Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Um, Yes. Why Yes I would.


I believe firmly in the old “Girl Scout Try”. This means one of my philosophies in life is to try anything. Once. After that, if I find I don’t like it, I don’t have to repeat the unpleasant action.

Over Labor Day weekend in 2000, Bonehead and I lived in Southern Illinois, which is 6-1/2 hours away from our families. On this particular weekend, my Mom drove down for a visit over the long weekend, and Bonehead’s friend Steve came from St. Louis. We were lucky enough to be neighbors with good friends of ours from back home, so we had a whole group of people to have fun with over the holiday weekend.

Our neighbor Craig owned a boat, so we decided on Sunday to spend the day out on a nearby lake. Bonehead and I spent quite a few days on the boat with our neighbor, so for us this day was just like many others. The only difference was the addition of my Mom and Steve.

Lake Kincaid had a shelf of cliffs that reached out over the water. Often times as we floated by on our days on the lake, we could see boats pulled over and various people jumping off the cliffs into the water below. The cliffs went at an angle, so at one end it was just a few feet above the water, and then it angled up so each new jumping place got higher and higher.

We had never bothered to stop and partake in the cliff jumping before, opting to hang out at the spillway or at the party cove instead. I can’t tell you the conversation that brought us there, but at one point we anchored the boat with the intention of jumping off the cliffs for the first time.

As a few of us swam to shore and climbed onto land, conversation turned to the highest point we would jump from. Bonehead and Steve brilliantly decided that they would jump from the highest point possible on the cliffs. It looked impossibly high, but there were other people jumping, so we could assume it was fairly safe. Craig and Julie opted for the lower jumping height, so we left them behind with a couple of snide snickers describing their wuss status ranking.

If I strongly believe something, my passive aggressive side will show its ugly teeth. I may not stand on steps and make speeches for my causes, but if I truly don’t want to do something, I will find a way not to. I didn’t want to jump off the highest point on the cliff, but I went along with it. It had nothing to do with being a follower, and everything to do with proving myself as the only female of the group. No man was going to prove himself braver than me by golly. I am not a delicate flower, and although I like to be girly, more often than not, I will get uber competitive and attempt to hold my own when it comes to the opposite sex. I may loose, but I feel hyper-compelled to try.

So there we were, standing on the edge of the 67 foot drop into Lake Kincaid. Bonehead took the plunge first, followed by Steve. And then it was my turn.

I stood there, looking over the edge of the cliff to the water below, trying to hide my shaking from the strangers behind me in line. 67 feet sure looked like 150 feet, and I wanted nothing more than to turn and walk back down the side of the cliff and swim to the boat. But I knew at this point if I did not jump, I would never hear the end of it. Plus there was my motto. So I told myself, “Jump once. Just once, and you will never have to again.” And I closed my eyes and launched myself as far away from the cliff side as I could possibly get.

I was immediately faced with the searing dread of a bad decision you could not take back. It was too late to turn around and no matter the outcome, my decision was made. I’ll never in my life forget that moment. That too late to turn around while rethinking your decision a nanosecond too late moment.

I screamed all the way down like a girl on a roller coaster. Pure terror that scream was. I can tell you not a second of that drop was fun. I twisted weird when I hit the water, and the breath got knocked out of me upon impact. I remember the absolute panic and terror that I couldn’t breathe, being confused and trying to figure out which way was up so I could try to make it back to the surface. I found the way I thought was up, with my lungs burning, trying desperately not to let them fill themselves with water before I reached the surface and got to the oxygen.

I can honestly say it took everything I had to make it back to the surface. And as I broke through, my will to hold my breath gave way and I let out this magnificent gasp for air, which was the first clue to the others that there was anything wrong with my jump. After all, both John and Steve had jumped with no problems, so why should anyone have expected any different from my jump?

By the time I had doggie paddled myself back to the boat, I knew absolutely that something was wrong with me. I needed help to get onto the boat, I couldn’t stand. I wound up laying flat on my back on the bottom of the boat while my friends (and Mom) tried to get me back to shore. My day of boating was done.

By the time we got back to the shore, I could not move. At all. I wound up getting strapped to a board and getting carried into an ambulance and taken directly to the hospital. The pain was absolutely awful. Every bump the ambulance hit was a whole new world of pain to me, and what made it even worse was the fact I was afraid I might have broken my back.

Some of my scariest moments were those in the hospital waiting for the x-ray to return to know if my own absolute stupidity had broken my back. Fortunately for me, I had just wrenched my back really badly and would improve in a few days.

With the help of muscle relaxers, pain killers, and a week missed from work, I was 85 percent recovered the week after. Upon my return to work, the doctor I worked for asked me the same question many others have asked me when hearing my story, “You jumped off a cliff? How much did you have to drink first?”

My reply has always been, “Not a drop, I am just. That. Stupid.”

Why does everyone ask me that question, I wonder?

Probably because they already know the answer to, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?”

5 comments:

Traci said...

Yep, I was stupid also....'cept I kept looking down and when I hit the water it was like going through a brick wall.....WITH MY FACE. Man, did that hurt. At least we survived to share our stupid days with other in hopes that the are the kind that learns from OTHER PEOPLE's mistakes...huh? I'm glad you lived and are healed.

Scribbit said...

Oh my gosh. If I was your MOTHER! You'd be grounded FOREVER! :)

for a different kind of girl said...

You do realize, however, that you have the ultimate example for your kids when they come to you when they're older and say they want to do something just because their friends are doing it?!

Mom said...

For the record your Mother thought about doing it and after looking at the distance stayed in the boat and ask you to change your mind! It was defiantly a scary moment and I'm thankful someone was looking out for you that day! But would have to say if I were your age at the time I would of been at the top of that cliff doing that exact stupid thing! Love Mom

sheri said...

How many times did I hear that very same thing.."if everybody else jumped off a cliff would you?"
answer under my breath"yea,I would"
funny yrs. later I remembered a time when my dad did exactly that! and I have a picture to prove it!aaah dad,u were a thrill seeker! and I know he is smiling down at me,"I think she finally grew up"
thanks dad,love u for looking after me!