i jumped

my pride is screaming at me not to write and publish this one. but my will tells me that it's a good learning experience and should be shared. guess i'll let you decide.

exhibit a: amazing swimming pool in my neighborhood
this past wednesday, we had a ward party at an amazing [and coveted] swimming pool in my neighborhood [exhibit a]. i'd been there once before and was really excited to visit again.

exhibit b: look how freaking rad this place is ...!
it was way fun [exhibit b]. i played volleyball, went down the slide, did the hot tub thing, ate some treats, chatted with friends…life was good. after the sun went down, a few friends were leaving and i ran over to say goodbye to them before they headed out, only to [literally] run into my friend steven, who turned me right around and led me up the stairs to the slide/cliff area. i protested, trying to explain the urgency of where i was going. he wouldn't have it. so i let him push me up the stairs, ready to slide down again. that's when i realized: he wasn't leading me to the slide; he was leading me to the cliff

now, granted, this wasn't by any means a large cliff. it wasn't even a real one. but it was a large piece of rock with a tiny waterfall and lots of water underneath and some air in between. as soon as i realized what his intention was, i panicked and immediately fought against him. after a minute i knew it was fruitless, but i fought anyway. the more i struggled, the more he firmly disallowed me to get out of this situation.

soon, everyone else realized what was going on; steven was trying to get me to jump off the edge and i wasn't going to do it. so, of course, everyone else started encouraging me as well, and soon the people on the cliff, the people in the pool, the people on land and the people in the hot tub were yelling for me to jump and chanting my name. so...like, everyone was watching.

oh, perfect. now my pride was on the line and i felt like i was one year old, learning how to walk with people coaxing me to do it because they'd been walking their whole lives and it was oh-so-easy. i think the majority of them thought i was scared to jump. i wasn't scared to jump at all. heights don't bother me, i love speed and i have known how to jump my whole life. it's just that…

i can't swim.

if you're confused yet, refer to this so very super-helpful diagram.
i never learned as a kid. so i made it to my twenty-somethings and haven't learned how to dog paddle….so sue me. but either way…that was kind of an issue. i've been learning this summer, but i had yet to really test my skill in water where i couldn't actually touch the ground, much less jump off a cliff in front of everyone to test that novel idea. i plead with steven, who still had a firm grasp on me, "no, steve -- you don't get it. like, i really --i really-- can't swim!" he protested right back, "i don't care, just do it! you'll be fine! just walk to the edge with me." "no-- but like, really! steven, i literally don't know what to do when i get in the water!" my words fell on deaf ears and i was kind of useless fighting against him. 

i really didn't have an option. so i let him lead me to the cliff and looked down. 

yup. lots of water.

ironically, i likely would have jumped sooner if everyone wasn't watching me and egging me on because it would have been far less pressure. it was angela who helped me most at that point. oh, bless that girl. amidst everyone yelling, she came to stand next to me and softly told me, "look, you really don't have to do it if you don't want to. you can walk away and that's perfectly fine. but if you do go, i'll jump with you." then she promptly shoved steven off the cliff (of course he was fine) and proceeded to instruct me how to, well, jump off the ledge and what to do in the water. after her instruction, i felt much better. 

so, as i tried to ignore everyone watching, she counted: "1…2…..3…..JUMP!" --- and we leapt into the darkness.

as i plunged into the water, it took a minute to remember what i'd been taught. i broke the surface but couldn't quite, well, swim. as soon as i came up, i felt that someone had a firm grasp on my arm, and heard a gentle voice say, "kristin, i'm here. i've got ya." i've never thought of my tall, crazy party friend patrick's familiar voice as "gentle" before, but it was now, and i felt so much relief when i heard him say this. i was surprised how much better i felt after hearing that. it wasn't mocking or demeaning; it was a genuine assurance. he helped me get my bearings and got me to where i could touch the ground while everyone cheered.

i ended up jumping again, this time with angela's boyfriend ned assisting me after the plunge. i think i was more used to it the second time, but still needed his assistance. 

and the whole experience felt...good. 

as we do around here at warm fuzzies, this idea was sort of accidentally made into something more the morning after the experience when i wasn't really trying to think. but it's actually kind of cool because it's the same concept i've been pondering for a good long while now, and it's an idea that has resurfaced in many conversations i've had, talks i've read, and especially in the combined priesthood/relief society lesson that i taught only a week ago. 

while i based a lot of that lesson off of this article (which i HIGHLY recommend), it was interesting to *experience* the same type of connection with swimming: to first learn intellectually, then experientially. 

