I walked in and watched a woman hanging upside down from the silks and took a deep breath. Day one. Let’s do this.
I’ve been thinking about trying aerial since my friend Sarah Jane (you may remember her from slutwine) told me about it a couple years ago. At the time, it seemed too far out of reach. It had been so long since I’d been active, and I was under no illusions of what moving myself that way would require of me. I told myself I wasn’t ready, but mostly I was making excuses not to start.
I have never considered myself an athlete. When I was growing up, I was athletic because I have a body type that easily builds muscle, but I was never interested in sacrificing my time in theater and music and dance for weekends filled with being active with people I didn’t particularly like.
Now that I’ve been doing Barre for a year and half, I’m stronger, though I still have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be. I got through warm ups without issue, noticing the tightness of my inner thighs as we moved through stretches and splits. It’s been five years since I’ve danced in a show, and since starting Barre, my flexibility hasn’t been quite the same.
Next up was trapeze. Any confidence I had dropped straight to the pit of my stomach, watching the bar float a couple of feet off the floor. This was, shall we say, an unexpected turn.
Aerial had been on my list for a while now, and I felt like I knew what to expect. But there was something about seeing that bar and the coach telling me I was going to hang from it without holding on with my hands that made me rethink this whole airborne sport thing.
I took a deep breath. I could hear a little voice in my head. To be honest, I don’t hear that voice very often anymore. Doubt used to be a consistent presence, but not so much these days. But there it was, back to visit and remind me of all the ways I’ve failed to perform, to commit before.
When I moved into Portland, my back was so messed up that I went to see a massage therapist. They told me what I already knew was true – my core wasn’t strong enough to support my back.
It took me a couple of years to find movement that’s stuck. While I loved the people at CrossFit, it wasn’t for me. I tried ClassPass. Occasionally, I’d catch a yoga class down the street.
But it wasn’t until PureBarre that I found something I could actually stick with.
But the voice didn’t care about my commitment to Barre. And if you’re used to dealing with the voice, you know you have to hear it out before you can address it.
So I listened and gave it space to thrash a moment. It struck me that I still have a lingering, deep distrust in my ability to handle challenges as they arise.
This wasn’t about trapeze. This was about my fears as so many things in my life are shifting and growing. Between moving back to the suburbs, moving in with my partner, and everything in between, I was feeling incredibly vulnerable. And now, someone was asking me to climb a rope and get over my fear of heights and my inner child was throwing a tantrum. Deep breath.
But I wasn’t about to not try it. In case you’re curious, circus classes are not particularly cheap. I managed to get myself up there. The kick up wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Thank God for long legs. Sitting on top of the bar, I started to lower myself down backwards. It was time to let go.
Letting go is, ahem, NOT my strong suit. In fact, anxiety-ridden control freak is a fairly apt description of my Virgo rising ass.
I couldn’t quite make it happen the first time around, but I gave it a shot. Deep breath. Done.
It wasn’t enjoyable, but I’d tried it. I went into trapeze knowing just enough about to know it likely wouldn’t be an amazing experience for me – but that’s not what I came for.
We switched over to the silks, and I immediately felt my shoulders drop. There’s something about working with a stiff bar that is much less satisfying than the flexibility of silks.
The instructor showed us how to approach the long hanging fabric, and I opted to go first. I started to climb – and to my surprise, it was easy. I climbed all the way up to the top of the silks, and once I realized how I high off the ground I was, I took a deep breath.
Heights are not my strong suit either. But the truth was, I was fine.
Because the truth is, I am strong enough to work hard and stay true to myself. I am committed – and if I’m not, it’s because deep down, I know it’s not right for me. I can trust myself to continue to build a life I love – and I have years of stories to prove it.
Inching my way back down the ropes, I remembered exactly how far I’ve come.
Besides, if I can turn circus into a spiritual practice, what can’t I do?