“Bend knees!” she yells from far below, “and Hup!” Before my brain can fathom what my feet are illogically doing, I’ve jumped off the edge and am flying out over the yawning abyss, swinging up towards the sun, hair trailing behind like a comet’s tail. “Legs up!” I hear as the tips of the palm trees near, hurriedly scrambling my legs onto the trapeze bar before the words, “Let go!” reach my ears.
How many times in my life have I heard the phrase, “Let go”? For those overachievers out there, you know what I mean. I often cling to trying to be Everything to all people in my life by trying to ‘do more’ and ‘be more’ than what is humanly possible. Then, when I cannot meet those self-imposed criteria of perfect minutiae, when all those items in boxes that I check off my list pile up to impossible heights, I crash.
When I first told my family that we were doing trapeze school, my 8 year old daughter’s first response was an enthusiastic “Awesome!”, my 11 year old son grinned from ear-to-ear under his newly cut blonde surfer hair, and my husband gave a cautiously supportive nod of approval. My family has become accustomed to far out adventures in our household. We have done the polar plunge in Alaska with icebergs floating around us next to a large glacier, tackled advanced ropes courses on both coasts, slept in Botswanan tents surrounded by African animals, and soared in a hot air balloon watching the sun set over the ocean.
As a mother who has a taste for adventure, whether under the sea or flying above it, I wasn’t honestly sure I had the strength or ability to do trapeze. It seemed an exotic undertaking, somewhat like sword swallowing to me. I knew none of the components behind it, but I have watched it in absolute wonder. Yet, as I often tell the kids, “We will try it with an open mind and give it our best.” Aristotle said it better, “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” With that mantra in our household, I hoped we would all leave this new experience bonded closer together with perhaps a secret newly discovered desire to run away with the circus.
SwingIt Trapeze in sunny Anaheim is picturesquely located, in an outdoor location surrounded by historic buildings and swaying palm trees. Upon arrival, wearing our workout clothes and colorful socks, we were greeted by three staff members who efficiently placed our names on the white board with the other members of our class. One gentleman in our class had a fear of heights, another former major injuries, yet we all gathered here to find the courage to overcome obstacles and embrace a new experience.
To start, we were taken over to a small hanging trapeze bar hanging close to the ground and given step-by-step instructions on how to hop off the ledge, how to hang correctly, and how to swing to leverage our bodies to gain momentum. Then we were off! The first to climb the stairs to go was the gentleman with the fear of heights. “Bend knees!” they yelled from below, then “Hup!”… a long pause as we all held our breath, then he jumped. Our breaths exploded into a loud hoots and hollers. With that feat of courage demonstrated, the atmosphere was set for the rest of us to cheer one another on.
One-by-one we climbed up the metal stairs to the trapeze, zig-zagging our way up as our thoughts raced back and forth, covered our hands in white chalk, and quieted our protesting minds, focusing fully on the physical task at hand. Encouraged by the progress of each classmate, our camaraderie grew, as did our confidence. The beginners trapeze tricks began with the free fall dismount into the safety net below after the initial swing out. Next up, was hooking our legs on the bar and letting go to hang freely upside down. Then hanging upside down led to a backflip dismount off the moving trapeze.
Connecting with another human being can be one of the most exciting, heart-racing experiences of our lives. Doing so on the trapeze is the same. After we checked off our beginner’s trapeze tricks, we progressed to the challenge of hanging upside down and grabbing hands with the catcher who also was swinging upside down.
A step out of our comfort zone, that’s what stepping off that trapeze platform was. Letting go to hang freely upside-down was releasing that pent up perfectionism or fears of heights, reveling in the moment of pure flight. Even my husband and kids are beaming from their new-found accomplishments, proud of conquering their fears and discovering their new abilities.
Being in the moment may sound like a new-age mantra. Yet one thing you discover while doing trapeze is you have no other ability for thought but the task at-hand. Your mind quiets the second you step off that platform and out of your comfort zone. All those cares and concerns lose importance as you focus on the voice below and the next step at hand.
“Bend knees!” she yells from below, “and Hup!”
“Legs up!” I hear as the tips of the palm trees near, hurriedly scrambling my legs onto the trapeze bar before the words, “Let go!” reach my ears. I let go and reach out, letting go of driven perfectionist and people-pleasing tendencies, worries and cares, and connect with those powerful hands reaching out for me. I’ve done it. I’ve completed all of my first trapeze school requirements, and learned a thing or two about letting go along the way.