“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”

– J.M. BARRIE, Peter Pan

A few months ago I found a trapeze class for two offered on Dealpalooza, and I asked my mom if she would be interested in some mother-daughter bonding in the bright skies of Escondido, CA. She was. My moderate fear of heights? All the more reason to buy the deal and slay it. I get a little woozy in the Disneyland rockets, my friends. Climbing ladders: a little shaky. But after ziplining in Hawaii over a forest on the side of the extinct Kohala volcano two years ago and having an amazing time of it, I figured this quasi-phobia is one that just creeps up on me and needs consistent taming until it no longer bothers me.

Besides, any time we put ourselves in a situation where we have the chance to feel fear and to smack it down, we grow and start to become better masters over ourselves. Our minds habituate to what they practice, so it is up to us to train them well.

Thus off we went this afternoon to Trapeze High. My dad watched my kiddos, who were there to observe. To give them the chance to see the adults in their lives trying new skills is to give them hope for what their lives could become. They can learn, and do, almost anything, even if (especially if) struggle takes place. I want them never to feel limited by age, gender, or the labels they might internalize about themselves. The world is open, and they are free.

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Dave taught our class, which had six other members besides my mom and me. The first station (pictured) was practice in basic trapeze form and how to swing: big time shoulder engagement and lots of leg and butt muscles. Since I am not even tall enough to reach this practice trapeze, this was my first official “uh oh” moment; but in a Shakespearean “though she be but little, she is fierce” moment,  I just gritted my teeth and made a jump for it. First hurdle cleared.

After that, we practiced readying ourselves and jumping onto mats still low to the ground. I flubbed the jump technique twice just a bit, but was deemed “safe enough”…so okay, whatever. Might as well try to perfect the jump 23 feet in the air, right? Right.

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Right here is the moment of my biggest fear. The first jump and swing. As I approached the edge of the platform, knowing I would have to let go of the pole to grip the bar with both hands and prepare to fly, I could feel the fear creeping up. It was such a zen moment, though. Running has trained my mind so well. The fear came, but I could feel my mind actually bounce it away, without even thinking too much about it, like I was watching the fear move away from me. Bounce, bounce, bounce…like a red ball that went past me and off to my right hand side and into the sky over there. It was almost a visual and a sensation all in one, very synesthetic in its way. At that moment my mind lasered itself on one thought, which was, “You will do this.” And it all felt very calm, as if my mind already knew I would do it…

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…and then I did.

But that was just the first swing. I imagined immediately following this that we would probably be practicing only this all class session. This, and the dismounting. Oh, but no.

After everyone in the class had a turn, Dave climbed the ladder to the platform and showed us the first trick we would be expected to accomplish. All I could think standing on the ground was, “What the heck?!? I am supposed to do THAT?”

He took us over to the training bar we used to learn the basics of the swing, and walked/talked us through the motions of the stunt.

Swing. Loop both legs around the bar and grip with the knees. Let go of our hands and arch. Return hands to the bar. Dismount with…a backflip.

He showed me the steps, and I got my turn to go through them once on the practice bar. Then we were sent back to the ladder. It wasn’t so much fear that got me on my walk over to the ladder as it was the thought, “There is NO way. I am going to fall off and laugh at myself, and it will be fine…but how will my body ever do this?”

Going up the ladder, my mind recalibrated itself: “You will absolutely do this stunt, and you will not be falling off. You will take each movement as it comes, and you will use the momentum and physics of the trapeze to assist you. You will not overthink it. You will be present.”

Turns out, the trapeze has the meditative and zenlike potential that distance running has. Believe me when I say, I left class today fantasizing about my own trapeze in my backyard.

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So I did the stunt. I did it twice. I kept thinking about how it was possible to do the stunt because of how connected my body was to the physical parameters of this planet (gravity, momentum, etc), and how beautiful it is to achieve physical and mental freedom through physics. Through physics, through the swing of the trapeze, my body was able to bend itself and do some maneuvers that, to my limited imagination, did not seem likely. It almost felt Matrix-y: like, if I could just situate my body and mind enough within the mathematics of this world, then there are new ways of moving, new levels of freedom, new sensations. There is flight.

Those who achieved the first stunt were then given a second stunt. I am not even sure how I can describe it, except to say that it involved splits and that military-man Kevin absolutely was the standard-bearer for the splits and for this trick in general. I am not the most flexible person, actually, but I performed the stunt decently, twice.

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Walking through the stunt once on the lower bar

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Performing the trick

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My mom flies through the air (there are more pics of her work and of the day in general on Facebook).

Someone asked me earlier today if the trapeze was challenging. I would say this: outside of needing some basic to intermediate levels of fitness, the trapeze was not so much physically challenging as it was mentally challenging, in my opinion. The students who were most successful at this class seemed to deal with fear handily.  There was one gal who was terrified when she got to the top (in fact, she started the almost-crying tone while saying “I can’t! I can’t!”), and to watch her process throughout the class was fascinating, because she did conquer herself ultimately. Another woman finally conquered the first trick by the end of the class, too, because she would not give up even though the fear kept getting to her in the clutch. We all cheered for her! The 14-year-old gymnast was delightful to watch, as well, because she was quite good right away and wanted to perfect her first trick before moving on to the second, even though she had done it competently after her second go-round. She was diligent and methodical, and reminded me why I LOVED my high school students. A camaraderie developed fairly quickly, because we were all so mentally bare and we could see each other working through the various tasks. My teacher side came out, in the sense that I (normally very quiet in most social situations) found myself yelling out encouragement to people I did not even know because I felt this little glowing orb in my chest that just wanted, wanted, wanted them each to succeed so badly. I feel unbridled joy when I get to witness people achieving what they might think they cannot. That is one of my driving passions in life, actually.

So this was definitely another adventure today. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I thought our instructors were awesome in that they were both precise and laid-back.

There is so much in this life that I want to try!

“You keep alive a moment at a time/But still inside a whisper to a riot/…I’m dancing on my grave/I’m running through the fire/Forever, whatever/I never wanna die/I never wanna leave/I’ll never say goodbye…” FOO FIGHTERS

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