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Friday, April 30, 2010

Learning To Fly

For a long time, I wasn't ready to fly. I didn't have the tools. I didn't know how to use the tools. I was afraid. I had reason after reason, and sometimes I believed that I didn't even want to fly. In DBT, I was given a harness and a parachute. They taught me how to operate them; which levers to pull, which buttons to press, which skills to use at which point. We did trial runs which sometimes were nothing more than bunny hops along the ground.

And then we walked, together, to that cliff. We stood there, us and our instructors, and we looked over the edge. I backed away. I wasn't ready. I was still afraid. "It's okay," they told me. "It's normal to be afraid." I wore my parachute and harness as I climbed down the ladder and fell to the ground. I had told myself I wasn't ready. I practiced more. Little jumps with soft landings.

As we climbed that ladder over and over, I watched as more and more of my peers took that step. I watched them swoop and fly. Their laughter drifted back through the wind, and I stood closer to the edge. One by one, my peers took that step I couldn't manage, and I watched them fly. Sometimes they stood where they had landed for a while, sometimes they climbed the ladder again for another dive. "Give it a go," they'd tell me. "It's the most wonderful feeling in the world." "I'm afraid," I'd reply, and they'd show me again how they did it. "You've got all of us to catch you," they'd tell me, "but you won't need us. You can do it!" And still, I wasn't ready.

I watched and I took small steps closer and closer to the edge, but never would I take the one step that would leave the cliff behind me.

I imagine my instructors despaired of me, at times. This wasn't a cliff they could push me off, to prove to me that I could do it. I had to take the step myself, but I wasn't ready. I had the equipment, now. I had the knowledge. I had some practice. But I didn't believe I could do it. I watched my peers do it, and it taught me that it could be done... but I still didn't believe that I could do it. They couldn't force me to take the step, all they could do was remind me time and again that they believed in me, remind me that even when I bit the dust on a bunny hop, I could get up and try again.

I didn't believe I could do it. I was still too afraid. I still believed, too often, that I didn't really want to fly; that I didn't need to fly.

Eventually, my instructors moved on. "This is as far as we can take you," I was told. "The rest is up to you. Either you'll step off and fly, or you won't, but we can't do it for you." Still, I wasn't ready.

My instructors left and in my sadness, I failed to notice the ladder they had left. At the top of the cliff, I tiptoed to the edge and looked over. I could see my peers in the air below, circling and waving, and their support echoed in the air. "I'm not ready," I wept. "I can't do this on my own." In my desperation, I clung to my parachute, to my harness; so tight that they began to rub and fray, so I removed them. The earth shook around me and I lost my footing. Without the parachute, without the harness, I began to fall and I landed, hard, upon a ledge I hadn't been able to see. My landing knocked the breath out of me, and I lay winded for a while, but I had learnt something valuable - I didn't die.

When I got breath back, I put my harness and parachute back on, and I stepped over the ledge.

My flight is errant. I stop off at a lot of ledges along the way, and sometimes I forget what flying feels like. Sometimes I forget what wanting to fly feels like. My parachute is still frayed, my harness chafes and I sometimes take them off for a little while until I remember again how much I want to fly.

My peers have their own flight patterns. Sometimes their flights are errant as well. From here, their flight seems so much smoother, but whether it is or not, I can't judge, and it doesn't matter. All that matters is that I'm finally ready to start flying. It's okay that my flight is errant. It's okay that it took me longer to take that step. It's okay that I'm still practicing. Maybe I'll always be practicing, and maybe I'll never really fly with the freedom others have, that's okay. I'm finally ready to fly, and I'll fly at the pace that is right for me.

Today's cheer-leading statements:
I made a mistake - so what? I don't have to punish myself forever for one bit of bad judgement.
Just because something is right for someone else doesn't mean it's right for me.
I am choosing to make healthier choices for myself.
It's important to take time to look at the positive things, but that doesn't have to mean pretending that there are no negatives.
Just because I caused my wounds myself doesn't mean I don't deserve proper medical treatment for them.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.


  1. Wow. Very insightful and powerful. One day, however, you will not need a harness or a parachute because you will have wings; and you will be able to fly with the grace and beauty of the angel you truly are. I can't wait for that day to come, and I will be beside you every step of the way! xx

  2. Very nice. And encouraging for me as I'm midway through DBT and wonder what it's like to be done.

  3. Very well written. I like the whole parachute metaphor. :)

  4. Thank you all.

    Stacy, I don't know if any borderline is ever "done" - DBT is finished, but the ramifications of being BPD will probably always be part of my life; and so will the things I have learned in DBT (I hope).

    bpdisme: I have to be honest and admit that I borrowed it off one of the ladies I did DBT with. She also used to tell me I needed to either "shit or get off the potty" -- but I prefer the cliff/parachute version! ;)