I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, March 24, 2013

That was then, this is now

Me after a skydive in the mid-1990s
This morning the most important thing on my mind is getting ready to start the skydiving season again. It's been almost six months since I made my last skydive, and a couple of weeks ago I attended Safety Day at the Drop Zone where I've been jumping for the past five years. I visited with my friends and sat through a day of seminars, reviewing emergency procedures, canopy control, aircraft safety, and more. It was very thorough and well worth doing. I knew I wouldn't be actually making a skydive that day, because as beautiful as the day was, all the staff members were busy with the seminars. Over a hundred skydivers showed up.

In this part of the country, skydiving is seasonal at best. Today is the first day so far this year when I might actually be able to do it. I just checked the weather in Snohomish: clear and cold, with the possibility of a beautiful sunny day ahead. Although it's only an hour and a half away, the weather there can be completely different than here in Bellingham. We have lots of little micro-climates in the Pacific Northwest. It's a beautiful place to live, but planning anything outdoors in March is a dubious proposition. Or April through June, for that matter.

I am filled with trepidation, because it's been long enough for me to wonder about the wisdom of my chosen avocation. Once upon a time, after that picture was taken, I became an instructor and made hundreds of skydives every year. I couldn't wait to get to the Drop Zone and begin my day. I would return home after a weekend of making anywhere from six to ten skydives. If they were good ones, my level of satisfaction was huge, both being able to help others to learn, and having spent so much of my time in the process of skydiving.

But that was then. This is now. There is a certain hubris in believing that everything stays the same from one year to the next. This is dangerous thinking, since time has a way of bringing imperceptible change to everything, including knees, health, and flexibility. I work hard at staying fit, but one can only do so much. So now as I sit here, early on a Sunday morning, I'm thinking about the upcoming skydiving season, and today.

For the past couple of years, I've thought about quitting, and I even decided that once I reached the grand old age of seventy, it would be time. But now I'm seventy and I cannot quite face the idea of never again getting my knees in the breeze. There's something incredibly powerful about the idea of skydiving. I just now looked back to last year (one of the great benefits of a blog) and found the post I wrote after my first jump of the season in 2012. I read it again and realized I would most likely feel just the same today as I did then. My health and fitness level have not changed significantly in the past year.

But then again, that was then, this is now. I cannot rest on my laurels without the possibility of considering that it would be a completely different experience today. At some point in the future, and the not-too-distant one at that, I must make that decision. I notice that I get something of the same feeling every Thursday when I get ready to go on a ten-mile hike with the Senior Trailblazers. Although it's not in the same ballpark as skydiving, perhaps, I still make a decision to push myself and possibly get injured in some way. If I break a leg out there in the wilderness, it would be quite a feat to get myself back to safety. I think about that, too, as we are all in our late sixties and seventies.

The reward for doing these activities is tremendous. I have recently begun a new class at the Y, something called "Aqua Boot Camp," a 45-minute-long activity of going all out in the pool. I've done it four times now, and the first time I didn't hold back at all. By the time I dragged myself out of the pool, I could barely walk. But after a shower and a bit of a rest, I walked out of the gym feeling better than I had in ages. I've learned how to pace myself and take a breather if I need it, with the goal next week of making it a bit longer before I reach that state next time.

Okay, news flash. I just had a flurry of text messages with my family in Texas. My sister PJ has had a heart attack and is in ICU. Norma Jean has made the decision to fly there to see her, and I am now standing by to see if I need to do anything as well. It's PJ's birthday tomorrow. I am feeling all up in the air and will not be going anywhere today, it seems, just in case the worst happens. How quickly everything can change. Just another reminder that I must take each day as it comes, hoping for the best.

Until next time, stay safe and healthy. I will be putting any updates on my other blog (a link is on the sidebar). Otherwise, I'll be visiting you here next week, which happens to be Easter Sunday.


Anonymous said...

Loving prayers for PJ! I do hope she recovers. I think it is wise for you to stay home to see what happens next. Sky diving can wait.

wendyytb said...

O DJan...

Best wishes for a speedy recovery for your sister!

Rian said...

You and your family will definitly be in my thoughts and prayers this week.
And yes, life can change in a heartbeat. Sending healing thoughts your way...

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Sending positive energy to PJ and you! Meanwhile it's interesting to hear of your reservations about risk-taking. You are right, the consequences of an injury or sudden illness are increased at our age and can't be ignored when one is traipsing off into the wilderness! At the same time, those activities have been a big part of your life, and you can't easily abandon them. PJ's expeerience is likely to affect your decision as well, but there's no telling in what way. I wish you all the best, DJan. We are colleagues in this being-70 adventure.

Teresa Evangeline said...

My best thoughts to you and your family... yes, things can turn on a dime, it seems.. take care.

Linda Myers said...

I remember that post from last year, and I was thinking about it when you wrote about maybe going to Snohomish today.

Now you're staying home because of PJ's health.

I wonder how the universe lets us know about these things.

I would like to see you parachute out of the sky one more time, though.

Gigi said...

Oh DJan! Keeping you and your sister in my prayers.

Arkansas Patti said...

Your post reminds me that we are all just one breath away from our lives taking a startling new direction.
I do hope your sister is going to be just fine and that this is just a warning. You are both in my prayers and I will check for updates.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Sending healing thoughts to PJ...Relish each moment: that's the message I take away from this.

Lorna said...

I hope that all turns out well for your sister,


Red said...

I'm sorry to hear about your sister. I hope that she is well looked after and recuperates quickly. It really shakes you up when you get that kind of news.

Linda Reeder said...

I was so enjoying your contemplative post, as I do every Sunday, until I got to the news flash. I'm reading this in the evening. I hope no news is good news,

Jackie said...

Like your other readers, I was reading your blog...with the pleasure that I always have when I am here. You write so effortlessly, and I find myself in the midst of your every day/adventure.
Then, I read the part about your dear sister. I am so sorry that she has had heart problems and is in intensive care. I know that you must all be worried about her. I send prayers right now for PJ and for her family. Know that my thoughts are with you all this evening.
Hugs and love,

Glenda C. Beall said...

I hope all goes well with your sister,DJan. As you know, I think sisters are the angels on earth we need to keep us safe.
I hope and pray that she is doing well now. It makes me wonder. You had some trepidation about going to skydive anyway.
I will follow here to see how things are going.

Keicha Christiansen said...

I only hope that when I'm seventy I'll be pondering whether or not I should keep skydiving! You're right to be cautious, but I think that most people, including you, know their bodies and limitations very well. You especially seem in tune and aware of yourself. I trust that when it's time for you to hang up your parachute you'll know it.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, it's Saturday, six days after you posted about the tough decision as to when the time was right to cease skydiving and about your sister PJ's heart attack. I do so hope that all is well with her. I'm wondering if you ended up flying out to where she lives.

As to the decision about skydiving, I so trust your instincts about your own body, that all I can say is, "Trust yourself. You'll wake one morning and know."


CrazyCris said...

Dramatic turn at the end of this post! I hope your sister comes through! (I'll go check your other posts now to find out).
When the doctors decided my dad needed a triple bypass last Fall they also said it was a miracle he hadn't had a heart attack or any other cardiac symptoms yet... We definitely counted our blessings back then!

Big HUGS!!!

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I cannot figure out where my comments hav ended up. I really wish for the very best for PJ and you.