A Parachute Was Not An Option - But I Jumped Anyway
by Lianne Laing
I was 42, married, a mother of two healthy girls and earning over six figures when I decided to jump off a cliff. This is not the story of me wanting to end my life- rather the desire to create a new one. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I knew I was about to jump, nor did I know exactly when it would happen – the only thing I was certain of is that there would be no parachute. I would need to learn how to fly and survive while in the air.
As a former elite gymnast, my body has always been my work tool. I relied on its strength and flexibility for decades. I could break bones, twist ligaments, wear casts and tape up my sore spots and it always bounced back. It never failed me. Until the day it did. As the pain pierced through my skin, burning from the inside out, from one nerve end to the next I knew that Shingles would be my wake-up call. The pain was intense. I paced the house looking to release the discomfort and at times felt that chopping off certain body parts would be a better solution than coping with the current situation. It was the first time in my adult life I had missed work two days in a row. It was my body calling out, asking that I listen. It was tired of keeping up an insane schedule- but it was more than that- my body was responding to my internal thoughts yet to be spoken aloud. I was drowning, stuck and above all, tired. And as I have done for the last 30 years- I listened to my body and began the external conversation that led to the jump.
Until recently I worked in Broadcast Television. I worked just shy of 20 years for the same company. My career began straight out of university when a unique opportunity (right place, right time, right attitude) landed me on television as a sports anchor. After ten years as a sports anchor and with the arrival of my second daughter, my role was magnified and I became the new host of our morning show. I spent the next (almost ten years) waking up the city with a four- hour live show. It was an amazing run, with some incredible moments and fascinating interviews. It gave me a wonderful perspective of what makes a city tick. But for those of you who think the world of television is glamourous- you haven’t spent time in local TV. My work day started at 3:40 am with no driver, hairstylist, makeup artist or stylist on hand. The show itself was four hours long. In my case I also had additional promotion shoots, charity board meetings and fundraising events. I would get in my daily workout before picking up the girls at school at 3pm. My workout was my only sense of “me time” and I craved the endorphins it gave me. My daughters are both competitive athletes so the days with practices wrapped up around 9 pm. The house would shut down around 10pm and would start all over for me at 3-40 am. My husband nicknamed me “Super Mom”, which I loved until I realized I had lost my super powers.
Prior to my “Shingles Wake Up Call” I was easily irritated, unfulfilled and annoyed. I calculated time in reverse and justified whether being social and out at events was worth the lack of sleep. I found I was looking at everything with the glass half empty and I didn’t like being that person.
We often hear our inner-self speak negative thoughts and they tend to stir for long periods of time. When I started to say that I wanted to leave my job out loud- the fear set in. A genuine, keep me up at night, pace the hallways at 2 in the morning, stare into space, paralyzed kind of fear. I would have to be insane to walk away from my job. This is likely when most of us, press pause and stick with the status quo. So how did I shift my mindset?
First, I started with two journals. One was an opportunity to write down the emotions I was going through and the other was more strategic. The emotions needed to be raw and truthful. I had to open myself up to understanding the concept of “ego” and ‘letting go”. The other journal was my workbook. In fact, the front cover of the journal reads “The Best Is Yet Too Come”. I wrote down my ideas, and concepts for projects I wanted to do. I set goals and wrote down people and contacts that could help. I talked to people I respected who could offer me sound advice and could act as a mentor through the process. I became open to being coached and guided- similar to my days as an athlete. I assigned myself homework and I used fear as my fuel. I was not going to fail but this wasn’t an overnight decision. From the time I started writing in the journals, to saying goodbye on my final show was about three months. Now, this is all easier said than done and it doesn’t come without its setbacks, frustrations and moments of genuine “WTF have I done”.
Patience is something I battle everyday. I was really good at my job and I trusted my skills and my ability. These days I second guess everything I do. I feel like a failure most days. Having to learn the most basic skills that were never required of me. Like setting up a meeting – with a Google invite or the technical side of Google Drive. I lose valuable time trying to figure out the most mundane tasks. I battle with time wasted.
I wish I could tell you at the moment I am writing this article that I have landed safely on the ground. Its been 8 months since I left my job and truthfully, I don’t even know where I stand. I have been a storyteller my entire adult life, and I feel that has always been my calling. I have started a podcast called “Living Your Life with Lianne Laing” and I love it. My waiting list to be a guest on the show is long and impressive. I value the relationships I have built over those twenty years which are allowing me to follow through on my project. I am checking off items written in my journal. I have planted tons of seeds for projects and ideas. As my mentors have mentioned, some of the seeds will need more watering than others. Some will die and never blossom, others will act like weeds and will need to be eliminated. But some will provide me with garden I dreamed. It’s going to take time…water, sun, love and patience. This is my greatest obstacle. Patience. And so, in the meantime I’ve learned to glide in the air, not quite free falling anymore but avoiding the crash landing. I am trying to enjoy the ride down and take in this experience for what it is – Life – Unscripted. My decision to jump has given me an additional three hours of sleep a night, 14 hours over the week and years to my life, which at the end of the day is more time to enjoy the journey.