Flying through the air with the greatest of ease


I don’t know why or where it exists from but ever since I was a child I love to go to the local playground, monkey bars, climb, hang upside down and swing from one bar to the next. So needless to say many years later watching a friends pictures and experience on the flying trapeze, it just seemed like a normal ‘yep I have to do that’ moment. I looked for those to join me but nobody would or could go with me. Still I waited years before I called a place and found out when I could go and moved forward with this desire; going even if that meant alone. My husband came with me and was prepared to support and take pictures but wasn’t interested in trying this himself. As we drove to downtown DC together and my stomach was upset and my nerves took over. As I approached the office I could feel my body go numb and my breath faster in non-existent. Fear and doubt. A bit of judgement, expectation and completely scared out of my mind.

Being quite familiar with identifying my feelings I just kept moving forward. “This will be ok – just keep breathing. You have been through worse.” True, said the left side of my brain but the right side kept taking over. This is obviously one of those times when logic just won’t help. As I approached the office I could hear them explaining to others that a heavy thunderstorm was approaching and that we may have to reschedule. But first, lets wait. “Oh great!” I thought to myself. What a relief. I kept processing all the things I could be doing instead as I walked out to tell my husband who was so sorry for me. “Yeah it sucks” I said. He felt bad for me and I acted as if I was so disappointed.

As we sat in lawn chairs waiting to see which direction the weather would take us, I sat watching some advanced trapeze students and teachers float from bar to bar, catching each other and flipping around in the air. Wow – could that be me? Is that me? Wait, do I even want that? Doubt started to set in. Some were wearing tiny , little sports bras and shorts; so skinny that I was afraid if a rib popped you would actually see it pop out. I didn’t look at that with envy at all. A male instructor came over and said “lets at least get you guys started on the first part of the training.” So we walked over to a location with a single monkey bar and large pad on the ground. We practiced hanging, lifting ourselves up to hang ourselves upside down, grabbing the bar, undoing and letting go. Of course I’m making this sound easier than it really is. Pulling ones weight up is quite hard not to mention making yourself small enough to cross your legs into your chest, up and around the bar so you can rest the back of your knees on the bar. Coming out is way easier. Also it was so different from when I was 8 years old for sure.

The reality started to hit me – this was happening and then all of a sudden the thunderstorm came in. Oh what a relief. “Can I go now?” I’m not sure just what I was thinking, but I rescheduled for a week later and would return to start the training over. We left and I started to relax and then ever so excited to return. “I hope I remember everything they just taught me.”

The week went by and I had to take off work to come on a weekday that had an opening. Once again my husband came. We sat outside and watched the traffic of people on the other side of the fence walk by; often times just watching with amazement, but sometimes you get those who think it is fun to yell and heckle those up on the trapeze. I was introduced to a new teacher and a group of others who looked just as scared as I was. Many had friends with them but they were so nice to let me join them as we practiced and trained. We started to support and cheered others on -“Yes you can” “You can do it”.

After training we were told what to expect, the process and that we would get started. OMG. It is happening on this beautiful day. So we were each told of the line-up. I wasn’t first but at least I wasn’t last – I don’t think I can take the waiting any longer. I just know once I do it once I’ll be ok. I watch one young lady go up. She yells back and tells us it is higher than she expected. “Oh great!”. She grabs the bar and with the help of teachers up there she manages to go, swing, hang upside down and then let go to fall into the net. Ok I think – I can do this. I mean she makes it look so easy. We clap and support her ready to hear about her experience. The next woman goes and has a similar experience. But then it is my turn. There is some chalk on the ground and I grab that to help with my very wet hands. It is meant to keep you dry; so do you think I can dunk my body in it? Just kidding I think to myself. Even my mouth is so dry that I can’t even feel myself swallow. I start to hook my rope to the ladder and start to climb. “Just take one step at a time. Don’t look down.” I tell myself. I climb slowly and carefully and when I reach the top there is just a tiny board to stand on. Very tiny in fact. The woman there is helping me move the rope and set up. She grabs the bar for me and goes over what I will be doing. This is just me swinging by myself, I tell myself; just be a kid again. Suddenly the training lesson escapes me. Wait – was I supposed to count 1, 2, 3 or was it 1,2 and 3. “OMG Do I go on the 3 or the AND – I can’t remember just when to sway, squat and go.” My timing was off which meant she stopped me and started it over. She starts counting again and I don’t move. Mainly because I can’t find my rhythm. “I’m overthinking this” I say. I kind of wish she would just stop counting, repeating the same thing over and over. It isn’t helping. I can feel her getting annoyed from her tone and attitude. Does it really matter if I go on the 3 or the AND or 4, 5 anyway. Who cares! It isn’t as if I’m coordinating with another for a catch. I just want to have this first experience.

