that daring young girl on the flying* trapeze: in which I cry a bunch of times

I fell off the trapeze a few weeks ago.

I’ve fallen off before. There are in fact several videos in my possession of me falling off the trapeze. I tell my mother that I hardly ever fall off! Really! And it’s true now, but at first I fell off a lot.

This time was different, though. This was at a birthday party for my aerial studio. Amid all the other birthday activities, the studio had an area with a trapeze and some silks and a crash mat underneath for new people to try out aerials and for students to show off for their friends and family.

My friend Laura was there with me and she said, “Why don’t you show off?” So I got on the trapeze and did (most of) the moves you see me do in this old video below.

I did fine for awhile. When I did the thing where I swung around, grabbed the other rope behind me and turned around, people clapped, and I realized I had an audience. I’ve never had an audience before. People were CLAPPING?!?! People who weren’t my instructor or classmates, but strangers? It felt weird.

At 0:58 in the video, you can see that I’m upside-down, and I kind of fling myself up and grab the ropes to stand. It’s fine in the video, but in front of my audience at my new(ish) aerial studio, my feet slipped off the bar and I slammed onto the crash mat below me, landing on my stomach.

There was nothing for me to do but stand up and walk away. I had the wind knocked out of me, and I was trembling and struggling to catch my breath. The instructor who had been watching came over and asked if I was all right. “I don’t know what happened!” I said. “I’ve done that trick a million times. I’ve never fallen out like that. Could you tell what I did wrong?”

“I think you pointed your toes and that made your feet slip out,” she said. My friend Laura was very nice and said she thought it looked like I did it on purpose, but I was still embarrassed. All those people saw me fall. And not a gentle fall, an ungainly slam onto a crash mat.

Things with trapeze have been really difficult since I’ve moved here. I spent several hours a week at my studio in Austin, enough time that I knew most of the students and instructors there. On my last day, my instructor and some friends gave me a card and a little trophy engraved with my name, and I cried. The part of 2015 I spent in Austin was really hard, and the time I spent in the studio was always a lovely respite from everything else going on in my life.

When I moved to St. Louis in April, I knew it would take awhile before I felt at home in my new studio, but I didn’t realize how different everything would be. The students in my Trapeze 2 class were very good at some things I’d barely learned, and I felt conspicuous and embarrassed trying them for the first time in front of everyone. Even the way they all got onto the trapeze was different, and I couldn’t do that either. Some of the tricks had other names or were done in a way I wasn’t used to. I missed my old instructor. I missed my friends.

My first Trapeze 2 experience at my new studio took place in May over six classes, one per week, and I cried during four of them.

I don’t think anyone noticed. Everyone in the class already knew each other and pretty much left me alone, which I found sad at first but became a good thing once all the crying started to happen.

Things got a little better eventually. I got to talk to a few of the students a little before the trapeze series ended (they’re all very nice), and I started taking a bunch of fitness classes at the studio to build up strength and get to know some more people.

Then September and October happened. I went to XOXOFest in Portland, got sick with a bad cold, was busy one weekend selling my jewelry at a craft fair, and something bad occurred that I’m not ready to talk about here. During that time I didn’t do any aerials at all, and also I got really, really depressed.

I mean, I was already depressed, both in the sense that I’ve suffered from chronic depression since I was 12 and in the sense that things aren’t going very well for me right now. But this was the not getting out of bed kind of depressed. The barely eating, sleeping all the time, convinced that no one would ever love me and I may as well not exist kind of depressed.

I started a new Trapeze 2 series a few weeks ago (you have to take the same level over and over again until you acquire certain skills). The second class in the series took place two days after I’d fallen off the trapeze at the party.

I cried again. Again, I don’t think anyone noticed, and if they did they didn’t say anything. But this time I cried not because I felt out of place or because I missed my old aerial studio (though of course I still do). This time I cried because I hadn’t worked out in a month, I’d lost a ton of strength, and I was too depressed to do any of the things I could usually do.

I am intimately familiar with most of the ways in which depression can take a toll on one’s life. It makes everything you do, even the things you usually enjoy, seem like a chore. It makes you feel like you’ll never be okay again. It keeps you from understanding how anyone else is okay. It makes you stupid. It makes you tired. It makes you fucking sad.

But until now I’d never tried to be physically active during a depressive episode, so I was unaware of the physical toll it can take. During that recent trapeze class, I felt like my arms couldn’t even hold a fraction of my weight. I crouched with my toes on the trapeze bar and put my hands on the ropes to pull myself to standing, a thing I’ve done a thousand times, and I couldn’t do it. My arms felt like useless weights too heavy for my body, as if they were going to fall out of their sockets and crash to the floor like I’d crashed onto the mat two days before. I was afraid I might fall off if I kept going, so I sat down on the bar and then dragged myself down off the trapeze.

