A few weeks ago when I was picking up my daughter at camp, I noticed a brightly coloured postcard advertising summer circus camp. For adults. I was unbelievably excited. When I realized some of the dates coincided with my time without the kids, I was determined to attend at least one time.
There’s probably something you should know about me. I abhor exercise for the sake of exercise. I need to either be trying to get somewhere (walking, cycling, NOT running), or having so much fun that I don’t notice my body’s working hard. I also love the idea of defying gravity, and twisting my body into a pretzel, and taking risks and pushing limits.
Not that I’ve been doing very much of any of that in recent months. I’ve been feeling completely disheartened by the state of my physical health lately. There are parts of me that only sometimes work. I have pain a lot of the time. I have felt so incapable of anything that requires any sort of physicality. But I had hope that there’d be something I could do at the circus. So I gave it a shot.
Last night after work, a coworker, my lover and I met under the big top. There was a crowd of maybe 40, with a half-dozen instructors. Folks of all levels of experience with circus arts, so I didn’t feel like I stood out as the new girl. The three of us started with the trapeze bar. We watched a couple of more experienced women do some tricks first, and then it was time for us. I threw myself forward, completely enthralled with what I’d seen so far. I held the bar, dropped my bum, hung by my hands, and swung my feet up and over the bar. I pulled myself upright so I was sitting. I hung by my feet. I did this (that’s not me). I flipped myself backwards off the bar.
It. Was. INCREDIBLE. I was a toddler: AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN! My co-worker and lover took their turns, and I noticed that while I’m bendier than both of them put together, they are far stronger than I am, and were capable of pulling themselves up more easily. Watching them and cheering them on, I felt at home in a way that I have never felt in a yoga class or at the gym.
I also tried the aerial swinging ladder. Tied by one wrist to the top of the ladder, I supported my weight in midair with just my hands. I did the star, with one arm and leg extended outward. I was FLYING. You know that feeling when you’re a little kid and you first figure out how to pump your legs to go higher on the swing without having to ask for help? It was exactly like that feeling.
I don’t know if I can adequately explain how powerful my body felt last night. The last time my body felt that strong and capable was when I brought my second child into the world on my bedroom floor. Just like her birth, I’m a little sore today. And just like after birth, I’ve been in this genuine state of bliss for most of the day.
I need to do this. I am committed. When I grow up, I want to run away with the circus. In the meantime, I’ll continue to seek out opportunities to practice and get stronger. And fly.