This ain’t gonna be no Grandma’s Grocery List

Grandma’s Listminus 1.

Today, I turn 57.

Today, I jumped out of an airplane at 10,000 feet and did a 40 second freefall at 120 mph… then my awesome tandem skydive guy Justin at Skydive Newport deployed our parachute at 5,000 feet above the ground for the most spectacular parachute ride over the magnificence of Newport, Rhode Island and its surroundings.

Today, I came to know myself better than I think I ever have in all my 57 years.

It begins with a List.  My List of  57 things that I want to accomplish, or attempt, over the next 52 weeks.  It’s a celebration of my 57 years.  It’s a challenge to my 57 year-old self.  It’s a way to have fun… especially with my 9 grandchildren.

And today I cross #1 off my List of 57 in 52Skydiving.  I chose Skydiving as my first accomplishment for two reasons – 1) I am a fearful flier; 2) I am terrified of heights.  I surmised that if I could take these fears and challenge them, then the rest of the list may actually be do-able.  I knew that once I made the reservation to jump, I would not back out.  I did this last Friday.

Today, my husband and my mother accompanied me to Skydive Newport.  To say I was nervous is the understatement of the century, but the morning was perfect with blue sky, little wind and no clouds.  This was my first blessing.  The second blessing was Justin, the most calm, patient, kind and fun tandem instructor who ever existed (sorry to any other instructors out there, but being my first time and all, I fell… literally, for Justin!).  The third blessing was company on my adventure.  Three other people showed up to skydive as well… 2 beautiful young women and one warm and wonderful young man… and we “trained” together for our jumps.  Autumn, Megan and James.  They are the embodiment and exuberance of youth and energy.  I needed them today.  And, oh… the fabulous PINK jumpsuit was certainly a touch of inspiration, yes!?

One thing that rather shocked surprised me was the size of the plane that would take us up to 10,000 feet.  Does size matter?  I thought so.  So why was I squeezing into a foot locker with Justin, James and James’ tandem instructor?  Ah.  To bond.  I think.  The plane was not large enough for all 4 jumpers and 4 instructors plus the pilot… so James had been relegated to jump with me!  There we were, 2 jumpers and 2 instructors and the pilot, all sitting together on the floor of the tiny plane… talking and laughing and smiling and admiring the splendor outside the plane windows.  Nature.  Humanity.  The intimacy of companionship.  Inescapable risk.  Independence and interdependence.

It was a remarkable ascent.

James would be jumping first.  It was time.  His instructor opened the door of the small plane and I felt the immediate rushhhhh of cool air.  My heart pounded for James.  I was close enough to the open door to see the tiny specks of a universe far, far below us and I thought, “I’m going to do this.  I’m really going to do this.”  Then James was gone.

Justin called to me over the noise of the rushhhhh of wind, “Not yet.” I was inches from the door.

Then he said, “Put your leg out.” I had watched the video.  I was ready for this instruction.  But I was not ready for the intensity of the wind as it pushed my leg and my body to the right.  I was supposed to put my feet on the little step outside the plane… the little step 10,000 feet above my husband, my mom, my life.  Justin put his right leg out and I followed with my legs with almost calm normalcy.  I could feel the wind on my face now.  I knew I was ready to fly.

And then we were flying.  Floating.  I know we were freefalling… that’s the term… but I felt like I was still.  Still as in not moving and still as in the most glorious tranquility I have ever experienced.  I felt penetratingly perceptive, as if I was understanding everything God intended me to understand.  I felt alive.  I knew the wind was whipping my hair and I knew I was telling Justin how awesome I felt and I knew we were falling… but my heart was compliant with a wish.  A wish to know myself and my courage a tiny bit better.  I was still within myself.

My wish came true because I was finishing the moment.

Then Justin engaged the parachute.  We floated back up, or so it seemed, for an endlessly beautiful moment… and I looked down to see majesty.  The ocean, in deep Fall blues.  The trees, reaching toward us.  The bridges and railways and airports of man.  I saw James a few hundred feet below us… and I watched his enchanting rainbow parachute as it danced in the wind.  I felt such happiness that he was safe.

Then I saw my husband.  And my Mom.  They were waving.  I wasn’t close enough to see their faces, but I felt their smiles and pride and awe floating up to me.  I was almost at my journey’s end when I realized, truly realized, what I had just done.

And then I was on the ground.  But something had changed.  I had flown.  I think I discovered the meaning of freedom in those few minutes of flying.  The freedom to create.  To craft.  To live.

The freedom to finish many moments.

I immediately ran to my husband and my Mom and got the biggest birthday hugs imaginable. They were my joy at the end of this little journey.   And then there was James.  My companion on this journey.  To James, I’d like to say that he inspired me to remember a long-forgotten quote from the Essays of Montaigne:  My trade and art is to live.

Thank you, Barry and Mom.  Thank you, James and Autumn and Megan.  Thank you, Justin… for giving me your wings.  You are incredible.

And my continued List?  Stay tuned.  I’ve got 56 things left in 52 weeks.  They may not all be as dramatic as today’s… but they are all inspired by the art of living!