“I’m not feeling well,” I said to the instructor, “so I think I’m going to sit out for now.” I sat on the floor against the wall for the rest of the class and tried to hold back my tears. When I got home I sobbed.

I have never had that feeling before! The feeling that I physically can’t do something because I’m too depressed. It was frightening, and given how much of a respite aerials have been for me, it was frustrating too.

Before I started doing aerials I always wished I could just be a head in a jar with maybe some robotic arms sticking out so I could still do crafts. Who needed to carry around a dumb high-maintenance meat sack anyway? What was the point?

But aerials have helped me understand why I want to carry around a dumb meat sack and maintain it. I’ve become really strong. I’ve learned how to do a lot of cool things I never thought i could do. I’ve acquired some epic bruises and callouses and rope burns, which I’ve worn like badges of honor. For depression to make my newfound love of physicality betray me was more painful than all those bruises combined.

Things have gotten better over the past few weeks. I’ve sought (additional) help for my depression, and I’m slowly coming out of it. My strength is coming back. I’m showing up to trapeze class and fitness class and I’m in a group performance this December. My leg is currently sporting the grossest bruise I’ve ever had (warning: disgusting image!), and I’m super proud of it.

2015-10-24 10.55.37-1But the crushed, weak, unable feeling is one I want to remember. Last year in Austin when I took Trapeze 1 for the first time, I would drag myself home, fall into bed exhausted, and cry because I felt like I’d never be able to do any of the things we were learning in class. I fell off the bar at least ten times trying to do gazelle to bat/arrow, and I was 100% sure I’d never be able to do it. Now it’s something I do regularly with few problems.

During that first Trapeze 1 class, I watched a Trapeze 2 class next to us learn Montreal, the trick in the video above. “I will never, ever get there,” I thought at the time. “That will never be me.” But now it is me! I don’t do it perfectly every time, obviously, but I CAN.

My new aerial studio is going to be okay, St. Louis is going to be okay. I’m going to be okay.

*I don’t do flying trapeze and I’m not all that young but whatever.

password-protected posts

I wasn’t anticipating that people would be curious about my most recent password-protected posts. Protected posts are not something I’m planning to do permanently, it’s just that there were a few things I wanted to talk about recently but didn’t want everyone to see. Maybe this was a weird and off-putting way to post them, but I honestly didn’t think anyone I don’t know would be interested, which I guess is indicative of where my self-esteem is these days.

If you are a longtime reader of this site or a person I know from the internet and you’d like to read the posts, you can email me at alison at this domain and I’ll send you the passwords. Thanks!

but the lonely are such delicate things (part 4)

(part 1, password carbots)
(part 2, password stobrac)
(part 3, password carbots)


MUSIC CUE: “Love Lost” by Temper Trap, very softly at first, then gradually louder as the scene progresses. [or is this too on the nose? consult with music supervisor later]

ALISON, in a wool hat and jacket, sits in a plastic chair on her shitty patio and types at her computer. She takes a pensive sip of coffee, then resumes typing.


BRIAN, sitting on his sofa reading a book, hears his phone beep and checks it to see a text from ALISON. The text has a link in it. He reads the text, taps the link to open it and begins to read.



BRIAN continues to read the letter, which we hear in ALISON’S voiceover. He takes off his glasses and wipes tears from his eyes. He finishes reading the letter, stands up and gets his car keys.


[VOICEOVER OF BEAUTIFUL LETTER CONTINUES] ALISON closes her laptop, goes back inside her shitty [not shitty in the dirty or unsafe sense, just shitty in the yellow walls, not enough windows, poor layout sense] apartment, pets MOKI on the head, and lies down on the sofa to read. It begins to rain.


[VOICEOVER OF BEAUTIFUL LETTER CONTINUES] BRIAN’S car pulls up outside ALISON’S house. He jumps out of his car, runs to her door and knocks.


[VOICEOVER OF BEAUTIFUL LETTER FINISHES, MUSIC SWELLS] Alison hears the knock on the door. She gets up and opens the curtain to see BRIAN standing on her doorstep, rain (or tears?) streaming down his face. Surprised, she opens the door and lets him in. They embrace.


This would never happen in real life. I know that. One flaw in it is that if you showed up on my doorstep I would have a few questions for you before I let things get all embrace-y. No matter what the beautiful letter said, you’d still have to explain some things to me about your thought process.

