SNEAKER: FLYING TRAPEZE
(Let go and trust that someone will catch me)
“My biggest concerns are trusting I can do this—
and believing I won’t hurt myself if I do.”
SO HERE’S THE DEAL:
They didn’t take my picture. There I was, 12-years-old and flying through the air, my little hands holding onto the swinging bar for dear life, then letting go as I was lowered into the net…and they didn’t take my picture. WHEN was I going to do that again? I wouldn’t be going back to camp, and there weren’t many flying trapezes in the real world. True, I didn’t do it full out. I didn’t let go and hang from my knees and trust someone to catch me as I untangled myself from the bar. But still! That was a big moment! When I think about doing it now (as an adult) and I picture myself flying through the air, feeling such utter freedom andassurance that I can let go and will be caught… it seems impossible. To let go and soar would be a miracle in my world! (Both literally and physically.) Well, it happens I live in a city that offers flying-trapeze classes.
So here’s the deal: I will let go on a flying trapeze. As an adult.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH:
I’m actually doing this. In a few hours, I’ll be sailing through the air. I’m thrilled and terrified. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to fly. Whenever kids played “what superpower would you have?” I always chose the ability to fly. Holding onto a bar and flying through the air would be a dream come true. However, the anxiety-ridden part of me ignores these marvelous images and focuses on the negative: My core and arm strength leave much to be desired, so the thought of hanging by my arms and tucking my legs over a bar is disconcerting—and what if I’m the only one in class who can’t do it? How embarrassing! Furthermore! Then there’s the issue of having the fortitude to let go, especially while flying through the air. That alone is a huge relinquishing of control. Yes, I’ll be in a harness, but I still have to trust I’ll be safe. Reaching out to catch my instructor and letting go of the bar is a HUGE leap of faith (no pun intended)— that he will catch me, that I will catch him, that the timing will work out. So I’m going to have to do all I can to focus and make it happen. My biggest concerns are trusting I can do this—and believing I won’t hurt myself if I do.
I’ve never been this petrified. Stretching in the trapeze studio, I look at the monstrous contraption in front of me. The platform is 20 feet off the ground. Underneath, there’s a five-foot squishy mat. As I look up the tiny ladder we’ll climb, I feel a little sick. Jay, one of three beautifully sculpted instructors, guides us to a static rig, basically a trapeze bar on the ground. He shows us how to grip the bar, put our legs over it, let go, hang upside-down and look back with arms outstretched. My panic rises. It looks like you really need arm and core strength—neither of which I possess. I let go and hang okay, but Jay needs to help me back up.
THIS does not bode well.
He explains that the static rig is more difficult than the flying one, where momentum helps. He tells us we’ll swing upside-down with arms outstretched then catch one of the instructors (or really, he’ll catch us). But we won’t be doing that until the end. Mostly, we’ll practice backflips off the bar. I must be making a “you’re out of your mind” face, because Jay sees me and cracks up. He assures me it will make sense in the moment.
As the other students perfectly execute the moves, my palms start sweating, my heart pounds, my stomach is in knots, and I consider bailing. But I don’t. Instead, I take a deep breath and start up the ladder. Each step feels like an eternity. At the top, Todd, another instructor, is waiting. I explain my terror to him. Then Jay appears, giving encouragement. Todd hooks me to the harness, grips the back of my belt and instructs me to lean forward and grab the trapeze bar. Utterly terrified, I’m having flashbacks to camp years, when they made us do ropes courses and I’d be in tears. But the memories make me more determined. So I steady myself, bend my knees when Todd says,“Ready,” and jump when he says, “Hep!”
|Taking the phrase “high anxiety” literally.|
And then…I’m flying. I’ve done it!
|Look! I’m smiling! And FLYING!|
I don’t have long to enjoy the sensation, as below, Chase, the third instructor, is telling me to lift my legs for the knee tuck and wrap at the top of my swing. I try but don’t have the strength—my knees don’t make it up. I keep swinging, and Chase keeps shouting instructions, and I can’t do any of them! He lowers me, and I slink off, giving my “I’m just not strong enough” excuse. Chase says flying has nothing to do with strength—it’s all momentum and timing. I have to stop thinking and just do it. Ha! If only he knew how hard that is for me! He shows me what to do with my body to get the knee tuck to work, then I go to my chair, embarrassed. I watch the class do it again, one by one, flawlessly.
Then I’m up. This time, I’m calmer, determined to make it work. “Hep!”—I’m off in the air again! I follow Chase’s timing precisely. And guess what? I nail every move! Perfect knee tuck, perfect release and upside-down stretch, perfect back-flip! When I hit the mat beaming, everyone bursts into applause. I repeat the routine and nail it again! The terror is still there but decreasing each time. The best part is that at the end of each turn, I have no recollection of what I did because I was so in the moment. That has NEVER happened!
I’m beginning to feel really good when Todd announces we’re going to do catches, the part I was dreading. I wait my turn, take my swing, and miss my knee tuck. Again, I‘m back in my head, and my body doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. Luckily, we have time to try once more. I want this so badly. I want to know I can push myself past my limits and let go. So, off the platform I jump, through the air I sail, and around the bar I wrap my knees. At the top of my swing, I reach out and feel Todd’s hands grip my wrists as my legs release the bar. The entire studio cheers as I soar through the air holding onto Todd. Then he releases me, and I land exactly as instructed. I could not have a bigger smile as Chase says I’ve earned my wings. Jay says he knew I could do it, the whole class knew. I was the only one who doubted myself.
|He caught me! I let go and he caught me. Amazing!|
Once I got out of my own way, I did great. Now if I can only keep applying that lesson to the rest of my life…