Sunday, 10 June 2012

Fear and Flying

Sometimes it’s good to do something a little different.

So yesterday I went on a flying trapeze.

As you do.

Screengrab from Sex and the City, Series 6, Episode 8, 'The Catch'

Inspired by Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, my friend Pippa and I signed up for a two-hour outdoor trapeze lesson with Gorilla Circus . And it was amazing. I don’t think I’ve had an adrenalin rush like that since I rode the Aerosmith Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster at Disneyland Paris nine years ago (which was awesome, by the way).

As an adult, unless you’re into extreme sports or have children to take to theme parks, you have little opportunity to experience adrenalin rushes.

As children we were fearless. We hung upside-down from climbing frames, we did somersaults on trampolines and bouncy castles, played leapfrog, leapt off swings and took all manner of risks. Except back then it didn’t feel like a risk, it felt perfectly natural. We were only testing our bodies to see what they were capable of.

qb, aged 7 or 8, forward-rolling!

qb, aged 7 or 8, on the climbing frame.
Wow, I had a fetching line in tracksuits...!
 My grandmother had a brilliant climbing frame in her back garden for us children, and I was adept at hanging upside-down from the monkey rings, or the trapeze, and my sister and I often went flying from the swings in a mad game that must have given my parents the heebies.

qb, aged 10, upside down. Of course.

But the older (and further from the ground) you grow, the more fearful you become. I don’t know when the Fear kicks in – I suspect in your mid-twenties. 

Unlike my little sister I had no desire to go skydiving or bungee jumping (all right, I did at one point but seeing my sister’s videos from her travels allowed me to do these things vicariously and they were subsequently wiped off my bucket list). 

But I’ve always had a soft spot for a playground swing, and a trapeze, to me, just seemed like a big swing for grown-ups.

Except it’s so much more than that.

I had no problem mounting the ladder.

I had no problem standing on the platform several feet off the ground.

Photo by my friend Pippa
I had no little problem leaping off the platform into the air. The first time you leap, you soar. Your stomach rushes into your mouth and you disconnect with your body for just a second.

...I shrieked like a little girl the first time, but it was more from the rush than from fear. I was harnessed, there was a net beneath me, I was safe.

It was an amazing feeling.

Photo by Pippa

Even dropping to the net (albeit on my face), then forward-rolling off onto a safety mat, was exhilarating. For a moment I lost that Fear.

But at some point I must have got it back, because by the third swing I wigged. My legs felt like lead beneath me, my hands were sore, and when I pulled up my knees I couldn't yank them over the bar as we'd been taught, for love nor money. (Pippa and I both agreed that maybe a little extra practice time on a lower bar would have helped, but hey!)

And ... Yep. I let go, and fell off! *I wanted to show a video but for some reason I couldn't embed it here/Blogger gave me no idea of how long the upload was going to take. Boo.

I'm kind of annoyed with myself for giving in to an element of Fear and letting go. 

But by the same token, I let go with a certain amount of Fearlessness and abandon. I wasn't scared to let go.

So maybe the Fearlessness does stay with us past childhood. It just manifests itself in different ways.

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