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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Goonen

That Scary Leap of Faith

Updated: Aug 12, 2022

Did you ever jump off the high dive? I'm talking about--hold your nose with both hands, tuck your elbows, jump, cross your ankles, and hope you don't die on the way down? It wasn't the water, but the height that scared me. I'll bet there are a lot of you that can relate. I still remember standing on the end of that diving board and looking down at the pool, thinking it suddenly seemed like the size of a postage stamp. I also remember everyone looking up at me. I'm sure I said a quick prayer before I stepped into thin air.

I remember the trip down only lasted seconds before I plunged into the water. Then I pushed off the bottom and shot up through the surface of the water to hear the cheers and applause of everyone who had encouraged me to do it. But that wasn't the best part. I can still feel that rush of exhilaration that comes with victory over fear. I climbed out of the pool, scampered back up that ladder, and jumped again, and then again, and again. What had initially scared the wits out of me had become something I could celebrate because I had conquered the fear.

It's interesting, though. The fear comes back unless you continually defeat it. I learned that the hard way. All it takes is an adverse event linked to the same anxiety, and you're back at square one. My "event" occurred when I missed the last step on a flight of stairs, twisted my foot, and broke the outside bone. I missed that step because it was dark and I miscounted, but that didn't matter. Suddenly, stairs became my new nemesis, quickly translating to anything high enough to require stairs. My fear of heights had taken hold again.

How does one overcome fear? The standard advice is to face it, but that is not an easy task. Just like jumping off the high dive, it is much easier to look up from the ground and rationalize it is much too high to tackle. Fear wins again.

I don't like it when I take three steps backward, especially when it relates to losing ground gained over fear. I knew I could overcome it because I had already done so. I just needed to take that leap of faith again. This time, I took the test to much greater heights when we visited Las Vegas and heard about a new thrill attraction at the Stratosphere Hotel called the Sky Jump. The name alone was enough to give me chills, but I was determined. This time, I would be taking my leap of faith from the top of the hotel, which was 855 feet above the Las Vegas Strip.

What! Did I lose my mind?

Quite possibly so...but I did it anyway.

I donned a skydiving jumpsuit with the proper harness, and the attendant clipped a steel cable to my back. I found out she was the same age as my oldest granddaughter, to which I promptly told her to think of me as her grandmother and make sure she had me safely connected. While she checked my harness, the latches, and the cable, she asked why I was doing this. I told her it was for my 60th birthday.

She asked, "What do you plan to do for your 70th, skydive perhaps?"

I quickly responded, "Why would I jump out of a perfectly good aircraft?"

She glibly replied, "Well, you're jumping off a perfectly good building."

Okay...I had to spot her that one. Then she said I could either jump off the ledge or simply step off.

Jump off? Seriously?

I thought I was doing a good job just standing there! Instead, I did one last thing as I looked out across the city of Las Vegas. This time, I know I said a prayer.

"Dear Lord, please don't let me die in Sin City!"

Then I stepped off.

The entire drop took all of 18 seconds, and about 50 feet from the bottom, a braking system slowed my descent until I touched down standing upright. The attendant at the bottom unhooked me from the cable, and I walked off the landing platform. Once again, I felt exhilarated! I had conquered my fear again. I took that leap of faith...this time literally...dropped over 800 feet, and survived it! Amazing!

Since then, I've conquered a great many fears. My leaps of faith include writing and self-publishing four books (with a fifth in progress) and traveling over 600 miles to a place I've never been to attend a conference with 600 people I didn't know. I've taken a commercial airline flight and been on a cruise, even though I'm always concerned about COVID (thank you, media, for creating that particular fear). Each of these triumphs broke down the hold fear had on me just a bit more and gave me the courage to continue forging ahead.

As for my next leap of faith, I recently watched my grandson tandem skydive for his eighteenth birthday. While I watched from the ground, I remembered the question that the attendant asked me while she clipped that cable to my back.

Who knows? I might just take that leap of faith too. I've got a little over three years to decide... Stay tuned!

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