Fear of flying

We are really risk-averse and fear failing.

Which is good for staying alive but bad for flourishing.

In our modern world, staying alive isn’t hard. But living is damn near impossible. It requires taking risks, which requires failure. “You have to push yourself if you want to improve in any aspect of your life,” Cynthia said.

This weekend was my first Folsom Street Fair, and the day before I agreed to be suspended for the first time.


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The man who tied me likes to talk about chakras and auras. I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes. A skeptic’s dismissive attitude is part of my post-evangelicism scar tissue.

The getting tied is intimate, the lifting a trust exercise. The hanging is painful and scary.

Things got interesting as he brought me down. Tears began to well up. I felt ashamed, and embarrassed. I felt bewildered. I fought with it. What I felt as he took me down was vulnerable. First, physically vulnerable. But mentally, there’s something about putting yourself in a very physically, existentially vulnerable position, willingly allowing yourself to be tied up and hung, and then feeling it become safe. It’s a relief, but then. “This is a safe place to be physically vulnerable,” my body said to my brain without my awareness being informed. Then my emotions said “I will be vulnerable now here too,” before my ego woke up again. So then my ego fought with my emotions. “Why are you so weird. Don’t cry here in front of these people.”

But something in me said they’re my friends. And what if I’m safe.

And then I began to wonder what would happen, what would life be like, if I didn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed of having strong, inappropriate emotions.

What if my strong, powerful, overwhelming emotions are in fact entirely appropriate? What if it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re out of place?

I felt it become okay. I felt myself allow myself some vulnerability. And I let the tears come down. I could not wipe them away, since my hands were tied. So they just dropped to the floor. And I laughed. I’m crying here. Tied up. In front of my friends. And I am safe. I was vulnerable, I am vulnerable, and I am safe.

Being tied up is boring, in theory. It is inconvenient. But I knew there must be more to it, for people to do it to each other.

I laughed because I dismissed chakras and auras but I clearly have no idea how the human brain works. I never would have thought being tied up would make me cry. There is way more to the human brain than neuroscience has named and explained.

“At work right now I am doing what I am convinced is the hardest project I have ever done,” Cynthia said. “I feel like I am failing, etc. But when it’s done, I’ll feel great and I’ll have gotten a lot better, etc. Because 1.) I’m capable and 2.) Failing/being weird isn’t a death sentence. So, events like you getting tied up or in my case, lifting weights are wonderful, safe spaces to let us feel weird, and fail and all that. Because at the end of the day we walk away and I’m like, ‘Wow I totally failed that lift. Oh well. I am still the same person.’ And getting used to that feeling in a safe space will encourage us to try it in other areas of our lives, like work or relationships, or what have you.”

It’s really hard to connect with people when you’re putting walls up, pretending to be cooler, calmer, and more collected than you feel inside. It’s really hard to kill it at work if you’re only taking on projects you already know how to kill. If there’s no chance of failure, there’s no chance of a big, juicy reward.

After I came down we had a big group cuddle. I was in the club. It felt awesome.

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