Monday, December 20, 2010

And For My Next Trick....

I've always threatened that I would run off and join the circus.  The one thing (yes, there is only one) stopping me is this question: "If I give in to the urge to run off and join the circus, what exactly will I do once I get there?" I didn't really realize this until I recently did some research on the matter (and by research I mean that I talked to some guy that knew some guy whose uncle was in the circus).

Dude, there are so many career options with the circus.  As I considered my options, I thought the easiest thing in picking a circus career would be to focus in on something that utilizes my natural abilities and character traits.  But apparently there isn't a position open at the circus called, "The Incredible Over-Analyzing Woman".  If there were, I imagine that my introduction to the ring would go something like this, "Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls of all ages, let me direct your attention to center of the ring! We traveled the world to find her.  We searched high and low.  Through the jungles of Zimbabwe and the mighty mountains of Ohio.  Let me now introduce to you....Katie McNemar, The Incredible Over-Analyzing Woman!!!! (Insert crowd gasps here) Your eyes are not deceiving you folks, Katie has actually been over thinking her phone call with her boss for 132 hours straight.  The only thing keeping her from continuing to worry about this phone call is that she thinks she just got a weird look from someone in the audience and is now thinking that everyone thinks she totally weird. How long will she dwell on this new thought....STAY TUNED!!!! "

I also thought about being the bearded lady since I already had a run-in regarding an angry Russian lady and my non-existent mustache.   But more reasonable winds prevailed and I decided that my desire to be one of the non-single folks running around out there was more important to me than being a side-show freak.  Tough call though.  Really tough call.

After throwing out a few more options like: Circus Accountant (I still count on my fingers and just got rid of my abacus...darn....shoulda hung on to that thing), Lion Trainer (I would definitely try and cuddle with a tiger cub and end up being one of those people in the news that has to get a new face...and knowing my luck I would get Walt Disney's frozen thank you),  Poop Cleaner Upper Person (I don't know the official title of someone that shovels crap for a living, but I am pretty sure I have plenty of years of experience under my dah ching!), Ring Leader (my mom always accused me of being a Ring Leader, and when she said it, I felt as though it had some negative connotations.  I'll hold out for something less sketchy sounding....maybe something like, Circus Bookie), and last but not least, I decided that I didn't want to be that person that they shoot out of the cannon (I don't do well in tight spaces or tight pants...oh yeah, and soaring through the air at 100 mph milliseconds after a bomb detonates under my feet).

I got worried that I was never going to find my perfect circus job; and then the clouds parted and the angels did sing.  Finally, a break-through came when my brother, Kirk, and my sister-in-law, Dana, called me one Saturday afternoon to tell me that they had just gone to a TRAPEZE SCHOOL....right here in DC!!!!!  WHAAAA!???  I had heard about the NewYork Trapeze School before but I couldn't believe that Kirk and Dana actually did it.  They told me all about it over lunch and a few weeks later showed me pics and videos of their adventure.  Then, Kirk asked me if I wanted to go with them the next time they went.  I thought about it for a few minutes because I always thought I would be way too scared of heights to do it.  But then that kick-ass side of me bubbled up and said, "What chu talkin' 'bout Willis!?  You gonna get yo skinny white butt up to that school and you're gonna kick fears ever lovin' boo-tay...OKAY fool!!!????" (My kick-ass side is straight from the mean streets of Buckhannon, WV, so look out cha'll).

So I did it.  I signed up.  And this Sunday, I did get my skinny white butt up to that school and I loved every single second of it.

I didn't really think about it much beforehand.  I've had tons on my mind lately, so oddly enough, swinging many feet in the air whilst wearing tight clothes around people that I don't know, didn't seem to be at the top of my worry list.  That's when you know it's bad.

Kirk giving the trapeze the stare down.
The School is located in a heated tent at the DC Naval yards (to answer the question that immediately popped into your, the place was not crawling with hot naval officers.  Kirk did try and insinuate  that there were just in case I decided to back out at the last minute.  Good thinking bro.  He knows me so well).

