As I was still in bed this morning trying to figure out if my body was actually going to allow me to get going for the day, I caught a glimps at the news and was suddenly awestruck by the story of Eleanor Cunningham. At first glance, Eleanor looks just like any other grandmother, a slight woman with grey hair and glasses, a face full of wrinkles, but also a great big smile. Eleanor turned 95 this past week, and to celebrate, this weekend she jumped out of an airplane. This was in fact the second time she undertook this feat, the first time was five years ago when she was a young spring chicken of just 90. In the story, her family laughed and called her daffy for doing this, but in the world I live in, Eleanor just became my biggest hero.
I wouldn’t say that I am an adventurous type, but I have always wanted to skydive. There are in fact, certain members of my own family that think I am a little daffy myself just for thinking about it, but that does not stop the desire to give it a try some time. My only fear is that it would become an addictive habit. Once I try it I would want to do it again and again. I have a little bit of history to back me up on this one, you see I waited until I was over 40 before I finally got a tattoo, it was something I had thought about since college, and since that first time I have now been inked almost a dozen times. And I have a feeling there will be a number more before too long. I did come very close to taking the big leap a few years ago, a few friends from work were all making the trip together and I was rearing to go. Unfortunately that was also the summer I twisted my knee up playing a catch in the lake with my kids, and I had surgery just a few days before the jump date. Something tells me my doctor would not have been too happy with me if I came back the next week with it all messed up again. So I missed that chance, but I will indeed one day jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Hopefully before I am 95.
Eleanor’s story is an inspiration to me, and a reminder that you are never too old to live your dreams. Sure, not all dreams are as high-flying as hers or mine, but we all have those things we have always wanted to try, but for some reason or another we have not gotten around to them. But I never want fear to be that factor for me. Sure, the idea of free-falling face first towards the ground does make me nervous, but so does that wait in the line for a rollercoaster. But I love rollercoasters. And once I get on and start that climb to the top the nervousness becomes excitement, and as I plummet from that first drop, the smile on my face can not be stopped. I have to imagine that I would experience the same type of up and down emotions when getting ready to skydive, but I would hate to think that I would let my fears prevent me from doing something I really want to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that everyone should jump out of a plane to face their fears, this particular situation works for me, but if you have no desire to jump out of a plane, then doing it would just be asinine. A friend of mine just ran the Sears Tower race this weekend. It is 103 flights up the tower from the lobby to the observation deck. This seems like pure stupidity to me, but that is because I don’t want to climb the stairs in my own house most of the time, why would I want to run UP the Sears Tower. And before I get any complaints, yes, I know it is now called the Willis Tower, but until the day that Gary Coleman grows more than six-foot tall, I will continue to call it the Sears Tower. That’s what I’m talking about Willis.
The point is, that too many people don’t do things because they are afraid. I see this sometimes in my own kids, and it makes me nuts. If you want to run a marathon, then just do it. If you want to travel around Europe, then save the money and plot the time and do it. Life is too short to spend all this time wishing you would have done something. Of course, also take into account your other responsibilities in life. Part of the reason I started writing this blog is because I had always wanted to try my hand at writing, but I did not quit my job to persue the writing of the all American novel. I still have a mortgage to pay, and kids to feed. Sure, it may lead me to writing other things, perhaps a short story or script, I may even one day try to get something published. And even if I should get turned down, at least I would have tried. And I would have no regrets.
Back in 2004, Tim McGraw had a hit with a song entitled Live Like You Were Dying. The song was dedicated to his father, the late “Tug” McGraw, who was a major league pitcher for the Mets and Phillies for almost 20 years, and had passed away earlier that year. The song was to honor his father’s free spirit mentality and to express the idea that if you lived each day like it was your last, you would then experience your life to the fullest. Although I commend the idea behind the song, I have always had just one little problem with this idea. Rather than living my life like it was coming towards the end, I would rather celebrate each day as a new beginning. I would rather live like I was living, each day full of possibilities and adventure. Sure, not every adventure is as thrilling as jumping out of an airplane, but there is also a lot of joy and excitement to be had knowing that when you get home tonight, someone has taken the time to make Sloppy Joes and Tater Tots for you just because it is one of your favorite meals. Living your life to the fullest doesn’t mean that you give up on the everyday parts of life, but enhance them with those extra adventures from time to time. Ride a rollercoaster. Sing out loud, even when others are listening. Take a trip somewhere you always wanted to go. Kiss your kids and hug your friends. Live like you were living.
After she had safely landed back on solid ground, Eleanor Cunningham told all of the press gathered that she hoped when she turned 100 she would be able to celebrate that birthday by taking a trip to the moon. So maybe the old broad is a little daffy, but she is still my hero. And who knows, with a spirit and a heart as big as hers, she might just make it there. She doesn’t strike me as one who tends to give up easily. Maybe we should all take a cue from Eleanor. Do the things we want to do, be happy and spread that happiness to others. Be a little daffy every now and then, and most importantly, live. Just live each day as if it is a great adventure, and then let that adventure be your life.