When I was 18, I met a boy who was a bit of a, well… punk. We dated briefly the summer before I went to college (in one of the brief pauses in my epic relationship with my now hubby). The relationship was never meant to last, but I did learn a few things from this boy, and it all began with cliff jumping.
Tattoos, bleached hair, and a lip ring. He wasn’t who my mom wanted me to be hanging out with. I didn’t even introduce him to my dad. He was a summer fling, who brought me on adventures as intriguing as he was. One day, our adventure was cliff jumping. We drove to a quarry somewhere in New Hampshire. A few of his friends met us there, all boys a bit older than me, all dare devils by the look of them. We walked down the edge of the orange stone, into the basin that held the deepest blue sparkling water I had ever seen. The sun was warm, and it baked the rocks we sat on, turning us all into one golden hue. A soft breeze, still, clear water. I would have felt calm and serene, except for my heart beating out of my chest with anticipation of what was to come. Jumping.
The boys started to make moves up the edges of the quarry. As you may be able to guess, I have never been the kind of girl who sits on the sidelines and watches while adventure takes place. Maybe it was the combination of wanting to impress, mixed with a little bit of reckless abandon, but I scrambled up the rocks in my bikini to the top of the cliff along with those boys.
We got to the top and of course I looked straight down into the cavern of rock and sparkling blue water. Was I really going to do this? One boy ran up from behind me and took a flying leap over the edge, his arms flailing as he dropped, body hitting the water with a splash as he sunk deep enough to disappear from view. He popped up within seconds, seemingly ok, and swam to the lowest rocks to climb out. My boy asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this. He offer me an easy out, saying I didn’t have to jump if I was scared.
But that is exactly why I had to.
I was scared for my life. Scared that I would not jump far enough and instead of falling gracefully into the water, I would crash into the side of the quarry and roll like a stone down a rocky mountain pass. I was scared that even if I did make a successful jump I would hit the water like a ton of bricks, the stabbing of a thousand liquid knives cutting into my skin. But I was also scared of what my life would be like if I didn’t jump. I was scared that turning back, taking the easy road down, and sitting quietly on the rocks, would become my preferred path.
I stood back. I took a deep breath. I leaped.
Obviously I’m alive and well enough to tell this tale today. So I didn’t hit rocks, and I didn’t die upon impact with that crystal blue water, though it did sting quite a bit. My relationship with that punk boy didn’t last. It wasn’t meant to. I still see him from time to time around town (like on my last date night with my hubby, which was amusingly awkward). Even though nothing much came of our affair, I will forever remember that day. The day that I became a cliff jumper.
There have been several occasions in my life where this experience has helped me. There have been several cliffs I have had the opportunity to leap from (both literal and figurative). And I’m standing on the edge of another. Becoming a mama was a cliff all on its own. It was higher, and the water is deeper, than I ever realized or expected it would be. My cliff now is in allowing the experience of becoming a mama to really shape me. Up until this point, I have spent the last 15 months still trying to be the person who I was before. I was a go-getter, I was an achiever, I was a risk-taking cliff jumper. And the truth is that I have failed. The jump into mamahood has been messy for me (as maybe it is for all of us).
Anyways, this is a long story, which I have had fun telling, to let you know that the cliff I am jumping from now is of my own making. I am leaping from the rocks of my perfectionism, my achiever mentality, my superficial keeping it all together facade. I am diving into a deeper part of myself. My vulnerability, my shadows, my truth.
I tell you this because I know some of you may relate. I know some of you feel the same drive and ambition. I know some of you strive to be super woman, even as you laugh and joke about how messy your house is, or how you fed your kid nothing but Cheerios and squeezy packs of applesauce today. I know that some of you are struggling to keep it all together, and to feel alive, and human, and well. I want you to know, you are not alone.
I feel blessed because my journey through yoga, massage, and ayurveda has given me tools. I have the knowledge to put into practice amazing self-care techniques. It’s just a matter of doing it. I want to share my knowledge with you. I want to invite and empower you to practice radical self-care. I truly feel that as women we are standing on the edge of a very high cliff, that once we choose to leap from, will change the world.
We can choose to stop, we can choose to listen, we can choose to take care. We can let the world know that this pace, this drive, this never-ending quest for perfection is too much. We can teach ourselves, and our families how to dive into the waters of living well. Let’s just take a breath, and leap.