Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Intentionality Reworked

Bungee Jumping was never on my Bucket List.  I had no intention of diving head first from a height that, in any and all other circumstances, would cause me to plummet to my death.  I never identified it as fear within myself, but rather practicality and chocked it off to a good head on my shoulders.  What would cause a person to do that?  I watched shows on TV that relish the element of fear associated with stunts and (what I would consider) reckless behavior, and I enjoyed every moment of their torturous demise.  I never even considered the possibility of being one of them. 

Why did I join the ranks of the irresponsible and dangerous?  I went to Africa.  Uganda alone takes you outside your comfort zone in incomparable ways.  I firmly believe the people you are with can make or break your trip, but the way you handle them can also make or break your trip.  Many people tend to put all the blame on others when things do not go according to plan, instead of taking some of the fault.  Initially, I was most people.  I did not want to own the fact that the only person who could make my trip what I wanted it to be was me.  I felt frustration with myself and other people, anger at the way I handled things and the way others were handling conflict, tension when we would come to each other and try to ignore the elephants in the room, and desire to be someone who could let it all roll off my back.  Sometimes you have to face things, but sometimes you have to let it go.

After three weeks of what felt like a roller coaster of high school emotions that I should have overcome eight years prior, our group piled into an off-roading vehicle and we took off from the capital city of Kampala.  We arrived at the Nile first thing in the morning, with most in our group ready to go white water rafting.  Much to their dismay, all the boats were full upon our arrival.  All in the same moment we noticed there was another optional activity involving the Nile River – bungee jumping over it. 

Regardless of the fact that I felt completely uncomfortable with the situation, I instantly agreed to do it.  I could not breathe when walking to the tower.  I just kept looking up and down and seeing the gap betwixt the two.  I wanted to turn around, but at the same time run ahead.  I had never done anything like this before and in that truth was where the excitement hid.  Knowing I was doing something brand new gave me the motivation to move forward.  Everything unique to yourself is exciting; the first time you do anything it is crazy and wild and amazing.  However, we grow used to everything and need to try new things and let other new experiences change our very core.  When you first start driving it feels amazing, ten years down the road not so much.  When you first go away to college you feel a tremendous sense of freedom, after a couple of months that sense has rested on the reality of a college life.  First kisses are incredible and you feel like your heart my beat right out of your chest, but when you reach the millionth kiss things feel a little more normal and settled.  Things I have not yet experienced will inevitably follow the same path: Marriage, Children, a first home, etc…  I honestly went on this digression on my walk to what felt like the top of the world.

When I reached the point of no return, I thought I would want to hold on to the bar, I thought I would close my eyes, and I thought I would feel like crying.  I surprised even myself when the countdown ended and I jumped.  No hesitation and no trepidation.  Just a deep breath.  When I released that breath and looked down and out at the Nile and Uganda in all its beauty, I could not help but give it all up.   It did not matter what emotions were running high or who had eaten the last of the hot sauce, what did matter was the place I was in I may never be again and I was giving up the glory of the moment for the ability to hold onto the petty.  Diving in was both physically what I did and a mental metaphor for what happened to me that day.  When I dropped down into a boat underneath me I came out of that experience a new person, but I often wonder what if I had just chosen that attitude from day 1?  Does it affect you more if you go through the process?  Should we go through the process time and time again, or is this a lesson we should learn once and daily apply to all situations? 

The release I felt was not from the act of bungee jumping itself, but it was from the mental decision to let go.  Get over it.  Move on.  Stop worrying. Why do I not decide to do that every day?  Where does our mentality to control things to our own course come from?  Bungee jumping is something I will never forget.   Not only because of the pure exhilaration that I felt, but also because I changed the way I lived after that day.  I have always cringed at the word intentionality because it felt like a hidden agenda, but now I welcome it with open arms.  You can be intentional about the way you let others affect you and at the same time keep in mind how you are affecting others.  It does not come naturally, and that is where the intentional part comes in.

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