It was her worry mind talking again. She wasn’t turning toward her star. She wasn’t listening to the important stuff. She was swirling down the empty hole that had been consuming her for her lifetime. She was tired of it, but couldn’t stop the constant swirl. She had left everything behind thinking that might break it forever. She had left her family, sold her house, lost her car somewhere in Mexico. A song played in the background that she could turn this around and rid herself of the empty pit in her soul and cast it away – if she only dared to love herself.
Her risk-taking started before when she was seven years old, and her mother sent her across the Massachusetts Bay to Martha’s Vineyard to visit a friend. 50 years later, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, she still yearned for what she left behind two and a half years before. But the risk of trusting her soul and embracing that person who had lived inside of her for so many years was much harder than any other risk she had taken before. It crept across a log with a raging river five feet below with an 80-pound pack on her back when she was 16. It hovered on the walls when she bore her three children. It clung to her fingers when she spread her mother’s death on the mountain, and when she stepped off the curb of her 24-year career as a teacher without saying goodbye. She took these risks to keep her from facing what she had been conditioned to avoid.
Her self was in a dark abyss, and she stood on the brink saying, I don’t want you. She had a man, who had put up with her moods for 10 years. She had left the one before because she saw what she was doing to him. She only wished that she had enough compassion to believe that was the reason she left him. But it was because she was running from the ache that she had run from all of her life. She left him for herself. She left him with the blame even though she knew he was not to blame.
Now she faced it again. She had to do this alone. Alone alone. With no one but her self to fill the hole. Her children, her family, her friends, her boyfriend. She had to dive off the brink and get find her soul, way down below. Haul her up out of the ache and embrace her. A task that sounded so easy. Just jump, she felt herself say.
She used to jump off the high diving board into a giant saltwater pool at the Lawrence Beach Club when she visited her grandmother’s house with her cousins. From the high diving board, she could look tight and see the expanse of the beach spread out before the Long Island Sound. Somewhere her parents, her aunts, and uncles were out there in a sea of sand burning their skin and sipping martinis too early in the morning.
She would stand at the tip of the turquoise diving board coated with a sharp, grainy, fiber to keep her from slipping. Every time she perched there, she wanted to turn around and go back. Jumping seemed impossible, almost insane. Then she would see the next boy’s tousled hair edging up over the crest of the ladder behind her. Before she saw his face, she turned toward the pool, the distant splashes below, siblings squabbling, boys playing Marco Polo, and another group playing Blind Man’s Bluff. Far above the sweet scent of Sea-n-ski, the prickly welcome mat texture of the rug that covered the wooden slats around the pool, she would hesitate.
A line of boys and girls jammed the slippery ladder behind her with their chests leaning in against the legs of the kid in front of them. Their arms weary from the climb, from hanging on, from anticipating the jump. The energy of this sandy line of children was like all of the inner makings of her soul pushing her to dive into herself, pushing against her – go, go, go.
When she jumped her time in the air was endless. She had the time to see the world of summer play all around her. She would watch the water as it came closer to her. She would feel the soft sigh of the universe telling her that she was free. This jump, this leap of faith would make her whole, for that endless open that would be suspended in the air.
On those summer days, she jumped so many times it was as if she was practicing what she would need to do much later in her life. She practiced the jump, the first step, the risk, the thrill, the fear until it became a known. She did it so many times she knew that when she mustered the courage to jump, the arms of the air would hold her while she did. The world would love her, then. The world would keep her in its arms before she broke through the water’s surface. Then the warm salt water slowed her down as she submerged, knowing that she would bounce back up and do it again.
And that empty hole, the abyss that she carried with her all of her life, shifted for just a moment reminding her of what if. What if she jumped off the brink and had time to feel the smooth sail of being suspended in the air between the top from where she jumped to the bottom? How long could she live in that suspension with her heart slowly murmuring the endless possibilities?