She swings through the air with the greatest of ease. That’s the girl on the flying trapeze.
A young friend of mine will turn 30 in March. Last year she made a list she called “30 by 30.”
Her list contained 30 rather ambitious things that she wanted to do or accomplish by the time she turned 30. She has already marked off a number of items on her list — she visited the White House. She has done a yoga class, bought a real Christmas tree, caught a fish and water-skied.
She’s slept on a houseboat, done Asian karaoke, eaten crab and done a round of speed dating. She’s participated in a Fantasy Football League, seen a Broadway show in previews, ridden in a helicopter, eaten Ethiopian food and had her caricature drawn. She went to a hockey game and completed a home repair without anyone else’s help.
She has almost met her weight loss goal, getting closer every day to running a mile without stopping and will soon pay for someone else’s drink at a coffee shop.
Two weeks ago, however, she was able to mark off a biggie from her list. For reasons beyond my powers of comprehension, she included “Flying on a circus trapeze,” on her to-do list. Fortunately for her, she lives in Washington, D.C., where the Navy Yard played host to a trapeze school recently. So, she signed herself up and went with a friend.
I’m not certain what all was involved with the training or how many times she was able to experience the trapeze itself, but she sent me the video of one of her attempts and has granted permission for me to write about it.
On the video, my friend is hooked up to wires and harnesses. She stands on the edge of the platform and on the verbal cue, she lets go and swings through the air. The coach then gives her another cue to put her feet on the bar. Then, “Let go with your hands.”
And my friend swings through the air hanging by her knees.
Then, the caller and coach yells for her to place her hands back on the bar and gives the final line of instruction, “On my call, three big kicks and let go.”
My friend follows the instructions perfectly as the caller yells, “Kick back, forward, back and let go.”
For that moment, it was like beautiful choreography, but my friend does not let go. Instead, she swings back and inexplicably starts putting her legs on the bar again. The coach again yells, “Let go!”
And my friend begins to swing forward again.
The caller yells in a stern voice, for the third time, “Let go!”
And even though my friend is half dangling from her legs and in the wrong swing position, she finally obeys and lets go of the bar — and meets the net with a lovely face plant.
I watched the video a number of times, trying to figure out what it was about it that mesmerized me so.
Then I realized.
My friend’s experience on the trapeze is a lot like what many of us do with big things, little things and other disappointments in our lives.
We know when we’re supposed to let go rather than hang on. We know we’re supposed to take three big kicks and let go. Instead, we start putting our feet on the bars — swinging back and forth when we have no business doing so anymore and not nearly as gracefully as life once was.
When we’ve exhausted the possibilities, are out of strength and momentum is fading, we’re finally convinced to let go. By then, we’re in the wrong position and scared to death. We flail more than necessary, but we finally let go and land in the net with a face plant rather than in a much more agreeable position — all because we didn’t let go when we should have done so.