Sunday, December 30, 2012

Free-Falling at Fifty

Single-shot of Earth taken from 22,369 miles away by Russian weather satellite Elektro-L No.1.

So… here we are. We’ve survived the infamous and much-anticipated Mayan “End Date”, which coincided with our winter solstice. Despite the alignment of our sun between earth and the center of the Milky Way, we haven’t experienced a reversal of our magnetic poles. No drifting asteroid or off-kilter planet has collided with the earth. We’re not experiencing a nuclear winter. We don’t even have much snow on the ground. It seems the “Apocalypse of 2012” had more ‘woof’ than ‘poof!’

A friend asked me last month what I was going to be doing on December 21st. I looked at the calendar, saw the date came on a Friday and said “I’ll be at work.”

“Seriously?” he asked. “You’re going to spend what could be your last day on earth… working?”

Ever patient and practical, I explained.

“Ah, but you see – if December 21st isn’t my last day on earth, I want to have a job to go to on Monday morning. The End of the World is merely a supposition. If I ditch work based solely on frenzied conjecture, becoming unemployed is a certainty!”

I’m not much of a gambler, it seems. (And I really don’t talk like that, either. ‘Frenzied conjecture’? Forgive me, please…)

Of course, there have been grumblings about all sorts of man-made disasters that might signal the End Times – or at least, very Rough Times. I’ve heard predictions that the stock market is going to crash… and that the banking industry will follow. That the current Middle East conflicts will evolve into world war. That America will soon become a police state, a socialist state, a fascist state. The catastrophes envisioned by some people are endless.

All of these scenarios are possible. Some may even be probable. There is no guarantee that our lives will move forward with predictability or that they will improve as time goes by. That’s what we hope for, of course…but history has shown that we humans and the earth which sustains us have a tendency for going through periods of great upheaval. Sustained boredom is not an option, here on Planet Earth.

But what is the benefit of worrying constantly about all things ‘doom’ and ‘gloom’? I believe an individual’s quality of life suffers immensely when he concentrates too much on ‘what ifs’, especially when they are pessimistic or depressing.

So I’ve decided to look to the future and approach 2013 with a positive attitude. The year will have several milestones in it and I’d rather look forward to those than dread possible calamities.
Guy, Josie-Earl and Eli, Thanksgiving 2012
Our son Guy will turn thirty. Daughter Josie-Earl will be graduating from Carrabec High School. Our boy Eli will (we hope) get his driver’s license. Steven and I are going to celebrate our 20th anniversary. And I will turn fifty. That’s right; in 2013 I will turn fifty. Years old. The ‘Big Five-Oh’. Yay….
I’m trying to look at my September birthday with optimism rather than dread. For just as no one knows if there is imminent disaster on the earth’s horizon, so I don’t know if turning fifty will be the big ‘downer’ I expect it will be. The great thing about it is that I have some power over how I approach this landmark birthday. I can be bummed out and discouraged and act like I’m ‘middle-aged’ – or I can do things to make my 50th year one to be remembered with happiness and a sense of accomplishment.

I’ve decided to go skydiving to celebrate my half-century mark. By writing this publicly I’m setting the plan in stone…which is exactly how I imagine I’ll drop – like a stone. I’m not particularly scared of heights but I am petrified of falling. When I cross the Onawa Trestle, the center of which rises 157 feet above the stream bed below, I practically have to crawl on my hands and knees. Even standing several feet away from the edge I can convince myself that I’m going to fall and I get dizzy with vertigo. It’s rather silly but I can’t help it. I’m terrified of falling.

So I’ll jump, instead. From a few thousand feet above the earth. Am I afraid to? Absolutely! I’m petrified! But it’s kind of funny… I’m not nearly as worried about skydiving as I am about chickening out. I have this awful dread that I’ll get to the open door of that airplane and I’ll change my mind. Vehemently. Maybe even violently. That I’ll plant my feet, embed my nails in the fuselage and refuse to budge. Yep, I’m far more fearful of acting cowardly about the whole ‘step out into nothing’ scenario than I am of plummeting to earth with nothing but a swatch of wispy silk to break my fall.

To protect me from myself, I’ve asked several friends if they’d like to go skydiving with me. I’ve even asked them if they’d volunteer to push me out. I’ve accepted their ready agreements with delight and relief – sure that they only wish to save me from myself and will receive no pleasure from the pushing.

What else will I do to celebrate my 50th? I haven’t decided yet. I’m still coming to grips with the fact that I’ve decided to jump out of an airplane while it’s in the air. But one thing that will make the year special is that I think I’ll be able to enjoy another visit from Larry, one of my good friends in Australia. When I asked Larry if he’d like to go skydiving with me he said, “Nah.” There was no hesitation whatsoever in his response. But he did volunteer his girlfriend Deb for the excursion. He even promised to talk her into giving me a little push if I needed it. What a pal.

We made it through the year 2012. Some of it was good; parts of it were not-so-good. Since life is unpredictable, 2013 will likely be the same but I’m determined to make the most of it. I’ll challenge myself to overcome one of my life-long fears. And when I land back on terra firma I’ll be exuberant. Proud of myself. Full of exhilaration at my accomplishment. And with luck, those friends I grab in panic on my way out of the plane will land safely beside me.