When my best friend Michele told me about Sky Candy, an aerial gym that offered classes, I never thought that one day it would be my playground. She had been taking classes for a bit, and her tales of learning, getting stronger enthralled me. Plus, her newfound confidence was tangible.
I wasn’t sure I was ready, strong enough. But then the idea sat in my head. It bloomed, it percolated, it grew into more than a possibility and yet something that scared me a little bit.
“Do It Anyway,” came a little whisper out of my mind. Not sure from where. Most of my inner dialogue voices were usually naysayers, Negative Nancy’s, Debbie Downers or Drill Sergeants who yelled whenever I moved.
So I did what I do best: I kept my promise to my friend that I would try, and I showed up for a semi-private lesson to learn the trapeze. Michele was there, smiling calmly, and she introduced me to our instructor, Joanna. The warm-up had not even started but I was already sweating.
“What are you doing here? Are you sure you are up for this?” My self-talk critics were alarmed, in protection-mode. I did the warm-up exercises, trying to listen to my body instead of my mind. Okay, now I was warm, sweaty and breathing hard. Too hard to hear any cautionary announcements from my fear.
The trapeze bar looked innocuous enough: a wooden dowel wrapped with grip-tape suspended by rope secured to a I-beam-ed ceiling, about 5 feet of the ground with a big red gymnastics “crash” pad underneath. For a moment, it took me back to being a kid who liked to climb trees. It was just a small strong limb awaiting a climber.
“Okay, so you are going to grab on here, then put your legs up here like this,” said Joanna, in her soothing voice. As the 60 minutes would tick away, I learned that she was the Mother Theresa of aerial arts. Always serene, a deep thinker, able to prod you to your best with just a kind word. She wore a form-fitting tshirt, leggings and socks. For some reason her striped knee-high socks made her more approachable and trustworthy.
First she demonstrated the movement, explaining along the way where your hands, knees, feet or whatever body part needed to be. She made it look so easy. She was strong in a different way that I had seen in my experience in yoga classes or weight rooms. I liked it.
My friend went first and did well. Her months of lessons were evidenced by her skill level and control.
I could hear Team Negative in my head slipping into comparison and self-judgement: “Oh, so you think you can do that? She is so much better than you. There is no way you can get close to what they can do.”
Fortunately, Joanna’s reassuring voice pre-empted their verbal take-down: “Okay, Laura, are you ready to give it a try? You are going to be great.”
“Sit down and shut up. I am going to do this,” I said to my internal skeptics.
Yikes! I am upside down. And it is okay. Wait, it is more than okay. It is fun! A few more coaching cues, and presto, I was up, above the ground, sitting on the trapeze.
“This seemed a lot harder in my mind,” said my mind to myself. “But it is not. Dare I say, it is kinda easy.”
Back to the lesson: “okay, lean back, slide back, one foot on the bar while bending your knee, press into that and stand up,” Joanna coached.
Bam! I am standing up. On just my toes. Clinging tightly to the sides of this adult-sized swing, the rope that connect to the trapeze bar. Looking out over the gym. And completely amazed.
“You are really doing this.”
“And you are liking this.”
“And you are good at this.”
“You are right!”
(just a small conversation between my Inner Caretaker and myself.)
I felt like a little kid and yet a superhero all at once. Playful yet powerful. Silly yet cape-wearing serious.
I had clarity: I was experiencing the unbelievable freedom of trusting my body and its strength to do this thing that I had dreamed about only a few months ago. Not just trusting, but noticing and celebrating, and even daring my capable machine of muscle, bone and balance to do more.
“Okay, Joanna, show me something else. I am ready.” I said, certain that I was.