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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 15

Go take a leap - I don't mean that as an insult. It's my very best advice, reserved for people I truly care about. Taking a leap means having faith, going with our gut, acting without all the information.

My parents raised my four siblings and me on a small farm in rural Georgia. Down in one of our pastures we had a swimming pond with a wood dock anchored out from the shore. I don't know how far out it really was. It seemed a mile from shore to me when I was 6. If I was standing on the dock, it was at least a mile and a half back to shallow water.

On a sunny summer afternoon in July I kicked my inner tube out to the dock alongside my mother, who swam. We sat out there for awhile basking in the afternoon sun. I'm sure my mother was happy to cool off and have a diversion from housework. I was happy to be alone with her. (Back then, I wished my parents would put my brothers and sister up for adoption, especially my older brother, leaving me to get all the attention. They never did it. They knew I would die of boredom without anyone to argue with.)

Without announcing her next move, my mama stood up and dove into the water, doing the American Crawl to the shallows. I panicked. I didn't want to get left out there all by my chicken little self. So I tossed my inner tube into the pond right next to the dock, then jumped into the center of it; only I didn't have good aim. My right food caught on the edge, propelling the rest of my body forward into the water where I paddled with all abandon, yelling for my mama to help.

She did not come to my rescue. Instead, she shouted, "Swim! You know how. You can do it." And since I saw her toweling off on the bank, I knew she didn't plan to come get me. "Swim!" she yelled again. It was up to me to save my own self. I stroked with my arms and kicked my left leg harder than an electric egg beater.

Obviously, the scene ended well for me, BUT, contrary to what you might think, I didn't learn not to jump. All I learned was that jumping without thinking is survivable, and exhilarating, and gratifying. And that I could swim from the dock to the shore just fine.

Later that same summer, playing around with a bunch of other kids out in the barn, my older brother (the one my parents refused to put up for adoption) suggested that we jump out of the hayloft. Everyone got right on the bandwagon of sprinkling hay we scraped from the loft floor onto the ground below. But when it came time to see how cushy of a surface we had created, no one stepped forward. So I volunteered my 6 year-old self.

Putting my toes on the very edge of the wood planks, I leaned out to take a look. My knees got weak. All the other kids chanted, "Jump, Lucy, jump! Jump, Lucy, jump! Jump, Lucy, jump!" So, what the heck, I jumped and landed on a bed of hay about 1 millimeter thick. Uhmph. It knocked the breath out of me. Needless to say the kids in the loft scattered and some ninny went and told my mama on me. In reality they had no idea what they missed out on.

It was that summer when I was 6 that I first learned courage and learned that I had it. I wore it like a county fair blue ribbon across my chest. But my lessons on taking leaps did not end there. In my early driving days at age 16, my mama had more to tell me on the subject. Specifically, she barked at me from the passenger seat, "If you mash the gas to go, don't you get out into the road, have second thoughts, and hesitate. You go!" She said this as I tried to make a left turn at a busy intersection and got a cold pedal-foot right in the middle as another car bore down on my mother's side of our auto at great speed. I didn't think I could make it but my mother urged me on. "Commit. Once you make the move, you follow through. You can't go back. There are cars behind you. Now go!"

I went.

Living fearlessly requires taking leaps. Taking a leap requires doing what you don't think you can and never looking back once you jump. I never want to miss out on life because I'm afraid to jump right out there into it; even if it means getting some bumps along with the triumphs.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Say "Yes" to something that scares you, even if it's as simple as answering "Yes" to "Would you like an apple pie with that?"

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