Skydiving

In the spring of 1997, I went skydiving for the first time, in Arizona. Skydiving is often discussed as a para-suicidal activity, and if I had in fact died while I was doing it, I imagine that it would have been tied in the imagination of my family and friends to my mood states. And yet — and I believe this is often the case for para-suicidal action — it felt not like a suicidal impulse but like a vital one. I did it because I felt so good that I was capable of it. At the same time, having entertained the idea of suicide, I had broken down certain barriers that had stood between me and self-obliteration. I did not want to die when I jumped out of an airplane, but I didn’t fear dying in the way I had feared it before my depression, and so I didn’t need so rigorously to avoid it. I’ve gone skydiving several times since then, and the pleasure I’ve had from my boldness, after so much time lived in reasonless fear, is incalculable. Every time at the door of the plane, I feel the adrenal rush of real fear, which, like grief, is precious to me for its simple authenticity. It reminds me what those emotions are actually about. Then comes the free fall, and the view over virgin country, and the overwhelming powerlessness and beauty and speed. And then the glorious discovery that the parachute is there after all. When the canopy opens, the updrafts in the wind suddenly reverse the fall, and I rise up and up away from the earth, as though an angel has suddenly come to my rescue to carry me to the sun. And then when I start to sink again, I do it so slowly and live in a world of silence in multiple dimensions. It is wonderful to discover that the fate you have trusted has warranted that trust. What joy it has been to find that the world can support my most rash experiments, to feel, even while falling, that I am held tightly by the world itself.

— Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon

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