Where real change happens

Written by Sharon Coulter, MA, PPS, MA LMFT on . Posted in Blog


The Trapeze Story – by Danaan Parry

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging onto a trapeze bar swinging along, or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across the space in between trapeze bars. But most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to that trapeze bar, the one I have for the moment, that carries me along in 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 right answers.

But, once in a while, as I merrily or not so merrily swing along, I look out ahead of me in the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging towards me. It’s empty. And I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It’s my next step. It’s my aliveness coming to get me. And in my heart of hearts, I know that for me to grow, I have to release my grip on the present, well-known bar to move on to the next one.

Now, each time it happens to me, 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 the old bar, and for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar – and each time, I’m filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of knowing, I have always made it. Each time, I’m afraid that I will miss, that I’ll be crushed on the unseen rocks at the bottom of the chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway.

Maybe this is the essence of what the mystics call “the faith experience.” No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy. You do it anyway because, somehow, to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of viable alternatives.

And so, for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void. The past is gone; the future is not yet here. It’s called transition.

I have come to believe that this is the only place where real change happens. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until my old buttons get punched. And I have noticed in our culture that this transition zone is looked upon as a no-thing, as a no-place between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real and the new one coming towards me, well, I hope that’s real, too; but the void between us is just a scary, confusing, disorienting no-where that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible. What a waste! What a waste.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing, and that the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void, where real change happens. Now, whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones (paradigm busting times) in our lives are incredibly rich places, and they should be honored, even savored. And with all the pain and the fear and the feelings of being out of control that can accompany transition, the transition zones are still the most alive, the most growth-filled, the most passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

And so, the transformation of fear may have nothing to do with getting rid of fear, or making fear go away, but rather giving ourselves permission to hang out in the transition between trapeze bars. Transforming our need to grab on to that new bar is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where real change can happen. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening, in the true sense of the word.

Hurtling through the void, we may just learn that ALL ALONG we have always known how to fly.