I believe every decision I’ve never regretted felt much like jumping off a cliff.
I went cliff diving once. I didn’t notice the slick, green rocks in the stream on the way up until after I had slashed open my shin. I shrugged it off, tied my bandana over the gaping wound, lit another cigarette and kept going, shrugging off the guys’ concerns for the gash now running down the front of my shin.
“It’s not bleeding, it’s ok,” I said in dismissal.
I was afraid of water, terrified of heights and not a morning person, but there I was, just after sunrise, making my way up the side of a quarry to jump off a 50-foot cliff.
Did I mention I was also a newly widowed, 23-year-old woman who had been up drinking and smoking all night?
My heart was beating so heavily I thought for sure everyone else could hear it. It was an exhilarating flight or fight moment, adrenaline charging as I felt the lull of the edge, urging me to abandon my fears. I also felt the fear of the splat that may come with the landing.
I made Johnny go first. He was the one so cock-sure that there weren’t rocks beneath the water to mangle our bodies.
I made his brother go next, just to give me a sense of the “safe zone” where I wanted to target my landing. Not that I knew anything about how to target my landing mind you, I didn’t even use the diving boards at pools!
I closed my eyes, and almost chickened out, before I suddenly turned and took a running jump off the cliff.
“OH SHIT!” was my first thought when I felt the earth drop out from below my feet, immediately followed by the sound of my father’s voice saying that only fools and bird shit fell from the sky.
I quit flailing around in the air long enough to gather my wits, get my feet together and pinch my nose shut before hitting the water.
“OH SHIT!” I thought again when I plummeted beneath the water, rolling with the force of my entry. I gathered my wits and began kicking, up, away from the water’s weight..
I emerged to cheers, laughing and whooping in my triumph. Yes! I could conquer my fears, I could take a nosedive and land safely, or so I liked to believe anyway.
I made the dive and the climb it took to get there, a few more times, enjoying the peaceful abandon of it before my leg started throbbing and I reminded the guys it was time to go home.
I few days later, after my leg had become infected, a doctor explained that gaping gashes generally require stitches, regardless of the fact that they barely bleed. He also explained that a gaping gash certainly constitutes a fine example of the “puncture wounds” they warn you against pouring Hydrogen Peroxide in.
Nearly eight years later, I still have a nasty scar on my shin — and I still feel the lull of the edge.