Thursday, November 8, 2012

Don't Wrestle with Trust. Fly with It.

Yesterday I learned how to fly. Not in a plane, I already took lessons for that and I suck at it. Frankly, although it altered the course of my adult life to much bemoaned mediocrity, I think they were probably right to tell me, "No, you really do need to understand the basic principals of flight before we give you the helm of an F-15." Pshaw. Whatever.

Yesterday, I took a lesson on the flying trapeze. It. Was. Awesome. I was allowed three goes at the bar and each flight had it's own oddly endearing goofy quality. I was trying to mimic the graceful curvature of an arc with swanlike agility, but the reality was part, 'flailing goose' and part 'badly drawn squiggle.' All the same, the endorphins were released en-masse and I came out of the experience being able to say that I did a flip dismount (never mind the un-intended flip to belly-flop as I hit the net), a leg-hang, and a hand-off.

Before we started, the head instructor informed us all that trapeze was not so much about upper body-strength as it was about timing. "Timing is EVERYTHING." he claimed. I see what he means. If timing is right you become weightless and it doesn't matter how much body-weight you have, you aren't actually carrying any of it. It is gone, as is the gravitational pull that causes it.

After each stint on the trapeze the coach gave me a brief coaching session outlining where improvements could be made. To his credit he never gave over-arching commentary that would have been hard to achieve, like, "try not to be so confused while the whole world has flipped upside-down and you are watching the ground swiftly shift beneath you." He focused on small, attainable goals like, "Don't swing your legs quite so much."

That was hugely important because the whole experience goes by so fast that I can only describe my reactions as mechanical. He yelled, "arms up" and I moved my arms up. Which was good because at exactly the moment I managed to get my hands up, back arched, reaching outward, there was another pair of hands clutching my wrists. My reaction, much to the surprise of the 10+ year trapeze veteran who would be swinging me off my bar and transferring me safely to the net, was, "Oh. Hi!"

Yup. I had a fraction of one second to process what was going on and my reaction was the summarized equivalent of, "Well, hello, fine sir. Pleased to make your acquaintance. I am thrilled to be flying with you today. Would you be so kind as to deposit me safely into the net directly below us? I bid you adiu and fond wishes to the family. Tata!" I suppose there is never too little time for niceties.

She flies through the air with the greatest of...Oh CRAP! Oh Crap! Oh Crap!

I will make one and only one contention with everything I learned (because as flyer of one day, I am naturally in a position to take contention with the knowledge of seasoned vetrans) -- "Timing is everything."

My biggest challenge and subsequent high of the whole evening wasn't the small hop into the void, the remarkably shaky ladder leading to the platform (which seems very large until you have three people on it), or the wicked-cool flip that you do to dismount the net. It was the moment before I hopped.

That fantastic moment I was staring two stories down, grabbing onto an unreasonably heavy bar that threatened to pull me off the platform, hips forward, my weight being supported only by my left hand on the platform and a gentleman who's hand was shoved into my safety-belt. Then, the gentleman coached me to move my other hand onto the bar and every cell in my body started screaming, "Excuse me, but no!" He intentionally yanked a little on the belt and casually said, "Don't worry, I have you by the belt. Do you feel that?" And my body loosened, "Yes."

And I let go. It felt wonderful.

The stranger holding me onto the platform, the coach leading me, and the man swinging like a gay* monkey on a parellel bar 20 feet away, all wanted me to have the time of my life. All I had to do was trust them.

There is a study I read about in the book, "The Geography of Bliss" and have since heard cited in numerous shows on NPR (It is safe to say that I blindly find anything on NPR credible). The study says that the single greatest factor in determining if we are happy is not wealth**, it is our ability to trust others. I believe them. How many wonderful experiences would I have passed up had I not trusted others? I couldn't have flown, I never would have kicked into a handstand at the urging of my yoga teachers, I wouldn't have painted out half a canvas to start over at the urging of my professer who, rightly, promised a greater lesson would lie in the tear-filled hours ahead as I re-painted the scene.

May we all find happiness in that moment before the jump, the ability to let go and trust our fellow humans.  Hup! Hup!

* As in, "happy." I may talk like a grandma sometimes but I never talk like a bigot.

** Wealth does make us happier, but only up to a surprisingly small income. Something like $20,000 per year in the US and it ceases to be a determining factor in our happiness quotient.

A special, "Thank you" to Dancing J (Juliana) who first piqued my interest in trapeze through her blog, Lock the Knee!. I have been nursing the idea since she posted in March!


  1. Wah!! You did it, that's awesome!! This makes me a little sad since I haven't been flying in ages - it was a very long drive and very expensive - but it's definitely an experience that every yogi should try at least once!

    The first jump off the board is ALWAYS the hardest part. Once you're in the air, it's a piece of cake.

    1. Agreed, it was SOOOO much fun! I am fortunate enough to live two miles from where they hold classes. In the summer they even do them on the lakefront! I really want to try that. Sky above you, nothing but lake to the horizon -- it must be beautiful flying like that! Thanks again for cluing me into the idea!