Friday, February 26, 2016

Fat Girl On the Bar: The Fat Girl Part

Tonight's class should have left me high. I did spear, bird's nest on the bar, and arrow. I hopped on the bar in a new way. I still can't do hip hang but I got a little closer, and while I didn't do our new move, I felt confident that I could do it next class. I got to big swing in Catcher's Hang which was as amazing as I'd imagined. I left actually feeling pretty good. I no longer beat myself up over what I can't do because I've learned that I'll get them eventually. And it's not a race. Not a competition.

Should have...

I had this post planned on in my head all week. I almost wrote it a few days ago but made myself wait. Now I find myself both pleased I wait and also miserable. I wanted to write about how trapeze has transformed how I see my body and my efforts at being healthy. This is not going to be that Fat Girl post. It is partly about that experience but it's also about easily a frame can shift. Part of me wants to not write it knowing the pain it's going to cause me. But I want this to be an honest experience. As a true a telling as I can make it. And that means the hard shit is hard.

When I do trapeze, I don't forget I have a body. For a long time that is how I hid from feeling fat. I just pretended I didn't have a body. I did things that didn't remind me of my body. But over the years, I've tried to push that instinct. Trapeze really shoved me out of this comfort zone. I'm acutely aware of my body all the time. If you're anything less than fully in touch with how your body moves you're going to get hurt. At first, this level of awareness proved uncomfortable. I used (and still do at times) a lot of humor in those moments. Jumping to the punch line about my fat before anyone else can beat me to the punch. It's an old defense mechanism I learned in Jr. High. No matter that no one there is going to make fun of me.

But after a few classes, I stopped thinking of my body as being cumbersome, huge, or fat. I mean, of course part of me knew that I was fat. It's impossible to not be aware when you're hauling that much body fat up a rope. I can't deny that I'm big because things are harder because of this weight. But I made myself imagine myself as totally badass up there. I told myself everyday that I was one strong ass bitch, and after some time I started to see myself as that badass bitch on that bar.

Thus inspired by the fat women who do yoga, run, etc and take pictures of themselves I decided that I'd push myself a little more and take pictures of me on the bar. I'd been working hard for the last eight weeks not just at trapeze but at eating healthier and exercising everyday. I felt so fucking strong and awesome. When I saw myself in the glass front of store windows, I didn't wince away because I saw in those reflections someone who could hang upside down from bars, who could twist her body into interesting shapes, who could spend hours on the evil elliptical. Doing trapeze totally changed how I saw getting in shape. It no longer revolved around getting thin; it revolved around getting better at trapeze.

Yes I know the pictures. I had my daughter come in and take them. She loved watching me learn the tricks she knew and after the class she said "You were great Mama!" Those words meant so much more than any other compliment I've ever gotten. And then she handed me the Ipad. A brief glance left a tiny hollow in my stomach. "Think about how strong you are," I told myself. "You are that big and you are doing that stuff." It worked through the big swings where I discovered the joy  of hanging upside down and flying through the air. It worked while I broke my blisters to swing by my hands high into the air. It worked until I got into the van and started to look at the photos.

Body dysmorphia is a funny thing. I remember when I was super fit before I got pregnant with R. I was pretty thin for me, muscular. I thought I was fat. All I saw were the fat rolls when I wore anything slightly tight. I still had those scary gross fantasies where I imagined shaving fat off my body. Now of course I look at those pictures and wonder what the hell I was thinking. But then all I could see were the fat rolls and the acne scars. Now that I'm actually fat, I sort of feel justified in seeing my body as enormous. Who is going to say "Now Ginger,you're not as big as you think you are."? No one because I AM huge. And that makes seeing photos of myself often very painful.

When I looked closely at the photos, my daughter took, I wanted to cry. In front of me was this short, obese woman with cottage cheese arms and back fat hanging out of her tank top. There I seemed to lumber next a group of thin woman who all made the moves look graceful. I had seen them struggle but none of that showed in the pictures Piper took. With me, I think it looks like every struggle is apparent. Never once do I see the bad ass graceful person I imagined in my head. Instead, I see how my legs are not as straight. How my body is not positioned correctly. And sometimes I can't even see what move we were doing. I can't help but it think "It's the fat. It's so encompassing it covers everything."

