This parable was written by the late husband of a good friend of ours. How does a trapeze artist learn to pry their fingers off the familiar bar and leap to the one coming at them? Discovering their secret changed the way we now relate to the tension of life. We think it will change your relationship too.
The Trapeze Parable
by Danaan Parry
Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.
Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life.
I know most of the right questions and even some of the answers.
But every once in a while, as I’m merrily swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty and I know that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts, I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.
Each time it happens to me I hope that I won’t have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.
Each time, I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it. Each time I am afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between bars.
I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer an alternative.
It’s called “transition.” I have come to believe that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.
I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing,” a no-place between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real, too. But the void in between? Is that just a scary, confusing, disorienting nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible?
NO! What a wasted opportunity that would be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is real, and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid real change, the real growth.
Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.
So, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang out” in the transition between trapezes. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where real change happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly.