Spring is a time of renewal, cleansing, letting go of the old to invite in the new. This week, I want to share the incredible story of how my friend Kim learned to let go of her pain and embrace a new life, while flying high above the Hudson River…
It was Monday, March 2013. I was sprawled out on my couch in Brooklyn, putting the finishing touches on my grad school application and waiting for my boyfriend to get out of work and planning what to make for dinner. When he got home, without explanation or apology, he broke up with me. Just like that.
I was devastated. We’d been together six years, talking about getting married – yet he gave me no warning, no compassion. In a second, my life came crashing down.
I fell apart. I lost ten pounds in a week, surviving on coffee and liquor, moving through my days in a painful, unreal fog. Everything hurt. I just couldn’t absorb the truth: that relationship, which had been my bedrock, my identity, was over.
When I told Sonia what happened, she invited me to an event she was planning—a flying trapeze workshop-adventure, called “The Power of Letting Go.” The trapeze part interested me—to the extent that anything caught my interest—but the part about letting go? I couldn’t handle that. Not yet.
I had to move. His idea was to share the apartment, like he could just downgrade me from girlfriend to roommate, but I knew that was insane. So I moved into a loft in Bushwick, the only place in the city I could afford. There wasn’t a room available yet, so I camped out in a corner of the basement. Hanging from the ceiling next to my mattress pad was a pair of long red fabrics, which I repurposed as curtains, spreading them around my corner to suggest privacy. I had never been more depressed.
I needed to get out of the house, though, so I told Sonia I’d come try the trapeze.
In her gentle yet knowing way, she asked what I planned to let go of. I heard myself saying, “The hope that Eric and I will ever get back together.” I hadn’t said that to myself yet, but when I saw the way she just nodded and sort of smiled, I knew that was exactly what I had to do.
That Saturday, I dragged myself out of bed and took the train to Chelsea Pier. During the workshop, I met and talked with a dozen women who were letting go of all sorts of things: an ex-husband. A child. A career. Lack of confidence. Being a people-pleaser.. A way of life that was holding her back.
It was all so powerful, I found myself doing what I hadn’t done in weeks: thinking about something other than how sad I was. I had so much respect for these women, who were taking control of their own lives just by choosing to let go of something.
So when Sonia pointed out that I was doing the same thing, I had to at least try to see my story the way I saw theirs: as an opportunity.
Then, we went up to the roof, to put this notion of letting go into practice. We were going to trapeze.
One of the tenets of Sonia’s program is “Let go, and trust that others will catch you.” This takes on literal meaning when you’re on the trapeze, it also an emotional one, when it comes to life. Up on the platform, I had no choice—I was already up there; I just had to step into unknown.
When I did, though, I flew through the air, seeing nothing but sky. And I felt something other than broken.
I felt, for the first time, that things could be better—not just better than that moment, but better than they’d ever been. I had to stop clinging to my past. I had to open myself up to accept the future—even if I couldn’t see what that was yet.
What was I letting go of? The belief that that relationship had been fairy-tale perfect. (It wasn’t. I found out later he’d been cheating on me.) The fear that nothing good would ever come to me again. (It did, a hundred-fold.) The belief that I had no power to direct the course of my own life. (Oh please!)
That feeling of freedom – both letting go emotionally, and flying physically – was so new to me. But it also felt so right, so natural. All I had to do was accept it. To let go of what stood in my way.
I got back to the loft that day to find my roommate Beth making food for taco night. I sat at the counter and picked at olives, while she chopped tomatoes and listened to me rhapsodize about this new feeling.
“I kind of want to join the circus,” I said, half-seriously. “It’d take a lot of time and money to get trained and all, and I know it’s a huge departure from writing. But honestly, I think it might be my calling.”
Instead of laughing, she said, “Have you tried that trapeze thingie in the basement?”
I looked at her blankly. “What are you talking about?”
“Those red things you’re using for curtains,” she said. “They’re trapeze silks. The kind Cirque du Soleil has. I thought you knew that.”
My jaw dropped. That’s what those were?
And that’s how I started doing aerial silks, which is now a huge, wonderful, meaningful part of my life.
That’s an unlikely moral, I know, and my point is not that a workshop about letting go is supposed to inspire you to love circus arts. My point is that Sonia’s event came at a crucial time for me, and it resulted in changes I could never have predicted. It changed me.
It was a turning point, not just in my grieving process, but in my life. That was the day I really, truly felt that something amazing was possible.
Is there a better feeling than that? I don’t think so. It’s been responsible for nearly every good thing that’s come to me. Since that day, I’ve written a novel, finished my MFA, taught college courses, opened an Etsy shop, and yes, even begun performing on aerial silks. Those things all felt impossible once—but because I made the choice to let go of what was keeping me so small, I was free to chase them. And reach them.
Before that breakup, I was so limited in what I believed I was capable of. And I might still be, if not for getting my heart broken, but then having it opened up again in the totally unlikely event of trapeze. That’s what this program is about: letting go, opening up, and flying.
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