Letters | Nov 01, 2018

Jay Lehr

Irrational Fear?

I just began my 41st year of skydiving at age 82. I have been current throughout all those years, rarely missing a single month. I once went 34 years and 11 months without a miss until a bicycle crash sidelined me for three months. However, I notice myself becoming more apprehensive every time I drive or fly to the jump center, and I do not know why and wish to stop being that way. It kind of reminds me of the early years of driving to the jump club and being so nervous that I was glad when it started to rain and I did not have to jump that day.

I cannot imagine not jumping. At 82, I have fought off age by playing men’s senior hardball baseball, riding a unicycle, bicycling 3,000 miles a year and working full time. If I were not skydiving, I think I would become terribly depressed. I am jumping as well as ever as far as my exits, docks and landings. I do not like being apprehensive after all these years. It feels different than it did 1,500 jumps ago.

I started my skydiving career at about the same time and at the same club in Ohio that world champion skydiver (and author of “Above All Else”) Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld did, so I sought his advice on this issue. I was surprised—and I guess pleased—when Dan told me he had encountered quite a few older jumpers, including himself, who experienced these same emotions. He had some very good ideas to reduce this new apprehension.

Dan thought it might be a result of so many years in the sport, realizing the risk involved and subconsciously thinking that it’s bound to catch up with us. Maybe as we get older we wonder if we’ll be able to react quickly enough to a malfunction (something, fortunately, I have done well in the past).

Dan said that the way he overcomes apprehension is with simple logic. He suggested that I consider the following facts:

• Skydiving is not any more dangerous than it has been for the past 40 years.

• I have not started flying wingsuits or participating in 100-ways that would increase the risk.

• It is the same old normal skydiving I have always done.

• I know how to do it safely.

• I am capable of controlling all the risks (e.g., not jumping on very windy days or with an excessive wing loading).

• I continue to do many other athletic activities I have done all my life.

I do know myself well enough now to know I am capable of reacting quickly and efficiently enough to maintain the correct degree of safety. But I will evaluate myself each year, and perhaps when I am 100 I will feel differently. Dan also said that feeling fear doesn’t mean there is a real reason to be scared. Feeling fear is actually smart and keeps skydivers safe.

His advice has already helped me immeasurably. Perhaps it may help others.

Jay Lehr  |  D-22708

Ostrander, Ohio

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