Studio Musings

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Adrenalin and Creative Cross-Training

I think it was in Julia Cameron's fantastic book, The Artist Way, that I first ran across the concept of  creative cross training.  Where a personal success in one area - most especially in overcoming the belief that you "can't"- makes it easier to undertake a challenge in an entirely disparate arena.  Back in March, I wondered if I'd gone a little insane as I recounted my first Trapeze Class.  Heading to the class, I had no intention of ever taking another ever again; my goal was simply to survive that one.  Fast forward to today; I've now taken three trapeze classes, and have signed up for a fourth towards the end of June. 

Why you may ask?  It's surprisingly fun (and I've never considered myself an adrenaline junkie) and it pushes me outside my comfort zone in a way that makes me smile every time I think of it.  It makes me feel surprisingly capable, even though I have to be one of the most ungainly trapeze students ever.  With all three classes, the first time I climb the ladder a little voice inside my head shouts "You can't!  You can't!"  And then, after the first run, however awkward it might have been, I swear I hear the surprise in that little voice as it changes to "Huh, that wasn't so bad".  Once I've caught my breath and the initial rush of adrenalin subsides, that same voice whispers "Maybe we should try again - I bet we can do better."

By the end of the class last month, I managed to get the basic trick down well enough that I received the okay to go for the catch. I did it - swung by my knees to the point that the catcher grabbed my wrists and I swung out into the air dangling from his hands!  Yeah me!

I'd rather expected to continue doing the same this time. too.  Nope.  Since I'd managed the basic trick, now I got to learn a new one.  Great, right?  Uh, yeah, except when I discovered that for this next trick I'd have to let go of the bar entirely and jump out into empty space to practice for the catch. Yes, really. 

The trick is simply called "Heels Off": swing out, bring your legs up and hook your heels on the bar, swing upside down in this position, with hips tucked high and hands and heels on the bar.  Then explode off of the bar opening into a superman pose at the top of the next swing to land flat in the net.  Uh, no?!?

But I was already there, so I decided to go for it.  First time went something like this: climb the ladder.  Don't think, just grab the bar with my right hand.  Now grab it with my left, hips arched forwards over empty air (blessings for the woman acting as counterweight holding my belt).  Not as bad as I remembered.

The call comes "Hep".  A small jump, swing out.  Knees up.  Mantra in head "Heels on the bar, not knees", as my feet flail a little as they work their way through the space above my head.  That's getting easier too.  Not great, but better. Upside down now, four points of contact - hands & heels.  Swinging.

Hep!  The call registers in my brain, but my hands and feet don't move.  No superman maneuver for me; not happening.  I'm stuck to the bar like velcro.  Still swinging.  The voice from below shouts 'ready'; a little warning.  They'll keep calling until I do something besides hang there like an ungainly bat.

Almost back again, swinging higher, higher.

Hep! My hands come unstuck.  I let go!  I Let Go!  I'm in the air.  I look nothing like superman. And then I'm in the net.  As I roll out of the net I realize, I can do it - it will take work, but I now believe that at some point in the future, I will actually be able to do this trick.  Amazing.

By the end of the class, I got the green light (cowbell actually) to go for the catch.  Missed it.  But that's what next class is for - time to try again. I have no intention of running away to join the circus.  But for the foreseeable future, I think I'll be taking a trapeze class every month.  As a reminder to myself of what is possible, when I'm willing to move outside of my fears.  And a great reason to keep going to the gym.

Makes me wonder; if I can manage to let go of that bar while it's swinging two stories up in the air, what else can I manage, nice and safe on the ground?

Wonder what I looked like?  Here's a video of one of my runs, thanks to one of the other students:

See, superman I am not!  :)

And here's my question for you, straight from Julia Cameron's section on Risk, "What would [you] do if [you] didn't have to do it perfectly?"


  1. Congratulations on your courage to go for something like trapeze training. I've read Julia's great book and I've been pondering that question for a while. I still haven't come up with an answer! So, I'm still thinking...

  2. Isn't it a great book? I haven't worked through it in years, but I find myself rereading specific sections. Like the one on Risk, and the one on Finding the River. I have to remind myself that risks come in all shapes & sizes. :)

    It's thanks to Groupon and a whim for the final push to give it a try. Truth is, it's not something I'd ever considered doing, not even as a child, not really. The Groupon surprised me so much, was such a good deal and caught me at just the right time. I hadn't even known we had a trapeze school in Seattle. Even still, it took a year between the time I bought the Groupon and when I took the class.

  3. What a fabulous post Karen :-) Congratulations on literally "flying" outside of your comfort zone and pushing the limits of your beliefs. I have to admit my stomach was up in the air a bit while reading your post (I've been afraid of heights ever since an emergency plane landing in Seattle a few years ago!!) but the sense of empowerment you described really hit home. I look forward to following your successes with your art and business as you continue soaring through the air and your boundaries!!

  4. Oh my gosh, look at you flying through the air! You're so brave.

    I love this idea of creative cross-training. If I could do anything and not have to do it perfectly, I'd try some of the harder hula hoop tricks, like rolling the hoop across my chest. I'm so afraid of hitting myself in the nose!

  5. JJ - have I mentioned that I've been afraid of heights since I was a child? On the plus side, I've found that once I'm off the platform I'm so busy trying to get my body to do what it's supposed to that I don't have time to think about the height. Except for waiting for that first call to let go. :)

    Sarah - you should totally try that hoopla hoop trick! I can just see you practicing with a catcher's mask on to protect your nose.