Yesterday I posted a booking form and a deposit cheque. This summer I intend to undertake a two day course to teach me the basics of paragliding.
" You can't do that!" I hear you cry. " You're 42. You have four children. You have responsibilities." That may well be true but I have reached a stage in my life where I have to take back something for myself. I accept and am happy with the indisputable fact that I sacrificed my thirties to my children . However,I can't keep on doing that or my life will have passed me by. What really is the issue? Am I not supposed to take any risks now that I have dependents. Can I no longer fly anywhere, ski, scuba dive - all the activities I love - for fear of injury or worse? Where does it end? Should I stop driving or crossing the road or leaving the house?
I have always been fascinated by the idea of being able to soar through the air with little visible means of support. Flying is my only remaining reoccurring dream now that being chased, being late and appearing in public naked appear to fallen out of my sub-conscious. My dream flying takes two forms. Historically, I used my ability to fly as a way of getting to places more quickly. So, if I was dreaming I was late for something and there were people in my way, as there invariably were, I would jump into the space just above their heads and swim a kind of breast stroke through the air.I don't know if the point of the dream is the lateness and people in my way or my ability to fly but I prefer the latter part. As is often the case with dreams, these images are so realistic that it is sometimes difficult and extremely disappointing to wake and realise, yet again, that I can't actually do it for real.
The second type of flying dream and the one that I tend to have now, also has a slightly darker side. In it I fly purely for pleasure, not to escape anything or speed my progress. I fly high but as if I were a dolphin in water diving and spinning as takes my wont. However, I am always aware of the considerable danger of going too high. It's not an Icarus moment. I have nothing to melt. It is something more akin to "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" when the bubbles make Charlie and his grandfather rise too high and precariously close to the blades at the top of the chamber. My dreaming and quite lucid fear is that if I kick off without there being something for me to catch on to, that I will just continue to rise up, up and out of the earth's atmosphere. It is this that adds the element of fear to the dream and not the act of flying.
Anyway, I decided that I needed to investigate the possibility of hang-gliding or paragliding before I lost my nerve, got too old or too feeble and had to spend the rest of my life regretting that I only ever flew in my dreams. I have some idea what it might be like. I parascended from the back of a landrover when I was 15 which I adored and off a boat in Greece in my 20s so I have a degree of confidence that I will not wobble at the last minute and change my mind, although both experiences were a very long time ago.
I have filled in the booking form, signed the medical questionnaire and paid my deposit. I now have to wait for a weekend with the appropriate weather conditions and I am off. When it was just an idea I had lots of support from those that I mentioned it to. Now that it is about to become a reality people are showing concern, which is a little unnerving and asking about insurance which makes me question my actions. Is doing something that you know to be dangerous and potentially fatal unreasonably selfish? Perhaps if I were doing it without proper care and consideration but I have done my research and am sure it is as safe as it can be. Does it make a difference that I am a woman? Unquestionably. Extreme sport is de riguer for any man worth his testosterone. Caring, nurturing mothers are supposed to stay close to home and provide a safe and secure environment for their brood.
In the light of all this, will I go ahead with it? Absolutely. I have responsibilities to my family but also to myself and if I don't continue to grow and develop as a person what kind of a role model will I be for my children, particularly my beautiful daughters who one day will hopefully be making similar difficult decisions for themselves.
So now I am just waiting for the call.