The ultimate trust fall

SkyHawks jumpmaster, "Scooter," adjusts the straps on Linda Welz's harness before skydiving Feb. 11.  (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Crusher)

SkyHawks jumpmaster, "Scooter," adjusts the straps on Linda Welz's harness before skydiving Feb. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Crusher)

SkyHawks jumpmaster, "Scooter," similates skydiving movements as he prepares Linda Welz for her tandem jump.  (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Crusher)

SkyHawks jumpmaster, "Scooter," similates skydiving movements as he prepares Linda Welz for her tandem jump. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Crusher)

03/04/2011 -- Have you ever played the "trust fall" game? You know, the one where you stretch out your arms, lock your knees, fall backward and trust someone to catch you before you hit the ground? It's a scary feeling, isn't it?

For me, trust isn't something that comes naturally, even in normal, everyday situations. To me, trust has to be earned. When my co-worker suggested that I skydive with the Canadian SkyHawks during their recent visit to Southern California, I was hesitant, to say the least. Falling backward while standing on the ground is one thing, but jumping from an airplane is quite another.

Many people are afraid of skydiving because they are afraid of heights. That's not the case for me. My uncertainty about skydiving was a lack of trust.

When you skydive for the first time, you're attached at four places to a jump master who you've put your absolute trust in. While I took comfort in the SkyHawks' expertise, I couldn't get past the "what-ifs."

What if the plane has mechanical problems? What if the flight is a bad one? What if I panic? What if my tandem master and I fall into an uncontrollable tumble? What if the chute fails and doesn't open? What if it opens, but the lines get tangled? What if we miss the airport and land in a swamp filled with alligators?

OK, so my last one is a reach, but the point is that I was facing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I was going to have to work through these mental roadblocks in order to participate. Two weeks before the Skyhawks' visit, I made the commitment, knowing my co-workers wouldn't let me back out.

As the jump day approached, I was apprehensive, because my fears made me vulnerable. Could I go through with it?

The changingminds.org web site says that trust is enabling other people to take advantage of your vulnerabilities, but hoping that they will not. This time, I was going to have to put my trust in the process and the professionals who were trained in each step of that process.

On the morning of the skydive, my husband and children called to say hello, but they sounded more like they were saying good bye and I recalled a quote I once read that said, "Mistrust makes life difficult. Trust makes it risky."

While I had made the decision to trust, it didn't mean they had. I was the one trusting, the one taking the risk--a literal leap of faith.

At the airport, I donned my flight suit and I reviewed the jump process with "Scooter," my jump master. Slowly, he began to earn my trust. He made me believe in his confidence and assured me I had nothing to worry about.

When all was said and done, my skydive proved to be the ultimate trust fall game and I succeeded. I made the decision to trust and to enjoy the ride. And what a ride it was!