Tuesday, November 13, 2012

There's a reason they call it a death drop...

"I took this class because I'm afraid of heights"

It's one of those statements that makes a lot less sense when you say it out loud, but I said it anyways, because it was true.

When I first saw aerial silks performers at the LA County Fair last year, all could think was "I want to do that".  It looked fun, but far more... it looked like a controlled risk.  Like something that would scare me just enough that I'd have to push myself out of my comfort zone - but not so scary that I wouldn't do it (like roller coasters... those are just too scary).  So when I found out several months later that I can take silks classes through school as a PE credit, I signed right up.  Nothing was going to keep me away from my challenge.

As it turned out, the heights were hardly an issue.  Our teacher is amazing, keeping us moving slowly enough that we always feel completely in control.  As it turns out, I'm not afraid of heights at all - I'm afraid of falling.  Obviously, the higher the height, the greater my fear... but if I can trust that I won't fall, I'm not scared.  Forty foot climbing wall, strapped into a harness?  No problem at all.  I'm holding onto that wall, and I have the harness as backup in the off chance that I slip.  Edge of a roof of a 20 foot building?  No way.

The silks in this studio aren't that tall, maybe 20 feet.  You never actually go all the way to the top.  Best of all?  As long as I have some arm strength left, I can come down to the ground in a slow and controlled manner, no matter what.  Until today, I had nothing to be afraid of.

Until today, we hadn't done any drops.  Until today, I had no reason not to be in complete control of myself, of my my situation.

Today, I could feel the adrenaline rushing before I had even touched the silks.  No chickening, though.  I couldn't finish the class without trying a drop at least once.

I took this class because I'm afraid of falling.

At the top of the silks, dangling upside down like I'd already done plenty of times... feeling myself slipping and knowing that my instinctive response, curling up in the fetal position, is exactly what will make me fall.  Sitting up, slowly.  Not leaning forward too far, just enough to grab some slack...

"Okay, that looks good... now just lean forward and spread your arms into a T"


Just trying to make light of the situation.  Twenty feet in the air, staring at the ground... no way down but to fall.  No way down but exactly what I don't want to do.  Just lean forward.  Just...

The only way to face a fear is with confidence.  Fake confidence, if you believe it for long enough, is plenty good.  Just fool myself into believing I was fine... for just long enough, just long enough for gravity to take over.  Just long enough to lean forward.

I smiled.  Biggest fake smile I could handle.  "Okay!"  This won't be too bad, I told myself.

And then I was scrambling.  Silks already in my hands, my feet reached for something... anything... if I could just wrap my leg... just catch the silk... just stop the fall... slow it, maybe... my foot touched something... hovering upside-down for a second... falling slowly... so slowly... no more momentum and for just a second, I was balanced by a silk across my back... not how I was supposed to land.

Instinct told me to curl.  "Arch your back!" they all yelled, "arch!"

When you're in the air, right is left, up is down, arch is crunch.  A few inches of slip feels like a mile.  Nothing makes sense when you're in the air.

I started to curl into a ball, afraid.  I knew my arms weren't in control, I knew I was carefully balanced.  I was scared, I wanted the safety ... but when I moved, I tipped... just slightly... just enough towards my head that I knew I was wrong.

"Arch your back!"

Things started to make sense.

I dropped my feet towards the ground.

I knew which way was down.

Slowly... slowly but finally in control... I reached the ground.  I was there... safe.

"If I'd gone backwards, I would have hit my head"

"No, no.  I was right there.  I would have grabbed you in time."

Spotters don't make sense when you're in the air either, but on the ground, I remembered.

The only way to face a fear is with confidence.  Fake confidence will do, as long as you can fool yourself for long enough.

Don't forget to smile.

I don't have any pictures/video of my drop, but here's basically what it's supposed to look like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHh2EoSno9w ... Pictures from class will be coming eventually.

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