One of my secret childhood fantasies was to fly on the trapeze. I imagined how thrilling it would be to sail gracefully through the air, the wind in your hair with the a safety net below. When I found out that there was a trapeze school down the road in Santa Monica, it stayed in the back of my mind as something I would eventually have to try.
As luck would have it, a friend of mine finished our phone conversation recently by asking me if I knew anyone who might want to join a trapeze class the following Saturday. She was involved in a fundraising event for cancer survivors that included ten spaces at the trapeze school in Santa Monica, and her friend had asked her to help fill the remaining openings.
"Are you kidding? I am there!" I marveled at my good fortune and couldn't wait till Saturday arrived. That morning I dressed in what I considered my best "trapeze outfit," as excited as a five-year-old. I could see myself swinging, maybe even doing a flip, and thought I might even try the catches!
I arrived relaxed and ready to take the literal leap of faith. We were given a short training on the ground, and the first few people took their turn. Some of these were women who had survived cancer; they were brave in ways I couldn't fathom. A couple of them went all the way, while one or two just managed to grab the bar and swing once before gently dropping into the safety net. No one was judged, and everyone was cheered on for whatever they did.
Before I knew it, my turn had come. I climbed the ladder and quickly realized it was a heck of a lot higher than it looked from the ground. But I moved through my fear and made it to the top, scooting around the tiny platform and getting re-hooked into the cables that would follow me along my swing.
But there was one problem: I suddenly didn't feel good about it. First of all, I remembered -- interesting timing -- that I am pretty afraid of heights. Secondly, my one initial concern about the whole trapeze thing, that it might tax a shoulder that had been dislocated years ago, suddenly loomed large. I thought about how great my life is right now, and the memory of the pain of that shoulder being out of its socket and the months of recovery I endured started to weigh heavily on my infatuation with briefly sailing through the sky.
I knew it wasn't the right thing for me to do. It wasn't a matter of pushing through my fear -- it was clearly not the right thing for me to do. And more important, I knew that it was fine to say so, and to climb back down the ladder. There was no shame or sense of apology, no long explanations to my buddies back on the ground other than, "It didn't feel right." I watched the others for the rest of our time there with great enjoyment, and without a twinge of remorse or embarrassment.
Could I have "just said no" years ago? I don't know. I think I would have felt the need to do a lot of apologizing and explaining. I think I would have felt I'd blown it somehow by climbing down the ladder, or that I should have tried harder.
But not listening to my inner wisdom is a thing of the past. As I drove home, I considered the changes that had happened in my life that enabled me to feel fine about how things had gone.
This got me thinking about kids and peer pressure. We so frequently tell our kids not to join others on the playground when they tease other children, to not cave in when their peers are egging them on to try drugs or alcohol, and to resist the pressure to be sexually active when they're encouraged to do so.
But do they see us holding our own when our peers are putting pressure on us to take action we don't feel is right? What do our children observe us doing when our wiser instincts are telling us not to join another committee, offer to take the kids to a movie when we're worn out by a bad cough, or when we get drawn in to unfriendly gossip behind a friend's back.
As we make the choices about what we stand for, who we vote for, and how we conduct ourselves in our daily life, it's important to remember that our children are observing whether we make decisions based on what looks right to other people, or based on what feels right to us.
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