Fear of Flying Begone

My Own Milky Way: Streb Trapeze AcademyIf you were invited to participate in a trapeze class, would you do it? I was asked that question a few years back. At the time, the closest I had come to aerial acrobatics was cartwheels. I often walked past a trapeze school, located on the top of a building, and would see the acrobats flying through the air with the sky as their backdrop. It was an impressive and incredibly daring site, but not something I envisioned for myself. So, I declined the invite. My decision was largely based on fear, which is as good of a reason as any, but not one I like to admit. However, another part of me regretted turning down the offer, especially when I heard the experiences of those who had accepted it and followed through.

I am involved with a group called Mice at Play that organizes fun, adventurous and engaging events for women. A year after that first invite, the trapeze class appeared on the Mice agenda again. This time, I knew I couldn’t say no without living to regret it. I felt better being part of a group. We were eight women, all novices, 40-year-olds and up, and excited, giddy and nervous by the idea of our aerial adventure.

We began on the ground with preliminary exercises for learning how to move with the trapeze, which was followed by an instructor’s demonstration of what we were to do in the air. Then came the moment of truth as each one of us took a turn climbing the ladder to the platform where, hooked up to safety harnesses, we then took hold of the trapeze on cue. Everything was supposed to be executed on cue. Our instructors called out the directions, and we followed as best we could.

I took my turn somewhere in the middle of the group, having no wish to lead and preferring to see others try it before I gave it a go. Normally, I like to think of myself as being somewhat bold when it comes to physical activities, but that was not the case that day. With my heart in my throat, I climbed the ladder to a small platform that felt too high for comfort. I resolved to focus on the trapeze in front of me and on the instructor’s voice calling out the cues. To my surprise, it all went smoothly. I was in the moment of the movement. Once I started, I only thought of what I needed to do next and then it was over. Maybe it was my youthful years on the monkey bars coming back to me, or maybe I was just mimicking what I had seen as we mammals do.

The group went through the motions several times, and each try came with a little more confidence and a little less fear. Muscles began to relax, and we started to have fun. What made this experience so extraordinary for me was not simply the fact that I tried this feat and did it, but that I was able to get beyond my fear with the support of the group. I like to think that together we helped each other overcome our individual reservations. Now, when I walk past the trapeze school with the acrobats flying through the air, the scene still strikes me as daring, only now I can see myself in the picture.


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