We all know the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I prefer the saying without the first half. I prefer “plan to fail.” I don’t mean “plan only to fail”, of course. But plan to fail as part of the path.
In the words of Peter Mayer:
What if the highest destination
of any human life
wasn't something you could reach if
you had to climb
Wasn't up above like heaven
no need to fly at all
what if to reach the highest place
you had to fall?
There are some things I know for sure I'll never be great at--and somehow they are the most fun. Today, I'm sharing with you one of my favourites. Trapeze. I fell in love with trapeze realizing that I would, well, always... suck. I am too old, too heavy, and the nearest trapeze and/or instructor is a six hour drive away.
Enter an old trapeze fashioned from duct tape, baby clothes, spare metal from a scrap yard, and old pieces of rope. Enter figuring out how to hang it from the rings at a gymnastics drop in night and ignoring the fact that I am the only middle aged flopping fish in a sea of perfect 18 year old athletes. Enter unforseened co-athletes--exchange students, kids, teen parents, opera singers, and ballerinas. Enter not the training of artists, but the kitchen party jam session where everyone is invited.
People who say that flight is impossible for humans have never been on a flying trapeze. Falling and flight are indistinguishable while you're in the air. Sure, there's a part when you can tell them apart, at the end. But that moment comes for birds, too. Everything ends. Astronauts and flying trapeze artists and birds all have to land. That's not a good reason not to try, fail, fall, fly, and play. It's a good reason to put a net underneath.
I never got to be great at trapeze. Nobody was inspired by either my tricks or my great knowledge as a coach. "Coach" is a very generous word for in this case, since I was not so much sharing expetise as holding up youtube videos and saying "Do this. No, do it more like in the video."
It was my first experience of the coach not as the imparter of wisdom but as the hub and the mirror. "Allison had a good way of doing it" or "Cam, explain it like you explained it to me last week" or "I notice your arm is in a different spot on the times when your balance works better". Or "you really shine at the moves with lots of motion in them. You need to incorporate Izzy-was-right move and move-that-makes-you-pee-a-bit." (A downside of youtube training is you have to make up names for the moves. And then you have to argue about whether the name should be "Move that Cam can't do" or "Move that Cam can't do and Liz can't do either because she drops Allyson about 40% of the time which is a pass grade according ot Liz but not according to Cam. Or Allyson").
Above all, though, the kitchen party coach says "Oh heck yeah, you can do this. Look at me! If I can do it, you can do it". The day somebody told me that I was "Trapeze inspiration for the rest of us. You know, the normal ones" I knew I had achieved great things.
The first time you go on a flying trapeze, there's this moment when you step on the platform several stories above the ground and you think "HUMANS ARE NOT MEANT TO DO THIS". You are terrified to the bone because climbing up that ladder is an ordeal and a half. But--so is climbing down. No matter which route you choose, you will be scared and then you will be on the ground, because gravity is not optional.
Gravity will end your flight. But it can't prevent you from flying.