Part of this journey for me has to be about how I see my body. And right now I just feel so disgusted and repulsed by myself. I wonder how anyone who watches me do this can not help but feel disgust. And yes part of me wonders if I even deserve or belong out there. Part of being really fat is a sense that you should just hide yourself away until you can make the fat go away. It's one reason why I kept saying "I'll do trapeze after I lose some weight." We live in a society that mocks fat people, looks at them with scorn, takes pictures when they're exercising, etc. Everyday I'm reminded of how fucking gross other people find bodies like mine. I read the comments on fat model's pages, and am stunned by the anger that a fat woman dare show flesh, dare be happy, dare do yoga, or run or do anything but sit in self loathing really. And I want so much to be stronger than this hate. I wanted to smash it and say "Fuck you world, I am not going to hide my body away." But sometimes my own inner mean girl comes out and reminds me that if I can't even love my body who the hell else is going to?

I hope I can get back to that bad ass strong bitch mentality I had going. I'm not going to quit because I am acutely aware of this would effect my daughters especially the one who witnessed me working hard and having a great time. And I wish I could unsee the photos. I wish I could have realized before that I just wasn't ready to push myself this far. But mostly I hope that I don't retreat to my room, hide under a blanket, and wish myself into a thin non existence.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Earth Worm

Camille and I began walking to her Saturday trapeze class a few weeks ago.  It's not a long walk at all. Sometimes we talk. Usually about Skyrim which is Camille's latest obsession. This time she said "I'm bringing my Ipod." I admit I felt a little hurt. I enjoyed this time alone with Camille away from the constant demands of the other children. But I also knew she wanted to work on her trapeze solo. As we strolled along, we kept taking an ear bud out to share songs that we thought might lend themselves well to trapeze routines.

Midway to the studio, I saw Camille stop out of the corner of my eye. I paused as she knelt down thinking she had to tie her shoe. Instead, she carefully picked up a long pink brown worm from the sidewalk and placed in the grass. She stood and flushed a little when she realized I stood watching her.

"I just wanted to get him to safety," she said.

"That's fine." I said.

We walked in relative silence the rest of the way. Camille lost in a world where she fit trapeze moves to song cues; I thinking about the fact that I had a child who not only noticed earthworms but stopped to save them.

When I first began to suspect Camille was Autistic, she was two. I didn't know much about Autism having only known a couple of Autistic people. I read a lot though, and was always hauled up short with the idea that Autistic people were not empathic. A lot of the portrayals I read made them sound like psychopaths and narcissists. I had yet to find the many Autistic writers, I know now, and I admit I was scared. Camille as she got older did seem oblivious to other people. But she wasn't oblivious to suffering. We watched Marley and Me when she was six and she sobbed for hours. She couldn't sleep that night, and I held her on the couch as she'd swing between calm and sobbing. Maybe she doesn't have Autism, I thought witnessing this intensity of emotional outpouring.

Her relationships with her siblings was equal parts intense and disinterested. I wonder sometimes as she watched with cool detachment as they hurt themselves. But then when Umberto began to show seizure activity, she came to worried that he'd die. I wonder if perhaps her concern revolved around how these small tragedies would effect her as opposed to her worrying about him. It wasn't so much that I wanted my child to be unempathic as that I was trying to figure her out using an ableist model.

I remember her once seeing a picture of a piglet that had the headline "Look me in the eye and tell me I'm tasty" and she licked her lips and said "Yum." She seemed to develop better relationships with stuffed animals than she did with real ones. With real ones, she'd reach a pitch of sensory satisfaction and become almost violent towards them. Surely this showed a lack of empathy. I worried.

As she got older, I let go of that earlier research. I knew deep down that Camille was an Aspie as she liked to call herself. I also knew that it didn't mean the tragedy I had been lead to believe waited for us. Camille when allowed to be herself proved funny, clever, artistic, and yes, empathic.