So by the third or fourth attempt I either got it or she just gave up, but either way I was off on my own swinging on the bar. So relieved to be going; I knew I could do it! The teacher on the ground starts yelling out to lift which I do, hang upside down, swing and hang. Loving this. As I undo and drop to the net I’m so happy.  I was so proud because I really did let my body and mind take over and could remember being a kid again. He helps me off the net and talks to me about the count and how to go about it next time. Really repeating what I obviously didn’t understand. I hear him but still I’m not sure of exactly what to do but he has to move on so I just agree and move on. But not worried – I’ll figure it out. So I’m back in line talking about my experience.

When it is my turn again I go up much calmer this time. I don’t need any chalk. I tell myself to stop overthinking this ‘take-off thing’- just feel it you know you do better that way. The teacher again starts with the verbal count but I pause and it starts again. When do I sway, squat and go? Is it on the 3? “Oh no! Not again.” This time though I pull myself together at least on the 2nd attempt. Lift and hang upside down. Wow – I’m starting to get the feeling of this. I come off though I’m told that only some of us can go again, based on time and progress to try a catch. That would be those of us that they felt could move on to the next step. Of course that wasn’t me. So I got a “Thanks – keep coming back.” Can’t they see how far I had just come in just two experiences? So why do I feel like I failed then?

I stayed though to support and watch the few that moved on from the first lesson to try a catch. Ok so that isn’t me up there trying this, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t succeed. I should be so happy with myself. This is not a competition, I have to remind myself. I notice on the ground nearby a couple of the teachers are busy playing around with “acro-yoga” (parnter poses) with each other and I look at them completely understanding that what looks one way is an different experience internally or to another. What looks impossible or hard isn’t so – especially when you partner with or have the help or support of others. It becomes – FUN.

Here is what I forgot in the midst of that experience. I had so many people there, with good intensions for sure, telling me what to, how to do it, correcting me – yes even myself. I forgot to just have FUN! Not to care if I was disappointing someone or if they would be upset, mad or judging my performance. Who cares – in the end all we have is our own joy in the moment, even the small every day moments. I was wrong to let myself be drawn away from that.

Sad to say I’ve never gone back to try it again though. Either way though I carry the experience with me as a reminder that “Yes you can” even if you don’t do it perfectly or to others expectations remember that as long as your intension was right that the only real failure is by not moving forward or trying. This is true today for me as I venture out into the unknown in my career.  I was reminded though that much like the flying trapeze that I’m floating in the air. I’m floating between the bars; leaving one well known and convenient bar for the next one – not knowing when,where and what that will be. So a very scary place.  The amazing support I have received has shown me that I don’t have to go at this alone for sure. Exploring today, this moment and to have FUN.

Now I’m sure many will have different feelings about my story – some will judge it, compare it or even admire it. Not important though – if you can see past that for a moment there is a place to realize something within all of us – intension is more important than your failure or success. Go past being the critic and pause in that place.

Which makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt that I have on my desk:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of the high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – 1910 “The Man in the Arena”