The other flaw is that we talked a lot about writing (you don’t write, but you wish you could), but you never, ever wanted to see any of mine. I mentioned this once. “You’re talking about my writing as if it’s any good, but you’ve never read it. I might really suck for all you know.”

“Well, you told me that other people like your writing, so I assume it’s good.”

It hurt to hear you say that. I have had boyfriends who read my writing, and I’ve had those who didn’t, and the latter always bothered me. Why would a person who loves me not care enough about one of my creative endeavors to want to see it? One guy said, “I’d rather have you talk to me about your thoughts and feelings, not read them in your writing.” But reading and talking are not the same.

I know that you weren’t, aren’t, and never will be my boyfriend or a person who loves me. But when someone you are falling in love with declines your oblique offer to share something like that with them, it hurts no matter what. So how could I know if any letter I wrote you would affect you at all? You might think I really suck for all I know.

And anyway, Life Is Not Like A Poorly Formatted Screenplay, and I Told You I Wasn’t Going To Contact You So I Need To Stick To That, and I Don’t Want To Have To Talk Someone Into Wanting Me, and other stories.

You and I have talked a lot about loneliness. We talked about the nature and quality of loneliness on our first (only, I guess) date. I’d asked you what your favorite book was, and you said it was Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. You mentioned a quote from it that you really liked about loneliness. I went home and bought the book immediately and found it:

I have been trying, for some time now, to find dignity in my loneliness. I have been finding this hard to do. It is easier, of course, to find dignity in one’s solitude. Loneliness is solitude with a problem.

(Reading Bluets, by the way, was when I knew I would fall for you.)

When we talked about loneliness on that date, it was in the context of OkCupid. You said you didn’t know anyone in St. Louis besides your sister and her family, and though you weren’t sure about your interest in long-term dating, you were lonely and you needed to get out of your house and meet people. You found joining clubs and doing group activities difficult, so you joined OkCupid because it felt easier somehow.

“I find it easier, too,” I said. “It has a nakedly transactional aspect to it that makes things more straightforward. With group activities you have to find people you like in the group and then try to bridge the gap between the group activity and becoming actual friends. Meeting someone from OkCupid is more like, we’re both here to see if we like each other and maybe want to hang out more. It’s refreshing.”

I didn’t remember why I cried on that date, but now I do. It was when I told you that sometimes I went on OkCupid dates just to have someone to fucking talk to.

I have been lonely a lot of times in my life. Cripplingly, breathtakingly lonely, for lengthy periods of time, in relationships and out of them. I told you once that I thought the loneliness inside a relationship was much worse than the loneliness outside of one. If I waited the rest of my life and never found the perfect person for me, a person who saw me in all my intensity and stubbornness and sadness and loudness and oddity and wanted me not in spite of these things but because of them, I’d rather be alone-lonely than settle and be relationship-lonely ever again.

You disagreed.

Two things occur to me now.

  1. If it’s true that you’d rather settle for someone not quite right than be alone, you must have thought I was really not right.
  2. You saw me in at least some of my “intensity and stubbornness and sadness and loudness and oddity” and didn’t want me, so technically you’re not right for me either.

Someday soon this will be a consolation to me.

It’s true that loneliness is solitude with a problem. Solitude is you floating alone on a ship in the ocean. Loneliness is you floundering in the ocean surrounded by debris from the ship, grasping for any piece of it you can whether it will keep you afloat or not.

We don’t always know what we’re grasping at when we’re lonely. During my loneliest times I’ve reached for some of the weakest, most terrible things, hoping that they’ll hold me afloat long enough to make me okay, but they never do. They only make me sink faster.

The truth is that we can’t count on just one or two of those little pieces of debris to make us complete. We have to rebuild the whole ship.

One of the last texts I sent to you was about a quote from a Shins song we’d been trying to remember, but neither of us could think of it. I looked it up later and sent it to you. “…but the lonely are such delicate things.”

“Solitude,” you wrote back. “I’m trying to turn my loneliness into solitude a la Maggie Nelson.”

Well, sure.

As silly as it may sound, the best way I’ve found to turn my loneliness into solitude is to think of myself not as an entity trapped alone inside my body trapped alone inside my shitty apartment, but as a separate person I’m hanging out with and caring for. What are the best things I can do with/for myself today? Thinking of my aloneness that way keeps me from wallowing, keeps me moving around and going for walks and making things and writing and eating food that’s good for me and trying to make friends. It helps me rebuild my ship.

It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I am so sure that I’d be happy if you’d wanted me, or if someone else wanted me, that it seems like I’ll never be happy otherwise. But I can’t let another person be my permanent life raft like that, particularly not someone who is too busy floundering around and grasping at their own debris to notice me.

I’m starting to be glad I let you go.