I stood upon the rock, and the water looked even further down than it had when I watched others leap a few moments before. Heat seeped into my toes from the boulder overlooking the river.

“Go on! Jump! You can do it!” My friends cheered me on from the sidelines. I looked over and caught my husband’s eyes. Even despite the distance, I could see the softness, the encouragement, in them. It bolstered me. I looked down again.

I could see the small rock shelf just under the surface, and see where it dropped off into…. nothing. Dark water. Unseen depths. As I stood there, my mind began to ponder the existence of sea monsters, and adrenaline pumped into my fingers, making them tingle. Completely ridiculous, being so far inland, but even tiny shadows appeared convincing as evidence.

I hesitated. Logically, I knew I was only about six feet above the water’s surface… but with each passing moment, it grew into a cliff of incredible height. All the negative emotions and put downs I’d ever faced rose to the surface:

You can’t.

You shouldn’t.

You’re going to hurt yourself and drown.

Women your size don’t wear bikinis to go swimming, and they don’t play these games. You’re disgusting.

You’re a horrible swimmer.

How dare you think you can do anything. 

I was suddenly facing each and every one of my personal demons, and they were clawing at me, stealing my breath and my nerve. I shrank a little, and looked over at my husband, and our friends, at their smiling and supportive faces. It had been a wonderful, amazing day at the river, playing with the kids and enjoying the sunshine. I smiled back at them, cracked a joke about already having my Last Will drawn up. Everyone laughed. The demons shrieked, flinging a lifetime of “can’ts,” “shouldn’ts,” and “don’ts” in my face.

The serene, blue-gray river water sloshed at the rock I stood upon.

My palms came together in a short prayer, I touched my thumbs to my nose and closed my eyes.

No More, I said. I slammed the terrible voices back into the furthest depths of my mind, threw up every wall of defense I had.

Silence.

And I flung myself off the cliff, a leap of faith and triumph.

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