What I Learned on the Flying Trapeze

“Ready.” Bend knees

“Hup.” Jump

I’m not the sort of person who just throws herself into things. I’m thoughtful. I weigh the risks and rewards. I like to control my outcomes. I rarely throw caution to the wind. I’m definitely not the kind of person who goes on a flying trapeze… except that is me in the video.

This weekend I took my first class at Flying Trapeze School. I walked in skeptical that they would be able to teach me anything in two hours, but the evidence shows TSNY taught me a trapeze trick. The first ten minutes of class include overview of safety equipment, getting safety harnesses on, instruction with on the ground practice of how to jump from the platform, and the most important thing you can do to be successful… LISTEN.

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate myself a good listener.  At least a seven, maybe even an eight. I didn’t exactly think I would have this in the bag, but it made me feel better that my out of shape, 37-year-old body could actually do more than squeal like an 8-year-old girl being approached by a spider as I took off on my first “flight.” Honestly, I can’t remember anything about my first trip on the trapeze except when I was in the catch net, heart pounding, hands shaking and asked how it was two words rolled around in my head. I held them in each hand feeling how they might come out, weighing which was the better descriptor, considering the three other flyers behind me who still had their first time ahead. Out came, “Exhilarating.”

As much as my head told me that I wasn’t in harm’s way, my body physically disagreed. I couldn’t stop shaking. Not even if I tried or my life depended on it. The first six times I jumped from the platform my body screamed, “WTF are you doing? Go sit down and read a book instead.” And my gosh, the sweat. Profuse sweating and not because it was an aerobic activity. Pure adrenaline pumping through my palpitating heart being pushed to every extremity of my body. By the seventh time up the platform, I was actually able to utter words to the guy who held my harness while I grabbed the trapeze bar. He asked if everything was okay and I eked out, “Just taking a cleansing breath.”

You know that good listener scale? While flying through the air, I’m more like a two. Even worse my synapses function at about a tenth of the speed they would in a non-stress situation. The command “Knees Up” might as well have been sent via Morse code where I had a magic decoder ring and sheet of paper where I marked down each long and short click and translated them into something with meaning.

By my eighth trip up the platform and flipping off the trapeze, I felt good. I was hearing again and had a modest sense of accomplishment. That’s when they tell you the next time you go, instead of ending in a flip into the net someone else is going to catch you. You do a brief training on how to grip the catcher’s hands and are instructed to not move your own, because the catcher is responsible for grabbing you. Mind blown. I’m just supposed to reach out my arms and wait to be caught? Who is that crazy? Well… me.

Hundreds of little lessons were learned at Trapeze School, but the big one is this. When you are reaching to accomplish something you aren’t even sure is possible, the most important part is to listen (to those guiding you and yourself), quell the voices of fear, and keep your eyes trained on your end point. If someone promises they will be there to catch you, stretch your arms out as far as possible and look into their eyes. Trust their word and relinquish your doubts. And don’t forget to have a safety net.

2 thoughts on “What I Learned on the Flying Trapeze

  1. That is so awesome! I don’t think I could do it at all. I am such a chicken. This line resonated with me so much. “When you are reaching to accomplish something you aren’t even sure is possible, the most important part is to listen (to those guiding you and yourself), quell the voices of fear, and keep your eyes trained on your end point.” I’m holding this in my heart. Thank you for this.


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