If you've talked to me at all in the past few months, you probably already know that I'm taking Beginning Gymnastics here at BYU. Despite the bruises and my tragic inability to bend in half backwards, it's quite possibly my favorite class. I thought I'd learn how to do flips and handstands. But I've learned so much more than that.
I now have a lot of experience with falling. Falling hard. I've landed on my face, my back, my butt, my shins, my right shoulder, my pride, and, on rare occasion, my feet. But I've learned something very important - you can't go into something halfheartedly. If you try to do a vault "gently," you just end up skidding across the vault table on your stomach and planting your face in the mat. Trust me. I have done this. You have to gather your courage and go for it all the way. You run, you jump, you fly, and you stick the landing. (sometimes) If you fail abysmally, well, at least you know you gave it your all. And the bruises are impressive testimony to your epic nature.
Then there are bars.
In my class, we do this thing called a death drop, where you sit on the high bar with your body straight, then slowly lean backwards until you're almost upside down, then push off, flip through the air, and land in the foam pit below.
When you're sitting on that 1.5 inch bar in mid air with 10 feet of nothingness between you and the squishy safety of the blue foam pit, nothing feels right about letting go of the strong bar that your hands have been anchored to. You feel like if you just hang on a bit longer, postponing that moment when you drop, somehow it will make the fall shorter and the landing softer. But the longer you cling to the bar, the weaker you get. It only gets harder to lean back and start the rotation you need to be able to land on your feet. You know that if you balk and hang on too long after you've started to fall, you're likely to tweak a shoulder before your hands rip loose and you land on your face.
So you breathe in, find the courage to trust yourself, and lean back. Then, finally, you let go and feel the rush of air and the glory in the free fall.