The circus. I dream of the circus. I don’t dream of going to the circus, no, no, no!
I want to run away and join the circus. While I never thought I would have children, this has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I remember my mother singing “Goodbye cruel world, I’m off to join the circus…” This just seemed the ultimate escape hatch.
My dearest friend Genevieve, who is a dancer and choreographer, often talked about a friend she called “Trapeze Louise”, who had been a trapeze artists in the circus.
The circus, specifically Cirque du Soleil, La Nouba played a surprising role in helping me through some scary times in my life. The voice of God actually spoke to me through this, and while that may sound just weird and unbelievable, for me it is canon truth.
The problem is that I am no acrobat. As a child I took ballet lessons (I was never very good), whereas my best friend Erin did gymnastics (she always seemed good to me). We used to pretend to be Marilou Retton in my backyard. Gymnastics seemed more athletic than what I felt ballet was (I know I am wrong about this, don’t @ me!)
I took up some dancing classes again in college and then later again as an adult, but for reasons that had more to do with what was happening in my mind than what I was actually physically capable of, I quit to keep my dignity intact.
I hate “exercise”. Sure, I like riding my bike. Sure, I love to dance. But the sheer discipline required to get good at the technical aspects of dance or gymnastics was something I wasn’t willing to invest in.
Living vicariously through our children
I made a joke last summer, as my husband was trying to get our boys signed up for a Chess Club that we shouldn’t try to live vicariously through our children. I, simultaneously, was signing my boys up for Circus School.
I had my reasons for signing them up for Circus School, notably, my youngest scalawag is a kinesthetic learner and has a space rocket’s gas tank full of energy to burn off. He is amazing with his body and might as well learn to do dangerous things safely, surrounded by professionals, since he would be doing dangerous things anyway.
Also: I definitely wanted to be a little fly on the wall in a where people were learning how to fly on a trapeze, do aerial silks, ride a unicycle and walk a tightrope.
In my Ideal Life, I am a person who…
As I have been doing my daily Ideal Life Reels on Instagram, I have been confronted with many of the original pages of my “In my Ideal Life, I am a person who…” sentences.
One of the areas I have managed to skillfully avoid dealing with over the last year or so, given the various lockdowns, is the issue of Body Positivity and Health.
I do monitor my health and my physical activity. I wear a pedometer every day, and I write down how many steps I did. It’s fun to keep track of, and I am nothing if not competitive with myself. I have an average this year so far of about 8000 per day. It’s not amazing, but it”s my baseline. It requires very little effort on my part to hit that goal.
Now, let’s make a few things abundantly clear: I am not particularly athletic. Although I used to be a runner, the curfews here in France have made it complicated to arrange that both my indulgent husband and I get out to run when the boys aren’t up. Plus, I love to use my quiet time in the morning to write. Priorities, right?
I know that I still have enough strength and determination to run up vertical skate ramps to impress my children. I know that I can climb up the sliding pole at the kiddie park when my eldest challenged me to do it. I know that I can hike up steep inclines and not get winded (even if I hate every single second of it.) I know that I am strong enough to carry my youngest to and from school when he just can’t.
But some days I don’t feel so flexible anymore. Some days I feel a little rusty.
What I don’t want is for that feeling of rustiness to keep me from being able to do the things I need to do. Eight thousand steps a day is going to keep me where I am. I need something else.
Why live vicariously?
For fun, when I am alone, I sometimes watch and rewatch aerial silk routines from different circuses around the world. I find it so peaceful, so beautiful. The men and women who do them are so strong.
This attraction is so strong that in the novel I am editing now, one of the characters is a circus performer who gets caught up in a mysterious adventure in a seemingly magical place (it’s not. Learning what makes it look magical is part of the fun) which changes his life and marks the lives of thousands of others, for better or for worse. (It’s a really, really, really exciting story. Believe me. You want it to get published, too, don’t you?)
If I wrote this character, it was because I wanted to live vicariously through a circus performer.
Then…something crazy happened.
I was surfing on Facebook as I do, looking at people’s upcycling and refashioning projects, when I met Mollie. Mollie was posting about a refashion she did, turning a dress into a leotard. A leotard for what? To do aerial silks in.
So, as you can imagine, both of my passions were alit: refashioning and aerial silks.
Mollie and I got chatting back and forth and she kept insisting that I am not too old. She got her army of aerialists to prove it to me: there is one in her group who is sixty-one years old! One other who got started at forty-four!!!
I am not too old to run away and join the circus.
The Judgment at home
So I mentioned it to the indulgent husband and he gave me one of those looks. You know the one. The one that tells me that perhaps this time my menopause instability has pushed me beyond the point-of-no-return.
I checked out the two circus schools in our area. One does not have adult classes, but one does…although won’t again for some time, as you know, France closes down for the whole summer.
This was going to be problematic. Also, the fact that I am kind not in the best shape of my life right now was going to be problematic. So I asked Mollie for some ideas that would get me in shape for whenever I might be able to start learning some silks or lyra…or…oh my goodness, trapeze.
Mollie suggested an app, called Cirque Plus, by the amazing Allie Cooper, which offers all kinds of challenges for aerialists. I downloaded it. I took a look at some of the exercises, particularly the “Ground Workouts” and got to thinking, “While I might not be able to fly right now, I might just be able to get myself into a not-embarrassing-embarrassing-shape if I do these.”
So guess what? I have a new goal this summer: get in aerial silk-ready shape.
So: This summer I will make progress on my dream of being an aerialist, even if I never leave the ground.
In my Ideal Life, I am a person who is always learning something new.
Photo of @lbmay by Taylor Monaghan via Pexels.