In March, I jumped out of an airplane.
Fitting, as my life has been a series of jumps this year. Some jumps have been voluntary and others have been of necessity, against my will as I clung to the cabin door, begging not to go. As it turns out, all of the jumps were for the best, for freedom’s sake.
It’s December 28th and I’m back on the ground now. I’ve been sitting here thinking about what I’ve learned from my jumps this year. So, here are my lessons from the skydive of 2014—
1. Jump. Freedom is waiting to catch you.
After the dive, my ex and I talked about the experience—the anticipation and then the sudden change between the safety of the warm cabin to the frigid air, from a stationary object, into a free fall. We both concurred that the scariest part was the leap, which lasted for about two seconds. That was the fall, the rest was the fly. I was fully supported by the air, lifted and upheld as I plunged toward Earth.
A moving metaphor for life.
I suffer most when I’m in the cabin, one foot in, one foot out. Should I jump now? Or wait? Or do I not jump at all? It is a terrifying place to be and I’ve remained in that place for days, sometimes years.
It’s unnecessary when you know freedom is right there waiting to catch you. In fact, you are in more danger clutching, holding on, than launching yourself outward, away from what you deem a safe place.
Someone once said to me, “Repeat after me, with every breath I take, I am protected and supported by the universe.”
I’ve never experienced this concept like I did jumping out of the airplane. There was a stab of unrest, a churn in my belly and panic that I couldn’t hold on to anything, but as soon as I opened up my arms, the air caught me and the falling was over, I was flying. I was free.
This year, I learned how to jump and I learned how to trust that I’d be ok, more than ok.
The times I’ve been petrified to let go this year, I’ve closed my eyes and remembered what it was like to leap. Each time I’ve jumped, without fail, life has caught me right where I was and helped me safely back down to the ground.
2. Trust your perspective.
Earlier this year, I lost faith in my intuition and the validity of my perception. I doubted the intuitions and hunches I had, believing what someone else told me, that I was wrong, that I was crazy. It turns out I wasn’t crazy at all.
My therapist has told me many times over, “It is what it is. If it doesn’t feel trustworthy, it isn’t trustworthy. If it feels wrong, it is wrong.”
This year, I learned to always trust my gut, my thoughts and my feelings over anyone else’s, and to be very wary of anyone who tries to invalidate the way I see the world.
3. Silence is Powerful.
I am a passionate woman. I have a fire in me that could bake a pizza in no time. It serves me well in my work and in the bedroom, but not so well in life, as I can be flammable-y reactive at times.
I fought a lot in the beginning of the year—with myself, in my relationship, in business and partnerships. I felt the need to speak my mind and say what I needed to say without sitting back first, reflecting and deciding if it was really necessary.
I kept hearing the teaching in my mind, “Before you speak, decide whether your voice and your words add to the silence or destroy it.”
I made a decision to change. Change is a choice, in my control at all times. I chose to be quiet and not react, give silence to the madness and watch it melt away without doing a thing. Well, that’s not true, I was doing something, practicing silence and restraint is an action. The action of non reaction.
Instead of breaking the sound barrier as I normally do, I went into stealth mode, silent mode, possibly the most powerfully empowering place I’ve been.
This year, I learned that silence has the ability to change a mind, change a situation, change a life and change history. It’s certainly changed mine.
Which leads me to my next lesson…
4. There’s no need to defend the truth.
People have told me many times over, I should have been a lawyer. I like to debate and I’m an excellent defender, but it has always taken a toll. I end a session exhausted from trying to prove my point and/or change someone’s mind. It’s a waste of time to fight a battle that can’t be won.
It’s so much easier to listen, to accept another’s perspective, thoughts and feelings without needing to oppose them with my own.
Just as I learned this year to trust my intuition, I need to accept others’ perceptions as they are.
If I have confidence in myself, and the way I see the world, what more is there to say? What do I have to prove?
