but this day, i made a decision to do just that. i decided to jump.
i told my mother-in-law about my tiny shift. at 70+, she decided she wanted to live it up that day, too. so i handed off my baby and the two of us scrambled up the cliff. somehow each of us mustered to the courage to grab hold of that splintered rope and Tarzan our way to a breath-taking moment.
as my children have grown, i've enjoyed watching them take risks and live it up. often times, i catch myself sitting back and observing while they get soaked in rain puddles or somersault off diving boards. laughing, snorting, revelling. but life isn't just for the little ones. it's for mommies, too. and when i live for me, i show my kids how to live for themselves.
i can't count how many times i've told my kids this summer, "be one with the sand," or, "give into the heat. joy lives just past the uncomfortable transitions." when they let nature wash over them and accept that discomfort is part of living they can let go and experience the pure joy that exists just beyond. wet, sticky, muddy, sandy, chilly, scary, crazy, sloppy, buggy, silly joy.
discovering myself through mindful thinking and behavior has allowed me to see this clearly. through mindfulness, i encourage myself to engage, to live, to trust. trust in the climb, trust in the leap, and trust that the fear that precedes and the discomfort that follows is also living. joyful living.
i have to constantly remind myself to live. it sounds so silly, but, as a mother of young children, years passed by that i forgot to do just that. i got so caught up in schedules and diapers and feeding times that i would forget to remind myself to LIVE THIS LIFE FOR ME.
so. now, i jump. i am no longer a stranger to that exhilarating feeling that comes just before my body plunges into cold water. i'm not worried about my recently blown-dry hair or the chilly walk home. this is my summer to get wet, get dirty, get messy. this is my summer to jump. you might see me out there somewhere. i'm the mommy with the sandy undies. i'm the lady jumping off the dock at dusk. i'm the 30-something splashing in the mud puddles after a thunderstorm. because i'm the one living my life.
today, i was hiking with my family in goshen, nh. we walked past a wooden ladder nailed to a tree beside a lake and i noticed there was a rope wedged discreetly behind the top rung. i asked my family to wait while i peeled off my socks and cross trainers. i snatched that old rope and, with a little encouragement from my own mom, sailed into the water below. i sloshed out shivering, no towel, soaked through, and smiling. my kids were thrilled. me next! me next! all three of them took the plunge. several times. even my 3 year old.
i hope they hold onto it always.
peace, love, gratitude,