A.k.a. Being afraid and doing it anyway!
This post is a long one, but if you stick with it, I think you’ll get a lot out of it.
Okay then, time to dig in. To begin with, I’m thrilled to announce that my stage play, FIRST HAND WOMAN, which I started writing in 2004, will see its world debut this summer (July 2008) in Montreal! Yay! This is my first play and I’m super excited and scared to finally put it up. And speaking of being scared… I recently decided that it was time to face my extreme fear of flying and planes.
So, naturally, I decided to go skydiving! The take-off was turbulent, and I had to do some deep breathing to help me get through it. 🙂
As we slowly ascended, crawling closer to the clouds I couldn’t help noticing how beautiful the world looked outside my scratched window. Sunbeams sneaked through the clouds from above, smoothly draping the air down towards the ground. The world looked exciting, lush and detailed: Toy trucks, farm silos, cows, highways, and rolling corn fields. Cars rushing to get somewhere, houses with lives spinning in them and the forests reaching up to kiss us.
By 6000 feet, the ground still looked like a safety net of the familiar, and looking out to the shrinking world made me feel philosophical. I pondered life in general, my memories of loved ones who had passed away, my future, my past, and my favourite life details.
Then somewhere at around 9000 feet, the world changed.
The stakes were literally heightened. You see, somewhere at around 9000 feet the ground ceases to be detailed. Everything begins to melt together, to become abstract and uncertain. I started to question what actually lay outside that window. What was I even looking at anymore? Could we really be soaring that high? How is it that people can reach such heights? How can a little plane no bigger than a toy possibly fly safely above the clouds?
So it was somewhere at this 9000 feet mark that I began to get scared; That I started to forget how to breathe; That my face lost its blood and turned green.
That I began to realize what I was about to do. As we approached 10 000 feet, I looked out one window and saw a giant cumulus cloud laughing at me. As a quick hello, it winked a long streak of fork lightning from the top of it’s fluffy head, all the way down to the ground. My anxiety-filled eyes turned to face the other direction.
But it didn’t matter which way my eyes looked, I was still racing forward towards my life.
As we approached 11 000 feet, a stranger named Al told me to undo my seatbelt and to sit with my back facing him. Using four metal clips he attached his jumper suit to mine. Next, this stranger named Al walked me through the baby steps of what we were about to do.
And somewhere at around 12 000 feet above sea level, this stranger named Al hoisted open the door to this little toy plane, and the wind whipped into our little cocoon; the sky beckoned to us.
Attached to this stranger named Al by four clips, I meandered towards the open doorway, absolutely terrified. I tried to place my right foot on the step outside the plane, but the force of the wind kept pushing it off. My left leg caught on a seat belt, and Al helped to release it. I bore down on my determination and managed to plant both feet on the little step on the edge of the world. Then we were in position.
And ready to leap into life together.
I let go of the door frame, crossed my arms over my chest, leaned my head back against Al’s collar bone, and now, the hard part was almost over. All that lay before me was to trust and to find the sky.
So on the count of three, me and this stranger named Al leapt out of the doorway and into an extraordinary life.
And the ground turned into sky and fear turned into joy.
The abstract world waaaay below me, became mine, and for the next couple minutes I owned the sky.
I felt like I was tasting life for the first time and I waved hello to it all. I was flying! In a free fall from 12 000 feet, I could not think, I could not question, I could not analyze. All I could do was feel the experience.
And life was full and urgent and spinning and fast and colourful and a blur and tearful and hilarious and terrifying and exhilarating and loving and immediate.
And let me tell you, I had never felt so alive.
And then, when it was time, I pulled the parachute cord attached to that stranger named Al, and it opened up. A few minutes later we landed safely on our bums.
So what is this all about?
Jumping out of a plane didn’t cure me of my fear of heights or of planes.
Putting my play, FIRST HAND WOMAN up on stage for the first time, probably won’t cure my fear of failure and success. But I have been working on this story since 2004 and I wouldn’t trade this kind of opportunity for the world. I am stepping outside of my comfort zone and it will be both exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.
Yep, it’s time to start FIRST HAND WOMAN‘s journey into the world.
So, Montreal 2008, here we come!
Here’s where you take some action too. In the comments below, I want you to tell me about a time that you faced a big fear and leapt into it! I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
Sarah Michelle Brown
FIRST HAND WOMAN Actor, Playwright + Producer