Who knows why I wanted to do trapeze school.
Carrie Bradshaw delusions of grandeur? Because the trapeze act was the most beautiful to me when I spent several summers working for the circus?
Or because my masochistic streak is far wider than I realized?
Because trapeze involves a lot that amounts to self-torture:
I am terrified of heights.
I am in no way athletic, flexible, graceful.
Dangling by your legs upside down leaves your neck pretty vulnerable. I have a problem with exposed neckage. (I cannot possibly explain this so it will make sense, but trust me.)
And…I am really bad at letting go.
Trapeze is all about letting go.
Can you smell the metaphor?
Trapeze School offers safe entry into pseudo-circus life. You aren’t more than forty-ish feet off the ground. There’s a giant net that you can’t possibly miss if you fall. You are safety cabled as you climb the ladder and as you fly. There’s a guy on the ground who basically controls your swing, who can pull you in any direction, who can stop your motion.
I climbed that ladder. I got locked in. I grabbed the bar. There was an eighty-pound girl holding my safety belt with authority, speaking soothingly to me about the exact steps I needed to take to get off the platform. My lovely friend was cheering me on from the ground.
And still: I panicked and backed off while a frickin’ ten-year-old took her turn.
Oh, yes. I am more of a pansy-ass than a pre-pubescent girlie.
The thing is: no one can jump off the platform but you. It is entirely in your control. Which ordinarily I like, control freak that I am. Yet this was too much power. I needed to be a snowflake picked up by a snowball already rolling down hill: once set in motion you can’t stop it. Unfortunately, I was the snowball. I had to roll myself. And that meant a whole heap of letting go.
Letting go of solid ground, of control once that leap is taken, of community: flying through the air by myself, supported but not…companioned. No one to share the burden of terror.
It took a while to reign in every ounce of courage I could wring from my trembling skeletal structure.
But I did it.
I had to fight myself tooth and nail. Every step was battling my demons. It took two tries to jump, to hoist my legs over the bar. It took multiple attempts to let go of the bar and allow myself to dangle upside down, to trust my knees. It took two rounds to try to backflip off the bar (which I failed at). I didn’t make the catch with a partner until the second try.
Let’s not kid around.
It is awesomely fun. Once you stop cringing and open your eyes. It’s swinging: who doesn’t love to swing? But it happens so fast, you almost can’t fully experience the experience of it. To really know what it feels like to be upside down, flying in midair – I can’t really describe it adequately.
But I want to.
I want to go back. I want to get better. I flew five or six times and each time I improved. Each time I let go a little more. Trapeze is such a gorgeous act of discipline, fluidity, trust – all the things I lack.
What a perfectly wrapped package of a metaphor for me as this year comes to an end. The thing I struggle most with – letting go – physically forced upon me. I’ve tried so many new things this year, and I wonder if any of it has really changed me.
Obviously, I still can’t let go easily. If at all. There are several things staring me in the face right now, begging me to let them go. And I just keep wrapping my fist tighter.
As I stood on that platform forty feet in the air, I honestly thought I wasn’t going to do it. I felt like I would climb off that wooden dais without leaping into the void and I’d be perfectly fine with it, there would be no self-recrimination. I felt I had reached my threshold for overcoming fear.
But. I did it anyway. There are so many things I kinda didn’t want to do even though I wanted to do them this year…and I did them “anyway.” And it felt good.
This was the same: finally letting go felt good: to fly, to overcome my inhibitions. Why can’t I remember that from one scary moment to another? It always feels better to give in to the new experience than to battle it.
At least I always do give in. Even if I constantly work myself into a lather beforehand, I have yet to actually chicken out on something I set my mind to. So I have hope that I will eventually shake open my fist on what I want so badly to hold on to. And let myself swing free into other, less metaphorical, more nebulous, but absolutely necessary new experiences.
I’m still Sisyphus pushing the boulder. I think I just figured out that rather than fighting it, I have to find a way to enjoy, to embrace, to love the roll back to the bottom of the mountain.
[Insert that’s how life rolls joke here…]