It was only recently I had a conversation with a friend unveiling one truth that I never, ever knew! I have asked other friends since then and it was confirmed. I have come to accept that no, everyone did not want to join the circus! Really? I was stunned. All my life, well, since the fourth grade anyway, I thought everyone wanted to join the circus like me, Why wouldn’t you? You get to travel, wear those cool sparkly leotards and get paid for it!
Well, it may be too late for that career, but at least I can learn to fly on the trapeze just for fun. So that’s what I did. Two of my best friends bought me a trapeze lesson for my birthday so that I can fulfill my life long dream. Now I am not so sure of this dream as I climb up on this skinny, shaky ladder. My friend’s husband is there to document my dream with a video.
There are eight other crazy people here to take the lesson also. One young girl is with her boyfriend who surprised her for a birthday gift. She is not at all happy about it and frightened more than any of us.
I am cinched in so tightly with my safety belt it is difficult to take a deep yogic belly breath which I know I badly need to calm my mind. The ladder keeps wiggling with each step while I ascend to the diminutive platform at the top. Someone shouts from down below, “The ladder is secured tightly at the top and the bottom.” Now standing on the platform I’m trying to recall all the directions that I was told minutes before on terra firma; hang on to the solid bar with your left hand, stand with your feet more then hips width apart, put your toes over the edge of the platform, push your hips forward, grab the trapeze with your right hand, then let go of the solid bar in your left hand, then grab the trapeze with your left hand, raise the bar up over your head; when you hear the instructor yell, hup, jump off the platform! Swing once and when you hear hup again, let go of the bar completely and fall to the net below landing on your back. Right.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to let go, it’s just that the hup I heard from the instructor below takes what seems like light years to reach my ears and for my brain to process what he just said. A few more swings then required and I let go of the bar and drop to the net landing on my feet because I forgot one of the instructions; kick your legs out in front of you when you let go of the bar. I walk across the net to the edge by the red mark, grab on to the side of the net and flip myself up and over to the ground. There is a slight buzz in my head like when I drink two mocha lattes one after the other.
It was fun, I can’t wait to do it again. I am sure I will be much more confident with better form this time.
Again more instructions and he chooses me, the birthday girl, to demonstrate hanging by my knees on the bar. I hang upside down by my knees a few feet above the ground. “It’s all timing,” he explains. “You have to get your feet and legs up at exactly the right moment on the upswing because if you don’t, gravity will make your body feel much heavier and you won’t be able to do it.” He is right. I know this because, on the first try, I miss the timing and can’t get my legs up and over. The second try is a charm. I am actually swinging while I hang upside down on the bar by my knees and even do a backflip from the trapeze to the net below. Not a completely graceful landing, but hey, I’m a beginner! I am delirious with happiness and excitement. My girlfriend and I are cheering each other on as is everyone in our immediate close-knit group of new best friends in the class. The other birthday girl says she hates it and thinks she passes out while she is swinging up there. She hangs by her knees but refuses to let go of the bar with her hands.
They will teach us one more trick. Are you kidding? There’s more? I am ecstatic with what I have experienced already. I had no idea what to expect and yet this is beyond all my wildest expectations.
Down below an instructor shows us how to swing and stretch our arms out in front of us while we swing back and forth, arching our back and forming a W with our thumb and forefinger while we hang upside down. Next, we are to release our legs from the bar and we will be caught by our wrists by the catcher.
I make my final ascent on the skinny ladder and on the platform a different instructor is there now. It’s slightly unnerving to have someone new teaching me now, I felt bonded to the other one already. I have been told this experience can be very Zen. I can relate to this with my years of meditation practice. I need to be still, go inside, be present. Be here now, as the gurus taught.
I stand on the platform, use my visualization techniques and imagine being caught by my wrists. My instructor on the platform tells me I need to yell listo to the one who will catch me. Please, please, I think to myself, not one more thing to remember, my head is so full of directions already. But I’m a good student and do as told.
I raise the bar over my head, yell listo, wait a moment and jump. My brain processes the hup signal quicker this time from below, I raise my feet and legs over the bar, at the right time and arch my back. I must hear hup again because I automatically extend my arms in front of me and make a W with my thumbs and fingers. I really don’t know how it happened but the catcher’s hands grab my wrists and I grab his wrists, my legs release at the right moment from the bar. He catches me and I am being held firmly as I swing back and forth, just like the circus I watched so intently decades ago.
My life long dream was made real, I’m hanging upside down held by a professional flyer, high above the net just like in the circus. If only I would have worn my cool sparkly leotard!