About Audrey

Audrey McClelland has been a digital influencer since 2005. She’s a mom of 5 and shares tips on her three favorite things: parenting, fashion and beauty. She’s also a Contemporary Romance Author.

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  1. 10.6.09

    Holy crap girlfriend!!!! Nothing like starting with a biggie. I couldn’t do this if I was promised a million dollars and a models body. No freakin way. I am so proud of you!! You never cease to amaze me. Happy Happy Birthday!

  2. 10.6.09

    Wow! You really are a superstar. Was thinking of you today and so excited to hear you did it! Congrats and I hope you can enjoy all the 56 remaining items on your list.

  3. 10.6.09

    I felt like I was there by reading this Sharon. WOW. So amazing and how beautifully told. Congratulations on checking off Number 1. Can’t wait to hear about the rest :). Happy Birthday!!

  4. 10.6.09
    Erin said:

    You are such a brilliant writer, Sharon. I felt like I was right there with you, heart pounding and everything! I am so very in awe of your bravery. I don’t know if I could sky dive, but you’ve made me consider it!

  5. 10.6.09

    Oh my, my heart is pounding just READING this!! You are so brave! I love how you are embracing life!

    Happy Birthday!

  6. 10.6.09

    Happy Birthday Sharon!! Wow! For some reason this post brought tears to my eyes. I don’t think I could ever jump from a plane! you are amazing 🙂

  7. 10.6.09
    Alli said:

    You rock! Happy birthday : )

  8. 10.6.09
    Julie said:

    you’re my hero.

    ps – i love that you are wearing pink, even a pink jumpsuit!

  9. 10.6.09
    Connie said:

    Sharon, I so KNEW you were going to sky dive today!

    I am at one with flipflopmamma: I have tears in my eyes reading your amazing telling of your newest adventure. Not your Grandma’s grocery list indeed!

    You are an inspiration to women of a certain age everywhere. Fearless! Brave! Awesome! Awe inspiring! Daring! Intrepid! Amazing!

    Mere words will never do justice to you. You are leaving an INDELIBLE mark on this world, on those who know you, on those who love you.

    I love you dear friend, more than words can express.

    By the way, I will be following in your footsteps….. FIGURATIVELY!!!!!

    Like all of us who read your blog, I am greatly anticipating the next chapters.

    Much Love,

  10. 10.6.09
    Janie said:

    I’m with Jaymi – I felt tears, too! I can’t even describe the pride and awe. I was sitting in a room, listening to people speak, but checking my phone every two seconds to see if Dad had texted me yet. When I got his text: “The eagle has landed” I felt such relief! I love you, Mom! Happy Birthday to my constant inspiration!

  11. 10.6.09
    ~love said:

    totally crying.

    my trade and art is to live. YES IT IS. i love it.

    happiest of birthdays to you. this post has inspired me in many ways….thank you.

  12. 10.6.09
    Nik said:

    Wicked kool…:)

  13. 10.6.09
    Cameron said:

    I came over from a twitter recommendation from Erin and I just had to say GO YOU!!! I don’t think I could ever do it–I have a tremendous fear of falling!–but this blog entry makes me think twice about it! What might I discover about myself in those seconds? Hmmm. Great job and congratulations!!! I wish you the very best of luck with the rest of your list and I’m bookmarking you so I can check back on your journey!! 🙂

  14. 10.6.09
    Heather said:

    I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!! You are one amazing lady, Sharon! I can’t wait to watch you through this journey!

  15. 10.7.09

    Congratuations and Happy Birthday you amazing woman!

  16. 10.7.09
    Louise said:

    amazing! well done. I have my first skydive on saturday. Was really nervous, but your blog has made me excited about it again!!

  17. 10.7.09
    Lucy said:

    Lord, I hate heights and I don’t think I have the courage it takes to go skydiving. I give you so much credit for overcoming your fears (which are totally rational by the way). You are an amazing person. So glad that God gave this chance to reconnect with you after all these years. Keep us posted on your adventures. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for next week.

  18. 10.7.09

    Wow! Amazing! I know your family is so proud of you. And you are proud of yourself.

  19. 10.7.09
    Lisa said:

    Congratulations!! What a way to kick things off! You’ve inspired us all!

  20. 10.7.09
    mommy boo of two said:

    Oh my goodness!!! That is amazing and your mom is so adorable 🙂 Way to start your birthday off big! Can’t wait to see what #2 is going to be 🙂

  21. 10.7.09
    Rocket said:


  22. 10.8.09

    I’m still speechless. STILL.

  23. 10.8.09

    Oh. My. GOSH. I can NOT believe you did that!

    Loved meeting you at the TJMaxx in Boston a few weeks ago. Your daughters are delightful, and I can see why. They have an adventurous, fun-loving mama! 🙂

  24. 10.9.09
    Poppy said:

    CRAZY LADY!!!!! *giggle*

  25. 10.13.09
    Chrissy said:

    I am in awe!! The thought of skydiving terrifies me – what a brave and wonderful experience to pick as the first thing on your list. And, yes, that pink jumpsuit is pretty fabulous. 😉 Congratulations!! I can’t wait to see what else you have in store.

  26. 10.17.09
    Bernadette said:

    You are one crazy girl!!!

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