There’s a bridge in Bigfork, Montana that stretches over the Swan River as it lets out into Flathead Lake. To some, jumping from the bridge into the deep part of the river is a rite of passage. For me, this jump is a taunt. A calling I can’t answer.
While enjoying a cocktail on her boat on Flathead Lake, my friend Edie asked if I wanted to jump from the bridge while I’m in town. Lemme tell you something about Edie, she’s all about having fun which is a why I love being with her. So, when she offered to jump with me it seemed like the best idea ever.
The drop from the bridge to the water is no more than 12 feet. The water below is still and clear. It’s easy to find the deep spot. The rocks practically clear themselves out of the way. Cars cross the bridge once every ten minutes. The septuagenarian who lives below my parents dives off on a regular basis. I’m telling you, everyone has done this.
I’m not a particularly daring person. New experiences are great but if they involve danger I can make a mountain out of a mole hill real quick. A seat belt is my best friend. I know how to cut it off my body and shatter a car window and have mentally prepared my escape if my car is sinking. When I check into a hotel I ask for the room closest to the emergency exit.
I’m not sure why jumping off of this bridge seemed within my repertoire. I wasn’t scared until I started climbing over the railing. Then the gremlin voices began their chorus.
No one has ever gotten hurt but there’s always a first.
That water is really cold and it could be very disorienting once you submerge with that kind of force.
You could hit your head on the way down and knock yourself out then bleed out in front of your family.
Edie demonstrated how to get to the ledge. She gave me one hell of a pep talk. She ran to get a life vest for me. She jumped. She jumped again. A crowd gathered. The crowd cheered. I rallied and screamed, “Ok…1…2…” and chickened out. Young men who promised they are certified life guards treaded water right below me for safety and moral support. I asked the onlookers to come closer and tell me positive things. Then I asked them to move away because they were crowding me. A kindergarten child said he would jump if I promised him I would jump. I promised. He jumped. I broke my promise.
My point is the only thing holding me back from taking the step off of the bridge, free-falling for .5 seconds, dunking in the clean river, and coming up victorious to applause from the crowd was ME. This fear, of what I cannot pinpoint exactly, has been with me my whole life. Most loyally, I’m sorry to report.
I meditate. I visualize success. I journal. I plan. I pray. But, this fear and I still take it to the mat on a daily basis. I have five more days in Bigfork and that bridge is 200 feet from my front door. I want to jump while I’m here— to pin that nasty fear.
But what if I freeze up again?
What if I messed with cosmic timing and yesterday was the best day to jump and now the water level is too low?
What if lightning strikes the bridge while I’m on the ledge?