19: The Plunge

19: The Plunge

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

The Plunge

It is courage, courage, courage, that raises the blood of life to crimson splendor. Live bravely and present a brave front to adversity.


As my boyfriend Nathan and I rounded the last corner of the path, the sight of the bridge spanning the Cheakamus River pushed acid up in my throat. “Ready?” He gripped my hand while we approached, and then set out on, the bridge. The river raged 160 feet below us.

It wasn’t just our planned bungee jump that terrified me — it was also the fear of losing my developing independence to the gamble of a second marriage. Nathan hadn’t yet proposed, but we’d booked a trip to Las Vegas with our best friends, so I knew a proposal was coming during this weekend getaway in Whistler.

We signed the waivers, and then I faced the bungee operator who held up a red fabric harness. “For me?” I joked. “You shouldn’t have.” He helped me determine which appendage went through which space before cinching it tightly to my body.

“Don’t grab here.” My guide pointed to the harness clip that would attach to the flexible line. “It will pinch and rip your skin. Who’s going first?”

Nathan tipped his head in my direction to give me the choice. If I was going to look foolish, I’d rather get it over with before he did something handsomely athletic.

“Me,” I said. “I want to go first. He’s done this before. I haven’t.”

When it came to marriage, the reverse was true. Nathan didn’t realize it, but I did. There were no guarantees.

“Perfect safety record,” I heard one of the operators tell the people ahead of us.

I tugged at my harness, trying to make the thick fabric sit flat. I balled my hands into fists to stop fidgeting. Over the past two years, I’d learned to hide my depression and anxiety. I never wanted anyone to notice I was different. Now, a few months into recovery, but standing on this bridge with Nathan, the tight throat, stiff shoulders and racing thoughts seemed rather appropriate, and not a symptom of what I was working to overcome. Perhaps throwing up would be even more suitable.

“How you doing?” Nathan whispered as we waited for another fool to jump and then be reeled back up. Fully harnessed, the idea of tossing myself into a gorge was oddly easy to accept. But I wasn’t first in line yet.

“I think I’m fine,” I choked out.

“I’m nervous, too,” he confided.

Nathan’s honesty reminded me of his acceptance and gentle pushing for me to be more than I’d previously allowed. He didn’t dole out compliments, but instead pointed to things, like creating a really great dinner, to help me see the success in what I’d done. He saw my potential, even when I didn’t, and he watched me create a more independent self than had existed before.

Nathan found ways to help me love myself and not rely on his (or anyone’s) compliments or input to feel good. It was a new form of independence, but the potential of another botched marriage was more terrifying than a leap from a bridge.

“Ready?” the bungee guide asked.

I nodded, knowing I was anything but. Nathan grinned and gave me a thumbs-up, but tapped his foot rapidly. Seeing his nervousness softened my own a little.

Legs stilted, I approached the walkway. A pint-sized diving board extended over the river too far below. Trees lined the sides of the ravine. The guide hooked me to the main cord and told me to let my body go limp during the drop and rebounds. Little of what he said made sense. I had no context.

I inched to the edge of the platform jutting out from the bridge, intending to jump while looking at the river and trees below. It was all right there before me, ready for my leap of faith.

It was too scary, too intense. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t toss myself into the void in front of me.

I turned my back to the canyon, clutching the walkway handrails while my heels hovered above nothingness. I looked into Nathan’s smiling face.

He mouthed, “You can do it. We can do this.”

I found an increment of strength I hadn’t felt before. I wasn’t ready, but I would be. I convinced myself I’d jump in a second or two.

I hadn’t intended for the handrails to slip from my grip. I lunged through the air, reaching out, wanting to hold that solid familiar comfort for a little longer, but it was too late. I was gone. Falling.

The desire to flap and flail came from the half of me screaming to move my body. The other half froze, recognizing the futility in motion.

Air whizzed. Trees blurred. The material world blended with emotion.

Calm. Anxiety. Love. Fear.

A slow, soft resistance gradually caught me, and then pulled me back up toward the bridge and sky.

A moment of inertia, then back down. Up. Down. Up. Down. I was uncertain how long each bounce would last or when I’d stop, but I knew I was safe and had done something brave.

My limbs hung like a rag doll as the operator cranked me back up to the bridge.

“Are you okay?” he asked. “You were so quiet and still, we thought you’d passed out.”

I smiled, feeling a little proud of myself. “I’m fine. I’m recovering from anxiety and depression, so I just kind of went with it.”

“You have anxiety, and you did this? Wow. Good one.”

Nathan hugged me. He had the harness around his ankles, not around his torso like mine. His swan dive was far more attractive than my stone-like drop, yet I knew he had much less to overcome.

As we walked off the bridge back to the parking lot, a pair of women watching the jumpers stopped us.

“You did that?” The older woman pointed at me.

“Yes, she did.” Nathan smiled.

I did. I’d taken the leap. I wouldn’t jump off that bridge again, but I knew I would marry again. I would marry Nathan.

There would be ups and downs, but I would be safe and brave. I could handle it.

~Ronda Payne

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners