The difference between falling and flying is what you’re telling yourself in the air.
That’s why it’s called the air war.
Once you progress through the early stages of the curriculum in flying trapeze, you learn the secret:
Trapeze is a sport where noticeable, measurable progress comes sparingly. Most progress comes in small, 2-millimeter increments. And usually after periods of regression or stagnation.
Confidence can wane.
This is a sport of three steps backward, one step forward. And for every gain, for every millimeter of improvement, the reward is knowing that you can still do it better. It’s an open-ended system. There’s always a next level.
Higher. Tighter. Straighter legs.
The physical toll can be intense. But it’s the head game that can really fuck with you. This sport is not for the faint of heart or spirit.
The skill we’re really learning to master is how to stay confident in the absence of progress, or even in the face of regression.
That’s the practice.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with my takeoff. Tonight I was really struggling with my body position and my grip on the bar. This is the foundation for everything else in the swing. It’s hard to give everything to my swing — to swing full out, to forceout with power — when you don’t feel supported on the bar.
Circus is life.
What happens on the rig mirrors what’s happening off the rig. In life, in my work, I feel unsupported. I feel my grip failing me. Notice your patterns. When things show up, they show up everywhere.
When I can have a practice where I am struggling to get a grip on the bar — the foundation — and still get up to the platform and take a trick across to the catcher out of lines, and I win the fight for that 2 millimeters of progress, that victory is everything.
This is why I fly.
In those fleeting moments I discover that beneath the surface of doubt lies a deep reservoir of self-trust.
Self-confidence grows from this place.
Those moments of victory — when I’ve scored even a temporary win over both the force of physical gravity and the force of the negative talk in my head — remind me that even when my physical core feels weak, my spiritual core is made of steel.
Circus is life.
I take this steel core, the reservoir of self-trust and the self-confidence that it harbors off the rig, back into the “real” world.
I remind myself that life, like trapeze, is a journey of three steps backwards and one step forward. I remember that breakthroughs rarely come in the big milestone moments, but rather they arrive in the imperceptible 2-millimeter shifts.
The struggle is part of the game. And it’s the struggle that shapes who we are.
If you want to fly, you must be willing to leap and you must be willing to fall, again and again.
And one thing I’ve learned is that the only difference between falling and flying is the story you’re telling yourself in the air.
What story are you telling yourself?