Jumping Off a 35-Foot Cliff and Facing One’s Fears

35-foot Cliff

That’s the cliff I jumped off. Yes, from the top.

Other than my immediate family, not many people are aware that I have a bit of a fear of heights. Now it’s not a debilitating “phobia” as others may actually suffer from, but I certainly get strong feelings of anxiousness when looking out from tall buildings or over railings. Sometimes even driving over long or tall bridges gives me “the willies”. It’s enough of a fear that I will make a little effort to avoid it when possible, but not so much that it actually interferes with “normal” situations.

I had the good fortune to take a lake vacation for the week of July 4th with some friends on Lake Norfolk in Arkansas. One of the activities available is jumping off a cliff into the lake. There is a short section about 10-12 feet to jump off and then there is an approximately 35-foot jump from the top. Joining my kids, I had no problem jumping off the 10-foot section. But we were all curious about the 35-foot jump. My 12-year old daughter especially, who is a big fan of the Divergent series, wanted to try the jump to emulate the initiation of the Dauntless faction. We went up to the top section and took a look. Surprisingly, the view over the edge didn’t make the hair on the back of my neck stand up – not that there is actually any hair on the back of my neck, but you know the feeling! So my daughter and I talked and we both decided to face our fears and take the leap.

I asked my daughter if she wanted me to go first and of course she did. So I started psyching myself up to make the leap. Now that I had committed to making the jump, the view over the edge suddenly looked a little more intimidating! I got myself up to the edge and began visualizing my leap. Ironically I had just been talking to my daughters the day before about fear and the fight or flight response. Now we got to put it into action. Besides the anxiety at jumping off a cliff, there was some fear of the falling sensation and also about hitting the water correctly so it wouldn’t hurt. My conscious mind was realizing that I had watched many other people jump before me and nobody was getting hurt. All these things raced through my mind as I tried to urge myself to make the jump. I looked down at all the people who were in boats watching me and the other jumpers. I looked down at the water. Then my hands and arms literally got numb. Not like tingly but seriously prickly-numb like electricity was flowing through them. I started shaking out my arms to ward off the sensation. It was like my body couldn’t believe what my brain was contemplating. After a few seconds this numbness subsided and I was ready to go. Now the hard part was making my legs actually jump. I was mentally ready for the jump, but it’s one thing to physically force yourself to leap over a cliff. I went for it once but stopped. My legs simply wouldn’t do what I was commanding them to do. Then I started talking to myself loudly trying to muster up the last bit of courage to force myself to go through with it. It took a few more seconds but I finally felt the moment and I jumped …

… I was flying through the air …

The hardest part was making the jump. The rest was easy. Not that I had enough time to think about anything but trying to hit the water feet-first. It was over so quickly that I don’t really remember anything except the view of my legs clearing the cliff – that and hitting the water. I mostly landed correctly and splashdown really didn’t hurt. Although who knows how much adrenaline was pumping through my veins!

I made room for my daughter to jump. Unlike me who took several minutes to finally leap over the cliff, she hesitated just once but then went for it. It was nice to have a shared experience like that, especially when conquering something that is one of my only fears. I rode high on that the rest of the day. It’s not every day we get to push our own limits and I’m glad I was able to pass this particular test.

  • Mike Grimes

    The hardest part was making the jump.