Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jumping Off a Cliff

Have you ever felt as if you were about to jump off a cliff?
Photo courtesy of Mr. Mystery on Flickr

Adopting a child. Moving to a new town. Diving into a new relationship. Leaving your job to start a new business.

This is very scary stuff. You’re looking out into an expanse of emptiness. You’re preparing as well as you can, but you don’t really know what to prepare for.

You might fail. You might fall.

When I’m in one of these situations, I try to think back to when I used to jump off of cliffs all the time—literally.

Rappelling

As a teenager I did a lot of rock-climbing. It’s been many years, but I can still remember it in my body.

Climbing up tall cliffs also involves getting down. And the way to get down is to jump off the cliff. It’s called rappelling, and it’s one of my favorite things.

Here’s how it goes:

You’re at the top of a tall cliff. The view is amazing—tops of trees, rock formations, distant rivers. If you peek over the edge, it’s straight down. A long way.

You get all strapped into your gear: harness, carabiners, belay rope, helmet. You feel nice and protected, but you start to wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.
Photo courtesy of Laurel Fan on Flickr

You plant your feet on the very edge of the cliff. With your heels hanging off.

You go through a lovely ritual with the person who’s going to pay out your rope as you go down the cliff. She has a good hold on your rope, and you’re gripping it front and back. You can let it feed, or you can pull sideways to let the carabiner stop it. You have a lot of control.

“On belay.” “Belay on.”

It’s all very well to say you have control, but the next step is to lean back. Back, back, back, until you’re horizontal. Out over the emptiness.

“Ready to rappell.” “Rappell!” “Rappelling.”

And you jump. Out into the air, off the cliff.

Flying?

The first time I did this, I expected to fall. To fall through the air, or maybe to feel like I was flying. Isn’t that what happens when you jump off a cliff?

Well, no.

Photo courtesy of Madmolecule on Flickr
What happens is that you pay out a little rope and land a few feet down. And what you see is not a vast expanse of frightening sky. You see your feet in their climbing boots, planted reassuringly on the cliff face. There’s an interesting crack in the rock, and some moss growing along its top. The moss has tiny flowers in it.

You take that in, take a deep breath, and then you pay out a little more rope and jump a few more feet down. The jumping feels fun. You and your carabiner are in complete control.
Photo courtesy of Schoop Digital on Flickr


It’s not even slightly scary.

And other cliffs

So…are you facing a metaphorical cliff? Let’s say you’re quitting your day job to start a new business. Risky, exciting, possibility of large failure or larger success. You could use all your savings, disappoint your spouse, embarrass yourself, have to run back to the job you’re hating.

Deep breath. You have your technical gear strapped on: your internet is up and running, your Twitter page is customized, your Wordpress theme is installed. You've done your research. Your support group is ready to belay you. But there’s still a whole lot of sky out there.

And then you jump.


And it’s only a little jump. Just far enough to see, next to your boots on the cliff face, one email to answer. One color to choose for the menu on your website. One piece of free software to download.

One person to help.

You can do this. And the treasures on the way down will be beautiful.

5 comments:

  1. I'm testing the comments to see if they work! Hello dear readers!

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  2. Hi Do Mi!

    My name is Pilar, and I LUV to rappel.
    (almost as much as I luv this post ;-)

    Belay ON, girl.
    Best wishes,

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