Once upon a time, I dated a paratrooper. It didn’t last long. I realised he was dating an ideal mental construct that he’d layered onto my visage. So it ended, but I learned something all the same. Something about men’s capacity for self-delusion, and something about ripcords.
I’m going to talk about ripcords.
When you fall (jump, or are pushed) out of a plane, the ground seems a long ways away. It’s not. So while you’re falling, it’s good to take a beat remember there’s still time to take action. You can pull your ripcord. You need to pull your ripcord.
When you pull the ripcord, it’s going to (hopefully) release a parachute, and that’s going to yank you up, hard. That might hurt a bit, maybe even leave a bruise, but small matters if it saves your life. Right?
You’re still going to hit the ground, but not fatally. Why? Because pulling that ripcord deployed your chute and that gave you the time and space you needed to slow down and save yourself. And that’s the purpose of a ripcord. In normal life, you don’t need it. In dire situations, you do.
Because you pulled the ripcord, as you drift down, you get time to think. Time to position yourself a little better. Ripcords don’t prevent hitting reality. They prevent being smashed into it and splattered across it. They give you a chance to gain perspective, process what’s happening, recover your core orientation and choose a better way forward.
You still fall out of the plane, but you have a chance to maneuver yourself away from, say, a croc-infested river to a field of lounging kangaroos. Sure, you’re still going to have walk out of the bush, and that might entail avoiding the poisonous snakes and venomous spiders.
And okay, yes, you’ll still have to hitch a ride back to civilization with some drunken crazy miners, because the wind blew you way way way away from where your friends parked your chase vehicle. But, you didn’t smash into the earth or get splattered by crocs in a river.
Sometimes all the things that work for you when you’re in a normal bad situation, don’t work when you find yourself in an extreme or enduring crisis situation. In exponentially higher or prolonged levels of stress and danger, you might need to use extraordinary means to cope, to save yourself.
You might need a ripcord.
When all your usual coping mechanisms fail all you can see is ground speeding towards you as jump from the plane, you might find the only way you can slow the descent in your brain is to set your sights on finishing a triathlon next summer in Hawaii. Even though you’re 50lbs overweight, don’t have a bike, never learned to swim, and can’t afford a loaf of bread let alone a trip to Hawaii.
Whatever the ripcord is that when pulled snaps you out of plummeting and yanks you up into a drift descent so you can regain some control and make a soft landing, it’s good. Don’t judge yourself (or let others judge you) for opting to pull that ripcord, whatever it is. Trust that when you pull it, God, the universe, the Fates, will step in and things will shift a bit. Because you shifted your brain from Ahhhhg! to Ahhhh.
You can’t spend 24/7 being wound up by people that make their living off winding you up. You certainly don’t want to spend 24/7 winding yourself up. Maybe 30 min of local news a day is enough. Maybe it’s time to close the Facebook account or at least hit pause. Or use the block button on Twitter. Time with crazy people will make you crazy. Walk away from the crazy makers. And vote them out of office.
I know a ripcord that works for me, and whenever I find myself falling out of a plane, I pull the cord whether or not anyone else is upset by that. I do it because I know it works for me and I choose to live, and not let anyone make me crazy. The CDC is saying we have to hunker down and survive the winter. But maybe we have to do instead is pull some collective ripcords, stand up for what’s good and decent and right, and thrive in the winter.
It’s what I plan to do.