I first saw it in full force when she became passionate about saving the wolves after the famous wolf obsession. And again when she identified strongly with the disabled wolf in a series she began reading at eight. In fact, Camille had a strong affinity with the characters she read about sometimes so intense she'd weep.

What I came to realize is that Camille felt everything with an intensity that would crack open most people. Her emotions don't come half assed. They sweep through her and over take her. I could see why one would hide behind sardonic humor (the pig incident and for the record she refuses to eat pork). Her reactions to animals came only after sensory overload. If your emotions felt like the raw end of a wound, wouldn't it be natural to be careful who you let into your life? How you responded to others? I didn't have any proof except for the girl before me. I knew Camille to be not just empathic but incredibly so perhaps more so than any other person I've ever meet. And as someone who knew all about hiding behind humor, sarcasm, and distance, it made sense to me at a personal level. I just decided to work with the assumption that Camille was not cold and remote but so intune she had to build walls to protect herself.

Thus when research came out that autism might mean hypersensitivity, I wasn't surprised at all. It only confirmed what I'd seen in Camille and in the other Autistic people I meet. Over the years, I've come to realize how the stereotypes that started so long ago (check out Nuerotribes for a pretty decent history of the discovery of Autism) effect the ways we perceive our own children and how incredibly dangerous that can be. I spent a year trying to see my child as pretty much a psychopath because of things I read about Autism. I wonder how much of what we perceive comes not from what is before us but from what we read influences the way we see.  I think of how many people miss a chance to claim an identity that might change how they see their place in the world simply because of mistaken ideas, observations done wrong.

Perhaps we are missing the subtleness of a child stopping to save an earthworm.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fat Girl on the Bar: More on the Sisterhood

After every class, I say "This was the toughest class yet." It's old hat. But seriously last night? Toughest class yet. Ass kicking class at it's best. I have rope burn on my foot. MY FOOT. We learned a move I just watched Piper learn and struggle with. I had to do things vertically with my body. Upside down vertical. I had to struggle with my weight for the first time in class because I couldn't do some of the things because I didn't have the strength to pull 200lbs. It should have been discouraging but it wasn't because I did some things I thought I couldn't do and even the things I couldn't do, I did parts of them. I'm learning to not see these nights as failures but rather as steps to mastering hard things.

But what really impressed me last night was my class. The sisterhood as I've come to think of us. We're a small class of nine. I lucked into an experiment Canopy decided to try. Two classes in one studio. A small intermediate class practices behind us while we use the front of the room. It's fun to look over and see where we'll be some day and I kind of wonder if makes that class feel good to think about far they've come. But the real advantage is the intimacy that happens between people working their asses off together.

From the beginning, I liked these women. The laughing from the start made me feel comfortable as did the nonjudgemental feel to the group. I'm the biggest woman there, and that's always a hard place for me to be. I detest being the fat friend. I don't do exercise groups because I don't want to be the only fat person. I feel that when that happens I get lots of "extra help" in a really condescending way or I become the touchstone for inspiration "Hey look if the fat girl can do we can all do it!" Or even better the assumption that I'm not a strong ass bitch. Which I am. I promise you. My classmates didn't look at me this way nor did the instructors. Instead we were all scared shitless of this awesome adventure upon which we were about embark.

Last night it all came together why I love this class. Last night like I said was hard. And it was hard not just because these weren't my strong moves. Everyone had something last night that they didn't quite get (although one woman rocked her way through it all, and yes we all cheered her in wistful envy). You'd think there would be less laughing, more frustration, and a lot more discouragement. You'd think that but you'd be wrong.

When Jo showed us the moves, we all laughed in disbelief but every freakin' one of us got up on the bar and tried. We hooted as we fell, flailed, and then cheered for those of us who did it. At some point, I found myself sitting on the bar talking another classmate through a move. I couldn't do. And the funny thing is that it helped when I attempted the move again. No  I didn't full do it but I got closer than the first time I did it. At another point, one of our serious woman warrior members helped hold me up as I tried to do another evil move called the spear. I had to clasp the bar with my inner thighs with my legs straight above me and my hands on the bar. Yeah. Didn't happen but the fact that my classmate was willing to hold me up? That amazed me.

And I helped spot another classmate in a move I loved but that made her nervous. There were so many high fives last night as we practiced the moves ourselves and then helped others to master them. Last night I didn't feel like dead weight at all. I felt like a member of a team. It was not just about our personal selves getting the moves but an effort to make sure all of us got them. To the point where we helped each other. What's extra awesome is that I feel like Ashley and Jo are part of our team as well. They have become far more than just teachers; I feel like they're part of our little tribe. I kind of dread when we have to move onto other instructors which I hope won't be for a long time.

As I walked home last night, I did so sore with bruises and rope burn but also smiling because I felt so good. Good about the moves I did for sure but also good that I could help a couple of people out. Good that people helped me out. Good that we cheered for every hard earned victory by everyone of us. I've always been a little weirded out at calling people who are not my relatives sister. But I felt like that about the group last night. I wonder what would happen if we changed the way we approached exercise classes or any class for that matter. What if we saw each other as fellow travelers instead of competition? What if our only competition meant pushing ourselves harder? My only barometer in trapeze is myself. And because I let go of comparing and competing, my feeling towards my classmates is not one of jealously. Sometimes there is some good natured envy but it's not a petty little feeling. It's a "Damn girl, you got this and I wish I did to" kind of feeling.

I'm going to level with you dear readers: this is not an easy feeling for me. I've been groomed for a long time to treat people in class with me as competition. Of course one could be friends but there was always this tension of being better: a better teacher, a better student, a better mother. And the anxiety I felt over this made these things almost not pleasurable. The times when I could let go and just enjoy myself were freeing but those times didn't come often and when they did they were short lived. Even with trapeze I struggle with comparing but having since made a conscious decision to not approach it this way, I've made myself turn my thinking around whenever it gets to those petty places. And last night I saw what this kind of thinking leads to and it's a very fine place.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Fat Girl On a Bar: Gazing Into the Future and Bets Made

During C's private lesson, Ann told me about a woman in the adult student classes who is sixty-three.
"Sixty-three," I thought, "That means I've got at least twenty years of trapeze in me."

A shift happened last week where I saw trapeze as something I could get better at, something that I loved so much I was willing to push through the failures and the tears. After my rather disastrous third class, I felt broken hearted. Yes some of my tears came from frustration at not being able to do something. But a lot of those tears came from a bad case of heartache. I loved trapeze. From the moment I touched that bar I knew I found that exercise sweet spot.

I've got this thing about pursuing things I suspect that I suck at. This has always been a thing for me, and I'm never sure when one quits. It got worse after the graduate school debacle. And of course I've got major imposter syndrome with the writing. How long does one determine when to just give up on something? Common sense told me three classes didn't really determine if I sucked or not. But when you're coming off feeling like a failure it's hard to see clear.

And like I said "Imposter syndrome." It sucks. And it's pretty much the underlying thing that makes me quit shit. But what exactly was I impostering this time? Nothing. I didn't want to be a professional. I just wanted to get on that damn bar and do the best I could at something that I loved. I like it all. Every bit of it. I like that it pushed me physically. I like the feeling of spinning in the air. Hell I even like the pain. And because I have nothing to lose, I allowed myself to keep taking the class good or bad. But when Ann told me that I took another step further and saw myself doing not just trapeze but maybe silks, lyra, Spanish web...the list spread out before me. And I let myself dream. The dream didn't involve being the best or being a professional. The dream involved me doing something I love for a really long time, and maybe trying other things I might love too.

The actual class? Fabulous.  Not everything I tried I succeeded at this time so it was good to come off the class still feeling good. Last week, I felt on fire. This week I hit about half the moves. I pushed myself to try even the mounts because it is awful tempting to just keep hopping up. Got my toe on the bar this time which is a lot further than I was last week. We did our standing moves, and I still suck at bow sprint. Some of this comes from my bra. Hilarious right? With bow sprint, you have to push your chest against the rope while pushing the bar behind you with your foot. In order to take my hands off the rope in front me I have to wedge that damn rope between my boobs. Pretty hard in an industrial sports bra. I love how the solutions to my problems are not always about strength or flexibility. Skater is easy for me. I credit that to my fat ass since in order to balance in this move you have to wedge the rope between your butt cheeks. Charming I know.

And my mental work paid off too. Last week, I didn't quite get the air split. But I went over it in my head, realized I was not thrusting the bar out with my foot when I stepped backwards with my other foot. Nailed it first try this time. I love how I can go over these moves in my head and then make it all come together in class.

This week we added the airplane to our standing repertoire. Okay so I love this one. It hurts like hell but we've already established I'm a pain junkie, and it's rope pain. I'll just leave that there. This move involves having my arms against the ropes, stepping off with one foot and throwing my arms out. My arms hold my upper body while my foot on the bar pushes out to keep balance. This means the rope digs into your arm, and yes I had a bit of rope burn (still do actually). I loved it.

I had a feeling we'd be doing Catcher's Hang, and I was right. It's funny but I kind of know the process from watching so many beginner classes. Three so far. Catcher's Hang has a bit of history around here as it's the move that really scares R. She can do it one handed but getting her to let go of both hands is a battle. I made a deal with her before my class that if I let go with both hands she would let go too. It was a bet I made with a fair amount of trepidation.  Catcher's hang is just that... a hang. Upside down. Meaning I'd have to pull myself up from being upside down. And of course it also involved the dreaded hated hip pullover. First time, I got up with a boast from a fellow classmate, and even though I didn't make it to dolphin (where the hell are my feet?) I did naturally get into Catcher's Hang position. I adored being upside down, and I liked the feel of the hang. With this one my legs came around the outside of the robes with my knees hugging the bar. As long as I remembered to keep my feet pointed toward my ass, it felt amazing. But I didn't dare let go. Not so much from fear of being upside down but from fear of not being able to get back up. I was exhausted after the first attempt, and feeling a little eh about the hip pull over but I remembered my promise to R. I got up again, and let go. Oh it was wonderful. Spinning slowly upside down. And then to my amazement I got my hands back to the bar.

We finished by learning skin the cat. Horrible name for what is my new least favorite move. I hate this one even more than the dreaded hip pullover. Basically it's a neater way to get off the bar. In practice, my legs are supposed to go under the bar toward my body and up over my head turning me into a backwards somersault. Didn't happen. I practiced lowering one leg at a time so I could get used to the feel of my body weight on my hands. I'll try again next week.

Even with this failure I  left the class feeling really good. I have some problems, yes, but I'm holding my own too.

Fast forward to Saturday...guess who did her Catcher's Hang without hands?

Friday, February 05, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Defining Success and Trusting the Body (or Not)

Last week, I hated Thursday. Carrying around fear and anxiety all day sucks. But yesterday I felt at peace. I knew what I couldn't do and I made peace with it. I prepared my body as much as I could during the week including playing around on monkey bars, shoulder weight work, stretching, and the evil elliptical (it's a different kind then the one I'm used to and it works my body aerobically like nothing else). I've been eating better, less binging and more veggies without totally depriving myself. I spent a lot of time thinking about emotional baggage that came up from last class as well.

I walked again and this time without that dread hanging out over my shoulders. Although I shouldn't have listened to Serial on my way because dark with murder story equals super creepy.

We launched right into moves this time, and I admit to feeling a lot of relief that we wouldn't be spending a big chunk of class trying to get up on the bar. I tried to get up a couple of times but my hands kept slipping and finally I just did the hop on the bar. I did make an advance in that I could do the hop without holding onto the bar just the rope. My next goal is to hop on with both legs instead of one at a time. While others practiced getting up, I practiced sitting star. I figured since I was already on I was not getting down.
Piper doing sitting star back when she first started almost three years ago!

