Air Time: What I Learned on the Trapeze

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Photo by Martin Thomas under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Happy 2016!  

It has been awhile since I’ve blogged.  It’s been too long.  But I’ve been working and living and yes, playing.

In fact, I’ve been thinking about one of those times when I was playing.  A few months ago, I accompanied my niece to her trapeze classes. It’s probably better that I didn’t think too much about it before saying yes.

So that’s how I found myself climbing up a narrow ladder, legs shaking, to a very high platform. I’ve never thought of myself as paralyzed by heights, but I certainly wasn’t feeling comfortable and was in fact rethinking my relationship to acrophobia at that moment.

But with the calm guidance of the teacher standing next to me on the platform, I grabbed the bar with my chalked-up, sweaty palms and jumped (or maybe the teacher nudged me off…I’m not sure.) Swinging through the air, I felt a rush of excitement and giddiness.  This was, dare I say it, FUN!

Listening for the commands of the teacher, I learned different moves — hooking my knees on the bars and letting my hands go, hanging upside down.  And then, I heard the command to let go, to drop.  But for some reason, I couldn’t.  It wasn’t fear of letting go.  It was something else.

I think I was trying to time my drop to land squarely on the mattress perched on the net below? I’m not certain. All I know is I couldn’t let go. (You can see this moment in all its awkward glory here.)

On second thought, maybe it was fear. Fear of a loss of control. Fear of surrender. Surrendering to not being the brain, to being in control.

Obviously, I did eventually let go of that bar. And I landed safely on the net below. Talking about this experience afterwards to my sister and partner-in-crime in this adventure, she wisely offered: “Our job is to be the muscle, not the brain.”

Yes.

I’ve been thinking about that profound statement a lot in the weeks since my time on the flying trapeze.  Most of us are used to being the brain, in work and at home.  We’re trained and rewarded for being the brain, for planning, organizing, executing, making decisions. And there are obviously plenty of times in life where we need to be the brain. But what happens when we we’re always the brain and we forget about the muscle? What do we lose (besides muscle atrophy)?

I’m still living this question, but in my little experiment thus far, being the muscle has created more space.  More space for my coaching clients to explore meaning in their lives.  More space for conversations to open up with my husband and my kids.  

So here’s to 2016 and to more space.  And to being the muscle.  Now, off for a run.

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2 Comments on “Air Time: What I Learned on the Trapeze”

  1. Candy Puterbaugh
    January 9, 2016 at 10:20 am #

    Heather: I was swinging with you all the way on that one, and would have felt the same way. Your comments brought me back to earth and made me mull over muscle versus brain. I would have been thinking more of the “trap” than the “eze” with which it should be done! I have had those shaky situations, too, where I had no choice but to force myself to finish…namely day-long rock climbing when I didn’t know what I was doing. You were brave to take to the air!

  2. hlspain
    January 11, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

    Thanks, AC! I always love reading your clever, heartfelt comments. Thanks for reading! xo

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