I fly better when I’m scared

I went to my 5th trapeze class tonight:

I’ve had good, productive classes and less productive classes. I’ve learned some tricks fast, and others are coming slower. Like anytime I’m learning a new skill, I have to find the right emotional mix to do my best work.

I thought it would be faking confidence, the way it is with public speaking or singing opera. Then I thought it would be a physical warm-up ritual, like wrestling or karate.

It turns out its much simpler: I fly better when I’m scared. It’s the first sport I’ve done where I’m supposed to be tense, to hold my body tight. I can’t think, nothing I’m doing is more than the 10 steps I can easily hold in my RAM, and so letting the fear–of heights, of falling, of the wobbly ladder or the crowd of people–overwhelm me gets me focused. I listen to my blood pound, let my hands shake, let my face do whatever it does when I’m scared.

I let myself feel the fear and then my monkey-brain kicks in as soon as I’m swinging, and I don’t let go until someone I trust tells me to. It’s quiet up there, not because I’m concentrating hard but because focusing on what I’m feeling gives me space between that and what I’m thinking.

A new instructor and I were chatting while the woman before me finished. I said I appreciated trapeze because I can’t think about anything else when I’m doing it. He said:

“It quiets the voices in the head.”

That sounds about right to me, but it quiets them in a way I’m not used to. It’s not muffling them the way I can when I focus on quiet, and it’s not displacing them, the way that happens when I’ve had a drink. It’s like my fear is bigger and badder than any of my other worries, and so my brain executes a priority queue and makes everything necessary to getting safely to the ground the only thing I think about.

There are other things I love about flying. The feeling of the sweep, the trust in the instructors, TSNY’s lovely policy of positive reinforcement, the friends. But I love the quiet in the air the most.

Inspirational Quote:

“( i know i am because i said am, my body is home)”–Mary Lambert

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