How far would you go to make your characters real?

Recently, and by that I mean a year ago, I decided to take a circus class.  The class was offered by SANCA in Seattle.  It was a great family intro class.  I purchased the class as a Christmas gift for my family.  My husband thought it was a waste of money, since he thought we would never end up taking the class.  To quote him, “You don’t DO things!”

I am nothing, if not stubborn.  We all took the two hour class in the Spring.  My impetus for taking the class was two-fold; one – I wanted to give my family an experience together to remember, instead of a thing, as a gift and two – (which gave me the idea in the first place) was the fact that a character in my book was a trapeze artist.

Did you see that coming?  If you read the blog title, it was a bit foreshadowing.

So we all packed in the car and drove to Seattle to take a circus class.  My husband was in disbelief that we were actually doing it.  It’s not that he didn’t want to go, because he’s in pretty good shape and loves to juggle and does balancing tricks with the children.   I think he was of the opinion that mid-forty, out-0f-shape housewives, should not run off and join the circus.

We arrived and everything was fine.  I could do all the stretches as I’m a lot more flexible than my husband.  We warmed up with some running, which was not my favorite, but I survived.  Then we started to do some gymnastics.  These are things that I did in Jr. High, but not really since then.

Here is where the problem began.  As I was practicing kicking up, but not actually going into a handstand, (which I’ve never been able to do) I felt something in my hip.  It might have been a pain or a pop or a twinge, after a year I can’t remember.  I knew something bad had happened.  It wasn’t painful to walk on, but it didn’t feel great and I was having trouble lifting my right leg.

No lectures, please.  I did not stop and tell the instructor that something had happened.  I’m a writer.  I don’t like to talk to people about things.  I would much rather write about them.  Besides, I had signed a waiver.  I knew what the risks were.  I was pretty sure that if I just stretched it out, it would be fine anyway.

Next we moved onto the trapeze.  My big reason for taking the class.

There was a rope and you sat on the floor, rocked back and pulled yourself up.  It looked so easy.  My kids could do it.  My husband could do it.  I’m going to blame my leg (and not my lack of stomach muscles): I could not do it.  There were also two bars, where you hold yourself up with your arms and then raise your legs off the ground.  That wasn’t happening either.

Finally, we come to the actual trapeze.  It was only about 5 feet or so off the ground.  My mission – grab the trapeze with my hands, throw my legs up over the bar between my hands and hoist myself up (with help from the instructor.)

I got the hanging underneath the trapeze with my hands part down.  I was able to kick my left leg up onto the bar.  I could not get my right leg high enough to get on the bar.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell the instructor that I had injured my leg, probably a mixture of embarrassment and pride.  I was really struggling hard, because I had wanted to experience being on the trapeze, for myself and the sake of my character.  I felt like crying.

I struggled a few more times trying to get that injured leg up.  I was just about to admit defeat or maybe I had admitted defeat when the instructor, a very patient fellow, suggested we try something different.  I put my hands in the middle of the bar and swung my legs around the outside of the rope unto the bar.  For some very weird and wonderful reason, this worked.  Yeah!

Then with some pushing from behind, I managed to pull myself onto the bar, up in a sitting position on the trapeze.  Now I also, don’t do well with heights, so being up there was a little disconcerting and I was ready to hop back down right away.  The instructor (here I feel bad that I don’t remember his name) said something like, “Sit there for a minute.  You worked hard to get there.  Relax and enjoy your accomplishment.”

I did.  It felt good.  It felt great!  I almost cried, it was so beautiful.

Of course, no one else had problems getting up, just me.  But as I sat there, I really felt a sense of accomplishment.  I had done it.

I got down (with help) and we went on to juggling, tight rope walking and trampoline.  The rest of the family was pretty unanimous on the trampoline being their favorite, but I will have to go with my two minutes sitting on that very low trapeze.

I learned several things from this experience.  I learned that you should not wait six months after an injury to go to the doctor.  (She gave me exercises to do, which sometimes help when I remember to do them.)  I also learned that I should not look at joining the circus as a fallback career, if my writing doesn’t pan out.

So what have you done to put the “REAL” in your characters?