Once up Jo announced we'd learn tree frog, and I felt that pit open inside me. I was finally on the damn bar, and I wasn't convinced I could hold on for the pose or that I could pull myself up if I even managed to hang on. But I quickly pushed those thoughts away and latched onto my new mantra "Fail once fail again better."

Okay so the tree frog involves handing from the bar by your knees while holding onto the bar with your hands on either side of your knees. You let one leg go and curl it out with your neck extend. It's a pretty move. Simple looking. Not so simple in execution.
Camille in the far back. Her class is doing tree frog here. They look much better than I did I suspect.

Slowly I lowered myself down, nervous because I had lost my grip already in trying to mount. Hanging on by my knees felt surprisingly wonderful. I liked spinning slowly upside down. This made me feel good enough to pull my leg out and bam I was doing the move. I was holding the robes this times not the bar, and when I was ready to pull back up I could do it. This shocked me. I've had a hard time pulling myself up on the robes even when I've been boosted. But this time I pulled right back up to sitting. Feeling confident, I went back to hanging from my knees, and then held onto the bar. I could do tree frog but I didn't feel confident to try to pull myself up so I just came to the floor. But I did tree frog. Twice! That little bit of success pushed me onward.

Once we had all done tree frog a few times, we moved onto learning Alpha and Omega. Alpha involves a one knee hang with your knee toward one end of the bar. You hold with the same side arm as leg. This one proved harder and I fell a couple of times. Grip spray proved my salvation with this one, and I nailed it once I could grip comfortably. It was a much harder move than tree frog and I could only hold on for a few seconds. Endurance is for sure my next step in mastering these moves.

Camille doing alpha during her first performance
Omega was like tree frog but we let go of a hand: the opposite side from the knee that hung on the bar. This was proved a bit easier than Alpha for me but I still only could hold it for a few seconds. Once we practiced this, Jo and Ashley showed us how to do seashell in both moves. This is simply put a gorgeous move. In both Alpha and Omega you grab your hanging foot with your free hand and curved around arching your back. I did it. Seriously. It was hard and it took all my strength but I did it.

What I learned from last night:

One, defining success by one thing is going to make you feel like failure. I have spent the last three classes defining my failure based on upon my inability to get on the bar. Seriously. That is the only thing I can't do in class. I have done all the "tricks," Some better than others and no doubt not with a whole lot of grace but I can do them. But I couldn't see that as success because I got into my head that getting on the bar was the thing. And even then I can get up. Yes it's only one way but hell I get up right?

Don't beat yourself up for the one thing you can't do. Look at what you're doing.

I realized last night that I am very strong in terms of my arms and legs. My abs are mush and this is what is killing me. As I get stronger in that area with all the prep working I'm doing, I know that at some point I will be able to get up there in other ways. I know this because I can do other things really well.

Two, I do not trust my body and this is a problem. We learned a move that everyone swore was the easiest way to get up. Basically you hold the bar with your arms behind you, lower your head and back until you feet lift off the ground and go over the bar. I can not do this because I don't dare to let myself fall. I am not confident that my legs will go up that my arms can hold my weight. It's a major mental block and I'm sure it's what's keeping me from getting on the bar (along with mushy abs). I don't know how to overcome this fear. And it makes me sad.

When I did lose faith in my own body? I suspect it happened a long time ago when I was young. I used to swing by my knees from tree branches and metal bars on the playground. I knew no fear and totally just knew I could swing up and pull myself to sitting. I don't have that anymore, and I feel serious terror at the idea of just letting go. I need to work on this obviously but I have no idea where to begin. But it's a move forward I think in just recognizing the block. When I talked to Ann last Saturday she asked me "What's the problem?" I couldn't answer her then. I had no idea. Now I do. I don't trust that my body is going to get me over that bar and I am scared of what will happen it fails. 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: The Sisterhood

I talked a lot about last class feels with a variety of people: a friend taking the class with me, Ann, H, my mom. Really anyone would listen. I had a lot to process, and I also had the added burden of not wanting to make anyone feel like they failed me. No one did fail me! But I have to learn to wrestle with the things that trapeze brings up for me. Nothing comes without baggage I think, and anything involving my body is going to make me process a lot.