Chalkin' it up!!!
Our class had some new-comers and some people that had been coming for a while and were totally a-mazing.  Before the class started one of the instructors, who looked like she could crush a clown car between her thighs (she must own a Bowflex), took us aside and gave us about 145 extremely important life safety rules in about 10 seconds then proceeded to back-handspring into the darkness (that last part didn't happen).  She told us that we wouldn't have to really remember all of the rules because they would walk us through each step as we go.  My first thought...."How much time do I have after swinging off of a platform and into the precarious hands of gravity to pause for further instructions!?"  I'm pretty sure that there are some things that I need to get a pretty solid handle on before moving forward with this little adventure.  For example: When the instructor yells "Hup", this means "Go" in circus lingo (caution: do not yell "hup" at people sitting at a green light.  No one gets hurt, but they just don't get it).  Another important thing to know:  Chalk the hell out of your hands. This was super exciting for me because for a moment I got to pretend like I was in the Olympics and was next in line for the uneven bars.  I always thought it looked so cool when the gymnasts would reach down in the bucket thingy and get the chalk out.  It was the equivalent of hearing "Eye of the Tiger".  You just knew things were about to get flippin' crazy (pun intended).

The rickety ladder

The number one thing that kept me calm the entire time was that you are constantly hooked to ropes via a harness.  The harness was reminiscent of what I would believe an iron lung or corset would feel like, but it was my "ring of safety" so I told 'em to crack ribs if need be.  The worse part of the whole ordeal was the ladder you had to climb.  With each rung it shook like I was in the middle of an earthquake.  Luckily you are already strapped into a harness with ropes attached because it that little red ladder felt about as stable as a Hollywood marriage.

I was super excited to realize that I didn't feel afraid of heights at all throughout this whole process.  YAY!!!    As someone that used to get paralyzed with fear from a third story hotel balcony...this was mega big progress. (Insert clapping and cheers of excitement here)

Notice the toes dangling from the edge.  Also game face.
Once you get up on the platform, the instructor brings the bar up to you.  In order to grab the bar you have to stand on the very edge of the platform with all ten of your toes on the edge, feet about a foot apart and then....get this ya'll..... you let go of the stabilizing bars with your right hand and then lean forward out over the net leading with your hips while someone that looks about as strong as my 88 year old grandmother holds you by the back of your harness.  Once you lean out, you grab the bar with your right hand.  The first sensation I noticed when I grabbed the bar was that the bar felt pretty dag on heavy.

Letting go.
Then, while you are leaning out over the net, holding onto the bar with only your right hand, the instructor then tells you to grab the bar with your left hand.  This was harder to do than I thought it would be.  Letting go and totally trusting that other people have your back is hard to do.  Yes, I was attached to ropes that were held by one of the instructors.  Yes, there was an instructor on the platform with me holding me from my belt.  Yes, there is a net below me.  Yes, the people running this class are trained professionals and do this all the time.  Yes, there were lots of measures taken to ensure my safety.  However, even when we know that we are protected and safe, we have this almost innate need to protect ourselves.  I had no problem climbing the wobbly ladder, or standing on the platform holding onto the bars as they switched out my suspension ropes. I didn't anticipate that anything could happen that would make me say, "I can't do this".  I was fine with the toes over the edge, the full body leaning, and the grabbing of the bar.  But when I was finally asked to let go of the very last thing I had control of....I slightly paused.  The thought, "I can't do this", came and went pretty quickly...but it did come.  I kicked fears ass when I let go of all my control and reached out and grabbed the bar with both hands.  In order to soar, I had to let go.
Letting go.

Once I had the bar in both hands, the instructor gives you two commands; one to bend your knees (READY!), and the other to jump (HUP!).  The second hardest thing was to not only leave the familiar safety of the platform, but to actually jump into the unknown.  I suppose jumping into the unknown looks a little better than falling into the unknown...but whatevs.  The instructor on the ground is in control of the ropes attached to your harness in order to help you stay in the air, but you still have to use your own strength in order to complete the trick.  Yes, they teach you tricks.

