Christopher, Jump 192
There is one main way to maneuver your canopy after deployment. You can pull on toggles that dangle on either side of you, and do something called ‘flaring’. This changes the shape of your canopy, and will change the angle of your flight in relationship to the ground. It will also slow you down.
Christopher was trying for an accuracy jump here, which means to land within two meters of a designated landing point. He misjudged his flaring just a bit, and got dragged along the ground, contacting the earth face first.
I got a phone call after this picture (love this kid) informing me that ‘he was still a living, breathing human being’. I could hear his heart pounding in his voice.
People often look at me strangely when I describe Christopher’s skydiving exploits, and often move away cautiously when I add my plans to them. I am going to follow this kid into the sky when Rachael is a little older, but right now I can’t quite bring myself to do it, with Chris gone and her only 13. Tick tock.
I think this kid has a hell of a lot of courage. Skydiving isn’t particularly courageous, lots of people do it on a dare. But it is emblematic of a way to approach life, which is, I think, distinctly masculine.
Ever notice that women tend to cluster? Now, people aren’t predictable like chemicals or math, so it’s hard to generalize. Even so, women tend to gather. We gather opinions, children, food, clothes, and together. We tend to weigh each other’s judgements. We seek each other’s counsel. There is not a whit of anything wrong with this, but sometimes a different approach is merited.
We had some turmoil at school this week, human dynamics are messy. When people ask me what I do for a living, I often say I’m a preschool administrator, and that I help people play nice in the sandbox. Then I add, “I don’t mean the children.” I’m utterly serious. After an incident, one client felt the need to sit me down in my office, and list ways I could improve my “complete and total lack of professionalism”. Another complained about my ‘glaring lack of standardization and goals’ in my business, as if such a thing were possible in preschool.
I went home after one particularly tumultuous day, and started to feel sorry for myself that I didn’t have Chris around anymore to help solve these problems. Men and women are created distinctly differently from the womb, and Chris and I each brought a different piece to the table when we had an issue to deal with. It was really very effective.
At this stage of the game, I bore myself to death when I mope around because I’m a widow and partnerless business woman. I was exhausted and bitter, and faced with a choice. Sit around and cry, or try and get what I think I need. God and I are more on speaking terms these days, so I asked. “Father, how on earth am I supposed to figure this out?” (Jesus doesn’t mind when I whine. He’s a much better parent than I am.) Seriously though, every bit of conflict at work comes out of my paycheck, so I have no choice but to address problems head on and face first, and what I was doing wasn’t entirely working. What to do?
A warm breeze of inspiration blew around me. It dawned on me that I know a lot of really great guys. I went through my contact list, and checked off about a dozen men who’s opinions mattered to me. Men of all walks of life. Millionaires, store clerks, writers, performers, military, skydivers, builders,physicians, lawyers, pilots, manufacturers- all kinds of occupations. Fathers, husbands, single men, grandfathers- these guys had roles to juggle.
In my mind, I named them “The Male Brain Trust.” Very few men like a lot of words, so in as brief a form as possible, I outlined the knotty problems I was dealing with, and whoosh-blew out the email in one blast to all these guys.
Brilliant! Within a day, the replies started to trickle in. I had hit a well of good fortune. I had about a 60 percent response rate, which was fabulous. These guys are a very self-directed bunch, and not exactly overloaded with free time. I appreciated any response at all!
One man connected me with an attorney who had solid advice. Another three gave me the same advice, which just confirmed my gut feeling. Another had an inspirational story. Another, an inspirational essay, combined with a photo story that makes me smile even now. All were glad to do it, reaffirming my faith that most men, given the chance, are happy to lend a hand. All, masculine to a “T”. Direct, to the point, some even aiming genial profanity my way. “Dammit, Victoria. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this s***. It’s always f***ing something.”
Ha! Swear away, boys, I appreciate the sentiment more than you know. So, with a lot of hands, I dug myself out of the hole, and thought for a while. What exactly did these guys provide for me, that I couldn’t get myself?
Without explaining the personal nature of the work issues, I would have to say that I am guilty of what a lot of women do, and that is to personalize. Surely, I could have done something differently. Surely, I could have said something, taken some sort of action, used a different tone, something. Often there is a grain of truth to criticism, often times people are just completely batty.
The Brain Trusters cut through all that crap and got to the point. I did the right thing in both of these situations and needed to quit the sabotaging self-doubt. I know my business, I’ve run it successfully with a partner for over 20 years. There’s no reason at all I can’t run it another 20 with the acquired wisdom I already have.
There is a website called theartofmanliness.com that retrieved a great Theodore Roosevelt quote that Chris used to love, and I have claimed as my own. It’s a little thick, but stick with me people, it’s worth it-
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Courage. Striving. Spending yourself on a worthy cause. A face marred by dust, sweat, and blood, just like my manly son’s. For now, my face too is that of a warrior princess in the arena, and if I fail, my place shall also never be with the cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
Right beside the Male Brain Trusters.
Victoria’s List of What Makes a Real Man
1. Someone who treasures me more than himself. One might almost think that’s Biblical.
2. Courage. Take heart. Never, never give up.