This is the face I make mere moments before I jump out of an airplane for the first time with a gorgeous man (named Aaron) strapped to my back. I have decided that fear of impending and immediate death makes me look like my Grandmother on my Father's side, except not as pretty.
At the very moment this shot was snapped, I was looking out the "door" and realizing I was high in the sky and in a very short time, I was going to be asked to step outside into the sky. I found this disturbing.
This is my camera man who jumped moments before I did. He was Australian and the way he said my name, "Shurry," made me want to have his Australian babies. Had I not already been in a committed skydiving strap relationship with Aaron, we would be married right now.
See the leg in the purple jumpsuit with the Black Sketcher on the end? That's my leg. This was a millisecond after jumping. You should know that the term "jumping" is not nearly as accurate a word as "pushing."
Aaron pushed. My only job to get myself from inside the plane with my toes on the edge and nothing between me and the Earth but air, was to lean back into Aaron and allow him to push us out into the sky. Just that act alone - the act of folding my arms across my chest and laying my head back onto his shoulder knowing full well that I was surrendering to whatever came next - THAT was huge for me. As a woman with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, control is a precious companion. Giving that control to Aaron was powerful.
This is the face I make when I have experienced, in a matter of seconds mind you, what freedom feels like. Freedom from fear; freedom from expectations; freedom from OCD; freedom from who I believed myself to be.
When I first saw this picture, I saw someone else for a moment. The Sher I have known these 45 years was incapable of such a smile.
So skydiving for the first time, then. What do I think of sky diving for the very first time? For myself, I found it therapeutic in a way that defies explanation... at least a really good one. When I left Kansas to go to Florida to do this, I left in fear. Much was going on that terrified me. A mad man wanted to hurt me; most of my friends and family felt I'd never be able to actually make the jump; and pretty much everything in my world with the exception of my love for my kids, was shifting and moving and feeling very scary.
But in the six or seven minutes it took me to fall from that plane back to the ground, I threw off all of it. I wasn't making conscious choices to release it, of course. Looking down and around and across what was below me and feeling the rush of wind on my face and body - nothing mattered. Only that very moment. Only trying to swallow whole everything around me.
For me, skydiving was symbolic in every little way. I can do this now. I got this.
Swallowing whole one little moment at a time.
Copyright © Sherri Bailey
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