Monday, July 26, 2010

Love, Loss, and Gratitude

So much has happened in this past week. From losing an old high school friend to graduating from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, I am overwhelmed from these extreme highs and lows. The only common denominator between these two very different events has been the notion of love and gratitude and for that reason only, I am writing about them in conjunction.

Even though Alex and I had lost touch over the years, I still consider him to be a good friend. I know I'm not alone when I say that he was one of those people that leaves a lasting impression on your heart, and I will forever be grateful for having known him. Always quick to share a smile or a laugh, he was adored by all that he met. Kind, funny, and smart, are just some of the words to describe Alex, and my heart goes out to his closest friends, family, and his beautiful girlfriend who has been nothing short of courageous and strong through this most devastating time.

Alex’s untimely passing taught me to not take the people we love for granted and to live each day to its fullest. And while he was here, he demonstrated just how far a smile and a laugh can go.

I applied these lessons to my graduation weekend and am filled with so much gratitude for having gone to this school. There was more love flowing through the room than on any other class weekend, and I’m truly lucky to have met some of the most genuine, passionate, kind, and amazing people (not to mention, fabulous dancers) through this program, some of which I know I will be friends with forever.

After our last day, several class mates were taking a trapeze lesson along the Hudson River. A little hungover from the previous night’s graduation celebration, and quite frankly a little scared, I debated whether or not to join the crew.

I finally came to the conclusion that life is short and bit the bullet. I also thought back to the time when I saw "Beatles Love" in Vegas and decided that being an acrobat was hands down the best job anyone could ever have. So... unprepared in daisy dukes (I wonder if trapezing in jean shorts is as big of a faux pas as skiing in jeans) I took the plunge.

The hardest part for me was climbing up the ladder, and finally jumping off the ledge. I thought that each time I went up there, it would only get easier, but instead each time was scarier than the last. Although a little dramatic, I felt like I had cheated death already (or at least a serious injury). Why repeatedly put myself out there on the ledge? But mostly I think this was just an excuse for a fear of failing.

For some reason I struggled with the last sequence where you are swinging by your knees, let go, and reach for the arms of the catcher. My heart was racing, my timing was off, and I just simply couldn't complete the catch. I let my fear get the best of me, and was disappointed in myself. My friends however, refused to let me leave without succeeding, and convinced me to attempt the catch for a third time.

This time I took a deep breath. I thought of Alex who although I firmly believe is living on in a much better place, will never again feel what it's like to be inside his body. He will never have the opportunity to stand high above the greatest city in the world with the sun beaming down on him, and then and there I decided not to take this moment for granted.

"READY!" yells the instructor. I bend my knees, "HEP!" he calls out, and this time without hesitation, I plunge off the ledge, and as I’m swinging along reaching for the instructor, I’m alive, conquering a fear and succeed at the catch.

Although I don’t see myself going back to the Trapeze School of New York anytime soon, I left feeling calm, happy, and grateful. Calm because It was over, happy because I did it, and grateful because of who I got to experience it with. (We missed you Jamie :))

I dedicate my triumph over my fear to Alex, and hope that right before his accident, the sun was beaming down on him, the wind was through his hair, and he felt more alive than ever.

In life we can either come from a place of fear and hesitation, or we can live life to its fullest by coming from a place of love, bending our knees, and jumping at the "Hep" of the universe. From now on, I will do the "ladder."

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