here's the connection. if you know me, it may be fairly obvious:

often times in life, we feel we are being pushed to the edge of a cliff. we tell God, "no, really. i legitimately don't know how to swim. like, REALLY. i've practiced a bit in shallow water, but i have no idea what to do when i get down there." and our pleas seem to fall on deaf ears. "um, WHAT am i getting into? i really can't swim!" and sometimes, there's that option not to jump. but sitting there on the ledge won't help the situation any. going back just seems…anticlimactic. and there are some cliffs we just decide we have to jump, regardless of whether it's God, our own choices, natural circumstance, or others pushing us to do so.

and so, on the count of three, we push off the edge and launch into the air -- it's a rush regardless of swimming ability. but for us non-swimmers, i feel it's a tad more…terrifying? because, well, this is new territory. and while we're airborne, there's no turning back and no one is able to help because the commitment has been made. though we have friends who have jumped before, and some who can even jump with us, there is that moment when we're in the air and it's just us.

but the great thing is, there is help at the end. when we get down to the bottom and and try to resurface, as unfamiliar as that may feel, someone pulls us up and says, "it's okay, i've got you." --in the most familiar, non-judgemental and loving way possible.

i don't think i was scared of drowning; i was worried at looking like a fool necessitating someone to rescue me, or of floundering and struggling with everyone watching. steven very well knew that i could jump off the cliff and be fine, and he, along with patrick, ned and everyone else there, could have easily jumped in and saved me. angela knew that i could do it and she was so good to calmly explain how to do it amidst the distracting noise that everyone else was making (with the best of intentions). but i didn't know i could do it. because i hadn't ever done it before. literally, uncharted waters. 

boyd k. packer said, "rules and regulations and commandments are valuable protection. if we need instruction to alter our course, it will be waiting along the way as we arrive at the point of need."

help will be waiting along the way, when we need it, not when we think we need it. 

i didn't need help physically jumping off like i thought i did or even when i was still under the surface of the water -- i needed help after i struggled for a bit on my own and finally emerged. 

help will be waiting along the way …when we need it. not when we think we need it. we have to understand that we might struggle. we may look like a fool. we'll probably flounder. and that's okay. we came to this life to learn, and we most often learn by experience. our pleas are not falling on deaf ears; we are just helped when we truly need it, not when we think we do.

granted, i did my best. and after doing all i could do, i was rescued. (sound familiar?) looking back, there really was help all around me. but my pride, fear, and hesitation to jump kept me from trusting in it. as soon as i learned to trust that, i just had to move my feet....

yeah. you can take that wherever it goes in your head or your life.

*i know that this wonderful article talks almost of an identical experience and concept, but in the end, my experience is mine because it happened to me. therefore, to draw my own connections experientially is really meaningful. 

and i promise that the next post will be super full of pictures, and lots less words. :)


Steve said...

You are awesome. Such an excellent post. Way to take the leap!

Gale said...

I LOVE learning from and being inspired by a most courageous and amazing Kristin Gulledge. Thank you for this post, and...WAY 2 GO!!! Love you mucho!

Jacob said...

I love you so much for sharing this! I have a similar story, except mine is about pride and not wanting to tell anyone I needed help. And that's how I almost drown once. :) Glad you had the humility to get help and the guts to take the plunge.

Happy Tabby said...

That was so great!! Such a good lesson and reminder for everyone :) Thank you!!!

--jeff * said...

so as i was reading this (yes, i should have read it a few days ago, but it's been a scattered week, what with moving and all...), i was thinking that i'd keep my profound comments to myself and just comment on something that's nearly always present here on w.f.+h.s. but which is rarely acknowledged: that this is just a dang well-written story. i quite like your style and your commentary and your observations and descriptions. it's just fun to read and i digged the picture with all of the revenant (and irrelevant) objects clearly marked for us.

but then you got to the "application" part of the post and i could no longer hold back my thoughts.
here are a few things i liked most fully:

-angela, telling you that you didn't have to do it if you didn't really want to, and the truth that so often that is the hardest part about doing scary things, the feeling that we HAVE to do them. and once we can acknowledge that there is an "escape" there available for us, even if it's the less-noble option, it becomes easier to make the better or best choice.
nice work, angela.

-further, having someone one there with us makes it much easier.

-yes, there are many scary situations that we have to jump into. the scariest ones are where they are not only steep and everyone's watching, but wherein we are "non-swimmers."


-everyone was down below, making noise, with the best intentions. they were trying to cheer you on, to make it fun and help you do it. but the added attention and pressure really just made it that much harder.
definitely, that observation is not for pleasure alone.

-we might struggle. we might look like a fool. and we'll probably flounder. we might feel like we are without help, but it will come, not when we want it, but when we truly need it.
alma 32:21



thanks for writing this.
probably my favorite non-"sheep" post of the year.