look at me, way up high

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan10245314_694116947317300_7691376629189028144_n

Yesterday was a very special day.  For the first time in my life, I flew.  I soared 30 feet above the stage, swinging from one edge to the other, pointing my toes harder than ever and clutching my beloved Peter Pan.  Upon initial takeoff I released one single squeal (and several pathetic whimpers at the height of our flight), but wore nothing less than an ear-to-ear smile for the duration of our flying practice.  Because guess what…I loved it!

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I have a complicated relationship with heights.  Well, after the invasive harnessing process (think Forrest Gump meets chastity belt) the butterflies in my stomach started doing actual backflips.  Not only was the leather contraption extremely difficult to move in, being all buckled in meant there was no backing out of this flying business.  It was go time.  The straps seemed to close in tighter and tighter on my chest with each restrained breath.  I could feel my legs loosening up like warm jello as I watched Brenna fly, then Melissa, then Ian, then…it was my turn.  They hooked me in, placed me next to Ian, and asked if we were ready.  Grabbing Ian’s hand with my own notoriously clammy one, I made one final attempt to flee, pleading with the stage hands, something along the lines of “I really don’t like this, I don’t like it at all, can we wait a little while or just raise me up one foot before we go for the full monty or maybe I’ll just watch from down here?”, but they shook their heads crassly, eager for their coffee break, and I realized none of those options were available to me.  So instead I remembered how my Grandma (Gma, as we call her) told me that I would do it, because I had to, and I’d be damned if I let the fear hold me back.  Ian looked at me with his impish little grin, gave his arm signal to the wings and with the tug of a rope we lifted off.

Weightlessly rising from the stage, up into the air, I squeezed Ian’s hand even tighter.  Our first flight was a bit bumpy, and I imagined the blinking on of a seatbelt sign overhead and a stewardess’s pursed voice informing us of the slight turbulence up ahead.  I swung out to grab Ian’s other hand, so we were suspended face to face and I refused to take my eyes off of him, afraid of where they might end up if I did.  Before I knew it, we touched back down to the marley, then flew up again, and again, about 4 times until the stage crew could stave off their thirst for coffee and a comfortable chair no longer.  We de-harnessed, bundled up in warm knits, and I realized that I was actually excited for our next flight.

It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it?  How experiences can fly so completely off from the track that exists in your mind, like that first time you tried chicken salad or mint toothpaste.  Something you expected to taste so bitter turns out to be quite refreshing and the surprisingly good reception of it all is really liberating.

going up

The first time I met Jorden Morris was after a very tense audition class.  Three different couples had been selected to learn the roles of Peter and Wendy, and we stood anxiously in the grand studio, unsure of how to act around his new, momentous presence.  After some quick introductions, Jorden stepped back slowly, as he does, and asked if anyone in the group was afraid of heights, adding an uneasy laugh that made me think if someone answered affimatively he was going to throw them out of the rehearsal then and there.  I hesitated.  Of course, in my head I was already reliving my first (and only) ferris wheel experience-traumatizing- and as much as I tried to smoosh it down, my aversion to all things ‘high up’ overwhelmed my mind in those next few seconds.  I remembered the swing set I would escape to in my childhood backyard- the place where I learned of my first ever acceptance into FBP’s Nutcracker, as an angel at age 8.  My memory seemed to take me for a ride, swinging up and down, holding onto chains encased in electric blue rubber, swinging higher and higher until I felt my stomach drop into my hips, a sensation that I have always disliked.  I recalled all of those declined invitations to spend the day at an amusement park with friends, all of the embarrassment on a “trust building” school field trip, where I refused to harness up and jump off of a platform with the rest of my class.

Heights have always been my nemesis, anchoring me down to the safe, albeit slightly stagnant, ground.  A few more seconds passed by and I looked around to see my colleagues shaking their heads nonchalantly.  Jorden was smiling and it looked as if he was about to move on from his inquiry and begin teaching us choreography, but I couldn’t ignore my inner reminiscence any longer.  I slowly raised my hand up and let my head sink into my shoulders like a dog who just got caught drinking out of the toilet.  “Me”, I said, “I am not so good with the heights”, I admitted in a strange broken English that I’m still confused about.  After my confession, Jorden made eye contact with me for the first time ever, strode towards me and stopped about 2 inches away from my face.  “It’s really not such a big deal.  You’ll be just fine.  Let’s start learning, shall we, Wendy Girl?”  His quick confidence caught me off guard.  I was still nervous about the day I would have to swing from the top of the VETs stage, but I liked this man and his strong conviction.  With a simple reassurance he had momentarily dissolved my fears and brilliantly distracted me with choreography.  But I knew in a few months that day- the one where I would have to swing from the top of the VETs stage- would arrive.  And, my dear friends, that day is today.  Yup, today Peter, Michael, John, Tink and I head into the theater to practice our flying skills, and I’m a whole mess of emotions.  Beginning with terrified, nervous, and maybe (to put a positive spin on it) excited to conquer a fear that has plagued me since childhood? Only one way to find out…WISH ME LUCK!

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photo by Jim Turner