I cherish my mom/daughter trips with Carly.
More often than not we travel to new and unknown (to us) places for our adventures together. I encourage Carly to be the planner. One of the only times I didn't have her plan was when we ended up staying at an old folks home that was transitioning into a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). The transition wasn't complete, the listing was less than honest, and our stay was a bit awkward. Carly still teases me about it to this day.
So when planning our trip to Milwaukee to celebrate Sister Barbara’s 60th Jubilee year of service, I asked Carly to take the lead. She booked our flights, found us a sweet Airbnb for two of our nights, planned a day trip to Chicago, and had a surprise for us on Saturday morning. Our last three days were loose so Sister Barbara could take the lead.
We had a fun-filled day and five mile walk in Chicago. Our train trip from Milwaukee let us off in great location. Our time there allowed us two great meals, one on a roof top above the Cloud Gate sculpture (also known as the bean) and the massive Lake Michigan. A perfectly-timed and insightful trip to The Art Institute where we picked five areas to explore — my top three favorites being the retrospective of Charles White, the photography exhibit Never a Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago 1950 - 1980, and the Islamic Art exhibit. We then headed to a quick and serendipitous visit with one of Carly’s friends who was in town watching her sister perform in Hamilton.
The next morning was the surprise. We woke at 5:45 in order to get to Carly’s gift for me on time. Before the alarm went off, I woke up to my intuition at 3:00 am with a strong feeling that skydiving would be our surprise adventure. When I fell back to sleep I dreamt of a skydiving school with a horrible track record.
While sharing our morning breakfast at the Airbnb kitchen table, I asked Carly if skydiving was indeed the adventure. She answered in a way that made the real answer unclear, and with my love for surprises I didn't pry. When we got into the Lyft, the driver cleared things up by mentioning skydiving.
Skydiving has been on my must-do list since my mid 20s. I never followed through due to lack of time, money, or both. Carly has gifted both Mark and I with her intolerance for our inaction in our must-do lists — hence their Mt. Rainer climb two years ago and my skydiving jump last weekend.
When we arrived at the skydiving place on the outskirts of Milwaukee, I did my best to calm myself and prepare to jump out of a perfectly “good” plane. I say good in quotations, because when boarding this perfectly good plane it seemed a bit short of that description. In all honesty, because of my business in aerospace and with an education at a topnotch flight school, my standards of good may be higher than normal.
During my mental preparation, I looked up the flight school’s record and found they had had one fatality accident several years back. Surprisingly, this fact didn't make me more worried. I figured with that in their record my odds of survival had increased. As we put on our harnesses and met our instructors I silently said my prayers. Then we waited for the plane to arrive, it was door to door service. As I climbed aboard the Pacific Aerospace (PAL) plane that looked like it had a million miles on it I continued to mentally prepare for this long awaited must do.
We climbed to 14,000 feet and Carly and I were the third and fourth to throw ourselves out of the plane. The first two were experienced divers, diving alone. When it was our turn, my instructor gave the last minute tips and then pushed us into the sky. My first thoughts were, “Holy shit!” “This is really something…” and then my ears really started to hurt.
As I prayed for relief from the pain, my instructor released the parachute. Once the parachute was gently returning us to earth my ear pain stopped and I was able to be in the quiet-filled beauty. It was stunning and peaceful. I felt like a tender line was holding me in a place that allowed me to notice of the patterns of lush green land, waves and lines produced in the lakes, and as we got closer the deer along the edge of the forest. Once we landed my body shook from the adrenaline and then within 5 minutes a calm that I have not felt for some time returned to my soul. It was a surprising and peace-filled calm. It seemed as though the jump had shaken off some of the burden of our harsh world. This calmness was palpable.
This is not to say that the burden will not return. As I continue to unearth realities — some calculated, horrendous, and hidden — I will remember my calm. This gift from Carly, gentleness of the tender line holding me up to see the beauty, will be a snapshot in my soul forever.
What activity can you do to shake off the burdens you are carrying? Do you have travel buddies that you take adventures with? If so, are there any activities you can add to your next trip?