Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Upside down and okay with it

So it's officially been over a year since I started Aerial classes, and I've not said a lot about it, so let's get updated!

I had been a gymnast in middle and high school, not necessarily a good one, though I did score a few 8s here and there.  I wasn't flexible, but I had no fear, and that served me much better than anyone would think.

But life goes on, and not enough people wanted to do gymnastics to continue the team through high school, so I switched to track and let gymnastics fade into the background.  There wasn't any real loss felt, because I wasn't good enough to win scholarships or go to Olympics, and that's the primary dream when you're a high school gymnast.

So the years pass by, and I took a trapeze class two years ago for my birthday, and I go to a Boot Camp class that encourages cartwheels for one of their stations, and the fire gets stoked again.

Then in 2011, when Dad was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, I decided I was going to challenge myself on the west coast, and take a Tissu class.  Dad knew I was doing it, and I would tell him how it was going, but I didn't tell him specifically why I was doing it, which was if Dad was going to be going through pain and exhaustion during chemo, I was going to put myself through sympathy pain and exhaustion, so we both could be exhausted together.

This was a stupid reason, and I knew it was (which is probably why I didn't tell him).  My being physically exhausted and in pain from Tissu class wouldn't have helped him at all, or hastened his recovery-which-never-happened, or even made him feel better.  But I've stuck with many a boneheaded idea before, (I lost ten pounds by eating nothing but rice and beef broth for three weeks, I once I thought I could do marshmallow art by nuking mini marshmallows in the microwave) so why not this one.

There was a period of adjustment, where I had to go to different classes to find one I was comfortable with, and finally found a place pretty close to the Shabby Shack, and it's an aerial class, meaning we work out on both Tissu and Static Trapeze.  And it's been fascinating to see how much muscle memory has been awakened for me.  Specific muscles in hands, arms, butt and legs that haven't been used in years are raging to the forefront again.  I compared calluses on my hands with 10-year-old niece Mandy-Bug, who IS taking gymnastic classes and for all I know, may follow in my casual-gymnastics footsteps.

I'm not in the beginner class.  And I'm not in the advanced class, though my teachers say I can move up whenever I want to.  My flexibility is still woefully sad and starchy, and I feel like you need to be super flexible to be in the advanced class.  Maybe yes, maybe no.

But it's a challenge.  And there have been several moments where I am exhausted and in pain.  In so MUCH pain, that massages don't actually put a dent in the pain, like I thought they would.  

There have been times where I was scared out of my mind.  Being a high school gymnast with no fear and weighing under 90 pounds was one thing.  Several years and more pounds later is something else entirely.  Anytime I have to do a trick where I fall upside down freaks my shit out.  Doesn't matter if the Tissu is wrapped a kajillion times around my leg, thigh and waist.  Doesn't matter if the trapeze rope is jammed between my thigh and well, my crotch.  Doesn't matter if the coach is below me spotting me, saying, "You're overthinking it, just go for it."  I'm batshit scared, and I'm voluntarily putting myself through this process.

But those were the times I remembered my dad, and even though he never talked about it, he must've been scared about the chemo process, about the future, about time and how much of it did he have left.  And then I would tell myself, "You're scared.  But Dad's got a lot more to be scared about, so suck it up and do it."

So I would.  And over time. I’ve been able to stifle the yelps and screams that used to happen when falling, and I’ve gotten more comfortable with dangling upside down like a worm on a hook.

Technically, there’s not a reason to continue with the class, since Dad is gone, and with him, my initial reasons for doing the class.  But it’s a part of me now, and I’ll keep at it because it’s fun, it doesn’t feel like working out, it’s still a challenge, and I dunno, I guess the goal is to eventually get stronger and more graceful on the apparatus. 

The class size and participants change from week to week, and there are plenty of times where I get intimidated by newbies who are bendy twentysomethings; super flexible with twigs for arms and bouncy butts.

During one particular class, we're stretching, and everyone can do splits but me, and I'm thinking to myself how I'm having a rotten day and didn't wanna deal with Barbie classmates, and what would God say about this situation.

I’ve read a few self-help books in my time and I start to imagine what God would say if He was talking to me right now (some of the self-help books have recommended that as a writing exercise if you’re going through a particularly difficult time).

I start thinking that God would say something like what I heard in church from Pastor Bernard a few years ago, "Stop looking at what everyone else has and look up at God."

So I mentally look up at God and imagine Him saying something like:

"Precious daughter, I created you and your inflexible limbs, and I love you anyway.  I am so happy that you found this class and school and that you can challenge yourself on your own terms regardless of what your classmates can do.  So enjoy this class!  You can do it, because I know you're strong enough."  

Yes, it’s kinda cheesy and Up With People kind of thing.  And it can be a bit of a dangerous business to start thinking FOR God, because you can find yourself justifying all sorts of things that He really wouldn’t be approving of.  But in this one instance, it made me feel better.

Lo and behold, the bendy Barbies were flexible, but not as strong, not as knowledgeable about the tricks (because they were brand new, and I’ve been there for a year), and I held my own.

I dunno if I’m going to try and make What Would God Say (I guess that makes it WWGS) a regular occurrence, but the result this one time was so immediate that it needed to be noted.

And I guess I feel comfortable posting this one, since you really can’t see my face here either.  Here’s the one trick I learned how to do on Tissu – The Double Star.  True pros will laugh at me, since you’re supposed to be able to control how fast you go down the Tissu, and I have no doubt that I will get there in maybe another two years.  

But baby steps, baby steps.  Here, we’re celebrating the fact that I’m not screaming on the way down.

1 comment:

kym said...

doood Amy, I've been doing silks for a year too and I can't do the splits either and the twenty-something dancer/gymnasts are totally annoying. But girl that double just blew my mind. Well done!