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Renee Alter’s Oct 2015 Submission : Chapter 9 from my memoir “Appearances: A Journey of Self-Discovery”
Imagine—you jump from a plane high in the sky with a parachute strapped to your back. The parachute is designed to automatically open at just the right distance from the ground. You know when it opens, your free fall will end and you will coast safely to earth, but while you are falling, fear grips at your soul. If the parachute doesn’t open, you will not survive. After the parachute opens, you can focus on the earth from a distance. Your perception is larger than when you are standing on earth.
I’ve learned we are all born with an unlimited supply of parachutes. Yet, each time I must let go of previous experiences, like a relationship, job or home (or all three simultaneously), I feel as though I am free falling. I know that the parachute will open and God will make sure I land safely and provide me with everything I need. But I am terrified on the way down. I never know where I am going to land until I get there. Feelings of panic in the form of depression, isolation and disorientation grip my being while I wait for God to do what God does at the exact right moment. I don’t know what that moment will be – just like I don’t know when that parachute will open. Sometimes the panic gets so bad I lose faith that the parachute will open at all.
Suddenly, in every circumstance, the parachute opens. My view of the world becomes clear. As I see things from a distance, my perception expands. At that moment, I usually know what to do and what decisions to make. Circumstances rearrange themselves like clouds forming in the sky to fit into a perfect shape. By the time I get to the ground, I have exactly what I need to move on to another segment of my life. Like a dandelion seed that had been blowing in the wind for quite some time, I take root and watch life grow around me again.
I don’t like the feeling of free falling, being face to face with the unknown, yet I keep finding myself there. I had seen marriage as a parachute but it was one that tore on the way down. I find that the only parachutes I can truly rely on are the ones God supplies me with. Perhaps if I did not have so many mishaps and experienced God’s parachutes so many times I would not have any faith in them.
In May 1996, I found myself in the free fall again – jobless, homeless, and running from my marriage. Sometimes I could close my eyes and get lost in the sensation of falling. Other times I panicked as my world spun around me in the form of the many choices I felt unable to make. I moved into the second half of my life with the belief that I DO have parachutes and that God always makes sure that I land safely.
I knew that somewhere down there, the perfect job was waiting. Somewhere down there I knew there was a perfect home for Jesse and me to settle into. Somewhere down there I knew there was the magic of a healthy relationship complete with love, compassion, encouragement, nurturing, understanding and cooperation.
While I waited for the landing, this book was forming. Each morning for two weeks, I woke up knowing exactly what I was going to write, and spent the entire day writing….