I don’t need to defend my reality when I’m honest. Honesty is the army that never needs to raise a weapon. It’s protection enough just being there.
5. Exercise is the most effective drug.
I’d never taken anti-depressants before this spring, but I was desperate. My medical doctor felt it the best treatment for my circumstance, “generalized anxiety,” he labeled it.
I thought it would help me. I was practically paralyzed. It was painful just to get out bed or answer an email, or eat for that matter. I stopped teaching and writing.
I hated how I felt, but once the drugs took effect, I hated the way they made me feel even more. I became numb, then I became even more hopeless than I was, and then I became suicidal.
I was so desperate to treat the symptoms I was ignoring the problem. Drugs were not the answer. Getting out of the relationship I was in, was and then, getting up, getting out and moving is what saved me.
I’ve been reliant solely on my yoga practice for many years, which was no longer enough. I needed to get my heart rate up, use my body to full capacity, travel off of my black rectangle and into the sunlight, into the water.
Within two weeks, I weaned myself off of the pills and replaced it with the pool (and intensive therapy). I’d lost a lot of strength, so I started slow. I couldn’t breathe at first. I battled the water, and then slowly one stroke, one lap at a time, I got stronger and less hopeless.
By the end of the summer, I was swimming a mile every day. I was powerful again, my color came back and then some. I started smiling, letting my hair down, teaching and writing.
I was planning, setting dates and goals; dreaming of the future and filled with hope.
Movement was my healer. Just like letting go and jumping out of the airplane was a lesson, so was diving into the water. I learned quickly that I had a choice to live or die. To live, all I had to do was move my arms, kick my feet and breathe. Not moving, not changing my circumstances would have killed me in the end. It was in my control and remains in my control to choose to get up and move, swim, jump and live every day.
Writer’s note: I want to be clear that I am not discouraging others against the use of psychotropic drugs. I believe they can be very helpful and necessary in certain situations. I am recounting my experience and the benefits of movement therapy in my case, specifically.
6. Being single is the best relationship ever.
I’m single, but I don’t like to phrase it that way, because really, I’m not. Right now, I’m taken. I’m in a relationship with myself.
It’s the relationship I’ve fought against, that I swore I didn’t want, but it turns out, it’s the relationship I’ve needed more than any other. It’s the best relationship I’ve ever been in.
It’s easy and simple. It’s loving and peaceful. It’s perfect, actually. It’s spacious, limitless and liberating. I have time now, time to do all of the things I’ve always wanted to do.
I don’t feel rushed or pressured to change or compromise. I can be myself all of the time. It’s selfish and self indulgent, it’s all about me for the first time, ever.
This year, I learned how to fall in love with myself. A lesson I’ve been putting off learning for far too long.
7. Nothing lasts forever.
We all know this, but we forget. I forgot.
I forgot how fragile life is, how precious is the beating heart. We take each other for granted every day. Even when I hug and kiss my girls as they get out of the car for school, or I tell my mom I love her before I get off the phone, I think, “I’ll see them later.”
I don’t know that for certain and to convince myself of that is foolish. Life can be over just like that.
I always think, “Oh next time, I’ll tell her about that.” Or, “There’s time to do this or that, or travel here or there.”
No. There’s not. There’s only right now. This moment. That’s what I’ve really, really learned this year. This is it, as I type these words, this is all I’ve got. So I better appreciate it because it’ll be gone. Now.
Nothing lasts forever, nobody lives forever, even you. So, what are you going to do about it, right now?
Resolutions are a state of mind, you can change your mind at any time if you want. Don’t wait. Don’t wait until tomorrow or January 1st. Do it now.
What do you want? What do you need? Decide now and act. If you want to go back to school, do it. If you want to tell someone you love them, do it.
Let go. Jump. Dive in. Swim. Launch yourself into this moment, trust yourself, love yourself and know you are always protected and supported.
Happy New Year. May you have a sweet and healthy 2015.