Like other leaps of faith, jumping off a trapeze platform would require tremendous vulnerability.
It was instant euphoria. The wind seemed to blow from all directions, but my body cut through it like a bird in flight. All I could see was sky. I was free and soaring through the air. I was unhinged from my fear, past pain and distrust, and transported to the heavenly dreams of my childhood.
"Legs up!" screamed the male instructor from the ground. I had forgotten about that dude. I was having such a magical time flying that I wasn't at all ready to switch positions. "Put your legs up, now!" he said.
Alright, alright. I swung my legs over the bar with ease, surprising myself. "Arms out!" he hollered. Damn all these rules.
I arched my back, reached my arms out, and looked forward. I felt like a free bird; I wanted to stay like that forever...or at least 10 seconds.
"Legs down!" Already? "Legs down now!" Fine.
"Wait!!" he screamed.
I plummeted like Icarus (another fellow who didn't listen to flying instructions) onto the net. My arm and face crashed into it first, followed by the rest of me. I stumbled around like a scratched up, drunken sailor to make my way onto the ground.
"You didn’t listen to me," the ground instructor said, helping me down from the netting. "I tell you when to drop. You have to listen."
I nodded, my face, arm and ego burned and raw. Although the teachers were all skilled trapeze artists, I was having an incredibly hard time listening to them. I had decided long ago that I would never let another person boss me around like my ex did, and although these instructors were only trying to help me master the flying trapeze, the intensity and vulnerability of my fight-or-flight feelings made me wary of them.
As my classmates took their turns, I chugged purple Gatorade and realized that my trust issues had officially infiltrated all areas of my life. Trying to protect myself from ever getting into another abusive relationship meant I had created a fortress around my heart guarded by nimble relationship sabotaging gnomes that would bar me from getting truly close to another man.
I've sabotaged a few potentially great relationships by acting like a skittish cat, darting off when I should have stayed, shutting down when I should have communicated my feelings. I was overwhelmed thinking of the experiences, lovers, friends, and opportunities I had I missed out on.
By my last jump, my fear and anxiety grew more intense, and I froze in the middle of the very tall, shaky ladder. I could fall off this ladder and that would be that, I thought. Yep. Dead.
I thought about how much I've tried to self-protect in love and life, and how I will never be in total control. I exhaled dramatically, imagining all my pent-up trust issues departing from me with my breath. I thought of my dad's favorite saying (via FDR), "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," and climbed my ass up the rest of that ladder.
By the time I got to the top, I was freely crying. My lack of trust wasn't reserved solely for others. The fact was, I didn't really trust myself, either. Reacting purely out of fear, I've cheated myself out of some really cool life experiences.
I jumped and flew for the last time.
I left the trapeze school with a headache and some scratches, feeling completely exhausted. The intoxicating rush of adrenaline I'd just experienced was nothing compared to the revelation I'd just had.
My biggest, most pent up fears had manifested during my flying lesson, leaving me with the choice to face them or lay-down and let them win. When I finally surrendered and faced my fear, when I stopped thinking about what could go wrong, and when I laid my ego down and put my trust in the instructors, I flew with grace, and I landed with it too.