Thus in that spirit, let me begin with: I LOVE TRAPEZE. I really do. The few weeks I've been doing it have been life changing. It's centered me. It helps with my body image and most times it helps my mental state. But all that doesn't mean I'm not going to struggle with the hard stuff not just the physical but the emotional. I made up my mind when I started this series that I would be above all things utterly honest about the experience.

Here's where I struggled last week:
I hate being the fattest girl in the class. Note that I don't hate being fat. I just hate being the only one. My classmates are for the most part supportive and if nothing else the ones who might not be just don't say anything. Still it's hard to not feel like my struggles are because I'm fat or to think that others are not thinking this as well. It's likely paranoia on my part but it's a paranoia that comes from real experiences: not just mine but from many other fat people who love to exercise.  Comments that some might think come from a supportive place often feel condescending when you're overweight.

Amazingly I've not felt this from the teachers which is big and what keeps me coming back.

And all that leads to the biggest struggle: insecurity. It's not just in terms of my body but in terms of my writing, my parenting, etc. Low self-esteem is a bitch and it sucks up a lot of energy. I feel as if I spend much of my day working myself up to do things. Sometimes it's little things like getting dressed and going out in public (what are people going to think? will I be the fat friend?). Other times it's bigger things like sending out a query letter or..taking a trapeze class.

This is important I promise.

While getting my hair cut, my awesome stylist, friend, and fellow writer told me about how she meet a woman who feels competitive with all other women she meets (no names were exchanged). I said almost offhandedly, "I think that feeling competitive comes from insecurity." Ahhh.

I talked this out with H over coffee.

"Do you feel competitive during trapeze?" he asked me.
I had to think about it. "Yeah I do. I don't want to but I hate being the only one who can't do things." And last class unlike the other classes I found myself looking at the other students. I compared myself to them and found myself lacking. I had not done that before.
"Do you want to feel competitive?" H asked me next.

And just like that an epiphany. There should have been lights and angel music. My insecurity is what is driving me to feel like I have do what everyone is doing and do it as well. It so overshadowed my experience that I couldn't think of anything else. I couldn't think of my successes because I was so busy focusing on everyone else's successes. When I talked to H, I could think of a lot of things I did better than in my first class. I got up on the bar to standing in only two tries instead of the five it took during my second class. I did Skater without my hands on the robe even if only for a few terrifying seconds. I did get up on a waist high bar, and with help I did get up in the underbar way. Pretty impressive when you think about it.

I've always loved how my girls don't see trapeze as competition. They only push to make themselves better. Not better than anyone else just better. And that is what I want for myself. I don't need to compete against any thing but my last class. As long as I'm working toward being better that is enough because I'm not doing this to perform or to be a top student. For once I'm doing something where the only thing I want from it is the pleasure of doing the thing. There's no job waiting for me at the end. No report card. It's just something I can do because I love it.

Insecurity is a real bitch and we're trained from early on to feed it with competition. We're encouraged to be the best in school. We have to get into the best colleges and find ourselves making excuses when we don't get into those schools. As women we're supposed to compare ourselves against other woman in terms of beauty, thinness, how much we juggle, how we parent, and so on. It's no wonder so many women don't like being friends with other women.

Ann asked me on Saturday if I would feel more comfortable with two tracks, one for those who need more modifications and those who don't. My gut reaction was "Yes oh yes" but then I felt a pang. Would I have to leave my class to do this? Because I realized in that moment I didn't want to leave them. I don't want to hold them back either. I've come to feel like these seven other woman embarking on this journey with me.

"Part of me would love it," I told Ann, "But another part of me doesn't want to leave my group. They're so encouraging and we all cheer each other on."
Ann nodded "Yes," she said, "That's the sisterhood."