Today I share with you the words of Danaan Parry, a helicopter pilot, the skipper on a search-and-rescue vessel, a research physicist, a clinical psychologist, and a faculty member at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Oh, and he did all that before his death at the age of 57! I think it’s probably fair to say that this guy did not let a lot of things hold him back.
On Friday I wrote a post about getting lost, confused, and just plain stuck in the no-inertia zone. I gave you the whole “listen to your heart” song and dance. OK, cool. But what if your heart is yelling “JUMP!” and the rest of you is going “No the heck way!”?
So today, when I came across this passage by Danaan Parry, I knew I had to share it. I’m sure some of you have read it before. I think it deserves a repeat:
The Flying Trapeze
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, I’m hurdling across space between the trapeze bars.
Mostly, I spend my time hanging on for dear life to the trapeze bar of the moment. It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control. I know most of the right questions, and even some of the right answers. But once in a while, as I’m merrily, or not so merrily, swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see?
I see another trapeze bar looking at me. It’s empty. And I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new 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 the present well-known bar, to move to the new one.
Each time it happens, I hope—no, I pray—that I won’t have to grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moments in time I must hurtle across space before I can grab the new bar. Each time I do this I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurdles I have always made it.
Each time, I am afraid I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless basin between the bars.
But I do it anyway. I must.
Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call faith. No guarantees, no net, no insurance, but we do it anyway because hanging on to that old bar is no longer an option. And so, for what seems to be an eternity, but actually lasts a microsecond. I soar across the dark void called “the past is over, the future is not yet here.” It’s called a transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs.
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 as for the new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real too. But the void in between? That’s just a scary, confusing, disorienting nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible. What a shame!
I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing, and the bars are the illusions we dream up to not notice the void. Yes, with all the fear that can accompany transitions, they are still the most vibrant, growth-filled, passionate moments in our lives.
And 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 zone between the trapeze bars. Allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens.
It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening.
Hurdling through the void, we just may learn to fly.
I love that it gives credit to the transition place, the space between the bars. We never want to know about that place. We think it’s limbo. We just want ACTION! JUMPING! FLYING! ”Hey, I was brave and I jumped, so why am I not perfect yet?” But it’s not limbo. Limbo is hanging there, afraid to let go, swinging back and forth, back and forth, stuck in the same old same old.
The glorious space of free flight between what was and what will be, is the spot of Magnificence! It’s what we are, in fact, aiming for.
Tomorrow, I am running a fantastic guest post about what to do if you did jump but you landed in a deep, dark, scary hole. Dum, da, dum, dum. Hey, it happens. Stay tuned…