Skydiving for Tonic
Tonic Ambassador Denise Black has written a rousing piece about skydiving in support of Tonic. Read on to be inspired.
Back when the world was normal, before Covid turned our lives upside down, the Tonic Ska Choir sang at the premiere of The Last Tree in my hometown. I was scared before the event. This audience contained my family and friends and meant so much to me. Not everyone can say, “I got my movie break aged 60”, but that’s what happened to me, and the Tonic Ska Choir set the tone for a joyful evening.
Cos that’s what music does eh? It makes life better, and when you are struggling it can be a lifeline. But what to do when the going gets really tough and your own self-help doesn’t blow away your blues? That’s where Tonic steps in. If you are struggling with mental health issues, they are a haven. And it’s free.
Cut to earlier this year, 2nd lockdown. I get a call from Steph at Tonic:
“Would you like to be an Ambassador?”
This to a person who’s really feeling the pinch and losing sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. Wow.
“Yes! Of course! What do I have to do?” I replied.
“Jump out of a plane”, Steph said.
Skydiving isn’t for everyone, but it had once been on my bucket list – when I was young. But I’d let it go. It’s something I have to promise I won’t do every time I sign up for work. But here I was, two new hips and my industry closed. Why not?
The funny thing was that, although I agreed to do it, I refrained from putting it in my diary. I guess that was my way of dealing with my fear. I’d had a few meltdowns in lockdown, and I was frightened I might disgrace myself. Meanwhile, Tonic set up my fundraising page and pledges were pouring in, smashing my expectations. Their support really encouraged me and with just a week to go the countdown was on and I finally put it in my diary. We were experiencing a heatwave and everything looked good to go…
Cut to two days before D-Day and they start forecasting storms over Salisbury. We weather watched. It was on, it was off, finally the morning came and it was on – maybe – and off we set for Salisbury hoping for a break in the clouds, still not sure if we’d be able to take off. Even after the training, harnessed up and raring to go, it was still full cloud cover. Then a chink appeared and the first plane went up and the professionals did a jump to show us. I was in the 2nd plane load of tandem jumpers. However, even at this 11th hour, there was a new obstacle.
I’ve been taken into a back room. There’s a problem. It’s my arm. Now my arm may look funny, but it’s strong and there is no medical or physical reason why it would be a problem, so while I understand people’s fear, I get very fierce when told ‘sorry, you can’t do this’ because I am perceived as disabled. The poor lady is waiving paper contracts at me and reading me clauses and I’m arguing. Enter Ryan: “I’ll take her”. Wow! Ryan is gorgeous and very experienced. Safe hands! I’m stoked.
I say goodbye to Nora and my friends and kiss people I don’t know and we’re off. There’s a video to watch, but I want to tell you how it felt.
We’re in the plane tethered up and looking out the window and chatting. I’m not sure what 15,000 feet looks like so when I think I hear we’ve got there, I’m relieved. Looks manageable. We keep climbing. Then I hear “Half way there” and the enormity of what is about to unfold hits me. Up and up, we fly, through the clouds and into that other place you only see from planes, 3 miles up and into the blue, above a sea of cotton wool. Look carefully at my breathing in the video. My heart is really pumping now!
Then the door opens and a man steps outside and holds on. I’m thinking, “that’s dangerous”, but I get distracted as the person two places in front of me falls out. Then the person in front of me. And then everyone on the other row… I’m last to go. This is the moment. I shimmy along and sit in the open door and rest my head back on Ryan’s shoulder as instructed… And whoosh. It happened before I knew it.
It’s a dream. All fear stops, I don’t know why. But the noise! The wind! Ryan points out the bottom of the plane just below me. I guess I’m upside down? I don’t know which way is up. Then we steady out and I get the tap on my shoulder and I can stretch out my arms. We are flying and it’s all your dreams rolled into one, but LOUD with some serious ear popping going on. And it is gobsmacking!
Freefall lasts a minute. Then the parachute boings you up and vertical and everything stops. There is no sense of falling, only floating, and it is very, very peaceful, and beautiful, and time stands still. What did I feel?
Wonderment. And Love.
For everything and everyone, but especially for our lovely planet.
I had expected to worry about landing, but no.
I had thought the euphoria might wear off and bring me back with a bump. But no.
I had thought it might change me? Jury out. That’s the hardest thing of all, to change oneself. But you know, I feel different.
Skydiving gave me a glimpse of a new perspective. I felt brave. I felt safe (how bizarre is that?) and now I feel grateful. Maybe I’m stronger than I thought?
But bigger than all that… I feel genuinely happy.
No price on that eh?
Thank you sponsors, thank you Ryan, thank you Tonic!