With all this talk about the fiscal cliff, you'd think going over a cliff is a bad thing. As with all things in life, it depends. On the cliff.
I understand the anxiety about facing a cliff and not wanting to go over it. I'm one of those people who, staring down at the bay from the Golden Gate Bridge, imagines what it would be like to jump or, worse, be pushed off. The thought immediately causes me to step back from the rail, horrified.
But sometimes, I see a cliff and know I must jump.
When I was 29, I was offered the opportunity to move from Atlanta to San Francisco by my then-employer. All the moving expenses were paid and I had a job to go to. At the time, Nick was not working, so he was free to relocate. We were both bored with Atlanta anyway. Was this really a cliff? Maybe not, but it felt like one. What if we didn't like San Francisco and wanted to move back--without any jobs to return to? How would my parents react to such a big move? What would happen to our friendships in the South? Nearly 26 years later, I'm happy to report that this was one of the best 'cliff jumps' I've ever made.
A few years ago, I was in New York on business. While there, I went on a three-day theater binge. Electrified by August: Osage County, I decided to try my hand at writing plays. Within three years, I was among the opening-night audience for a short farce I'd written called Two Wings and a Breast. I knew, heading to the theater, that I was also heading toward a cliff. I had friends in the audience--what if they didn't like it and simply gave me fake smiles afterwards? What if no one laughed when I wanted them to or laughed when they weren't supposed to? What if the actors flubbed their lines? What if an actor at the last minute couldn't make it and my play, part of an evening of shorts, was cancelled? (There were no understudies). I took the leap anyway, and thankfully, the audience went with me.
Not all my cliffs have been purely psychological, however.
Years ago, on a trip to Mexico, I had just begun to insinuate myself onto a beach chair when I heard Nick call my name--from somewhere in the sky. I looked up and discovered he was parasailing over my head. He returned to Earth, all breathless excitement about the fantastic experience he'd just had and urging me to try it too. Nick's mother and former sister-in-law, Margaret, were with us. Margaret and I anxiously took the challenge, signed legal documents that would give even a Hollywood stuntman reason for concern, were strapped into parachutes, and were soon airborne.
As I floated over Acapulco Bay, I screamed as loud as I possibly could. Even the iguanas stopped munching foliage and looked up. Eventually, something miraculous happened: I stopped screaming. I looked around. I admired the view, felt the embrace of warm sun and wind. In those few moments, I had no fear, only wonder and excitement and gratitude.
Those moments ended all too soon, unfortunately. When attempting to land on a postage-stamp platform in the bay, I smacked against the side of it instead. The physical pain was fleeting; it's the jump I took that is with me still.
What cliffs have you jumped off? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.