The class is two hours long and during that time you learn trapeze tricks (as they say in circus jargon) in advancing difficulty.  I got to pull my legs up over the bar and then let go and swing from my legs only.  Then I learned how to do a back flip off of the bar.  It was as awesome as it sounds.  No matter how many times I went, the short seconds between when I let go of the bar and fall into the net were a little scary.  I screamed a little the first time.  I didn't quite understand why I did.  When I hit the net after screaming like a girl (cause, what can I say, I'm a girl) I felt a little silly. I mean, it's not like I didn't know the net was there and that I was attached to ropes.  I had some trouble getting my legs up and over the bar. I don't know why, I kept listening to their advice.  But you really only have a few seconds to think and execute a move.  Each time I jumped off the platform all I could think was....I'm freakin' flying!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The tricks were secondary to the fact that I loved the exhilarating feeling I got from each time I "let go" and jumped.  At one point in the class, you can get caught by another instructor that is on a swinging bar opposite you.  You swing out, put your legs up on the bar, let go so that you are hanging from the bar by your legs, and then you arch your back, reach back as far as you can, and make eye contact with the instructor on the other bar....then, they grab your arms and pull you off your bar and you swing through the air from their arms.  Whoa...just whoa.  I didn't get caught this time, because the timing has to be completely perfect for it to work.  If I try and grab the instructor even though it's not time, it would rip her off the bar...which isn't safe at all...she isn't attached to any ropes.  If I don't get enough momentum going, I'm not going to be close enough for us to lock arms.  If I don't wait for her instruction and try to let go of my bar too soon then I'll fall into the net.  Perfect timing is key.  If the timing isn't right, the instructor will pull her hands to her chest so that you can't grab her and pull her off her bar.  (This kinda sounds an awful lot like a dating tip now that I think about it.)

Hold on a second, Dwight Shrute from The Office (link to Wiki provided for my mom) wants to say something:

Question: Katie, what exactly did you  learn from flying through the air with the greatest of ease!?

Fact: A lot.

I learned that even though it is scary to let go and trust, when I try to keep myself safe and hold onto things...I can't fly...I can't soar...I can't feel the exhilaration that comes from leaping into the unknown and leading with faith and not sight.  Trust has been an issue for me for a long time.  You can always play it safe and only do things that feel safe and comfortable, but then you will never know what it feels like to really and truly trust.  God knows that it isn't easy for us to let go and turn control over to Him...but He also knows that life is easier and more fun when we do.  We can white knuckle the bar that keeps us from taking a leap of faith, or we can let go and let God show us that He is holding us up.

I never would have known what it felt like to soar through the air if I wouldn't have taken all the steps necessary to get myself up on that platform and lean out to hold onto that bar.  Even though God is guiding us, supporting us, and holding us up....we can't sit around like bumps on a log.  We have to make a move.  God loves us all so much that He has given us free will.  The instructors at the school never would attach a bunch of ropes to you and force you to go up and off the platform if you didn't want to.  And likewise, God will not force you.  Faith means that even though there are things out there that you don't understand or still believe that God will hold you up and keep you in His arms.  What fun would life be without a little mystery?

Fear is one of the ugliest and most damaging things in this life.  It keeps us trapped in prisons that we have the key to.  It keeps us from placing our toes on the edge and leaping into the unknown.  So today...because I love you....I am telling you to go take a flying leap.

Be like Peter when Jesus asked him to get out of the boat and walk out onto the water.  Take that step of faith while keeping your eyes on Jesus.  Peter began to sink only after he looked down at the water raging around him, and stopped focusing on Jesus.  Jesus will not let you go.  He will not.

I know it's a busy time of year, but in the new year, take a minute and think....are there steps you need to take toward the unknown?  Are you stuck on the rickety ladder?  Do you have your toes on the edge, but you're too afraid to jump?  God didn't create us to live in fear. Join the adventure that God has in store for you.  

And for my next trick....

I'm fixin to practice what I preach.  STAY TUNED!!!!!!

Merry Christmas everyone!


Supa Fly

Gal 5:1 - "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Check out some more pics if you want:

Reaching for that bar is way harder than it looks in pictures.
Kirk the trapeze pro.
This is how you flip off of the net.  BOOTY SHOT!!!
Seconds after my first fly.  Still high on life...and adrenaline I suppose.
Back flip dismount
Man, that ladder was freaky.
Your prize for looking at every picture. YAY!!!!!!!!!!
 Merry Christmas and God Bless!


  1. What fun! Merry Christmas!

  2. Kate, I am so glad you all had fun. I can't believe you could reach that height. You continue to amaze me. Love you, MOM

  3. That's awesome! I think the only thing I would learn from that is "my the ground is far away" but you rocked that trapeze!

  4. I thought you were speaking in the hypothetical. Then you brought out the pictures. I'm still on the fence on whether or not you photoshopped yourself on the trapeze because HOLY COW that would be really, really frightening to me. Kudos to you if you actually did it. If not, kudos to your photoshopping skillz.

  5. Oh I did real! It wasn't as scary as it looks. You could totally do it.


Whatcha thinkin'?