How can I possibly put it into words, something like that? I don't even understand it, what happened up there. And I'm really the only one that could. There are just some things that cannot be put into words. The only way to get it is to have been there, and even then, you'd understand it in your own way. I guess all I can do is tell it like it happened.
I've long thought that the Lotus is the most peaceful suspension position - meditating on air, like a piece of classic iconography. I figured I had a lot to think over after living a quarter century and starting down a new career path, so when the opportunity came to do a suspension at this year's NorCal SusCon, I signed up and chose to do a Lotus.
I got to Pierce Ink, waited around, watched suspensions, got antsy. There were two film crews there, one "community" based, and the other for The History Channel. I signed my image away to both, figuring they'd just shoot some footage of me suspending or have me in the background of some shots.
My time came up and I changed into my suspension clothing, getting more fidgety as the minutes dragged by. I got marked up for eight hooks: four in the back, two near the knees, and two between calves and ankles. The back ones burned a bit going in, but the four leg ones went in with no problems. Can't say why, but the lower leg hook on my right leg bothered me the most, never quite settling in comfortably.
Rigging took a fair amount of time. I had asked to be hooked up in such a way as to allow me to have my legs cut free so that I could go into a suicide position. The process of getting the rigging ropes tightened had me gritting my teeth and laughing at how much going up was going to hurt me.
The rigging was good to go and I was getting my breathing under control, preparing to be lifted. Just as soon as the lines were being drawn, The History Channel's film crew pushed into my face and someone asked me what I was thinking/feeling at that moment (I don't remember which, but both seem equally inappropriate). Erik Dakota shooed them away from me, but the incident took me out of whatever space I'd been able to put myself in and I had to spend a few minutes taking deep, deliberate breaths before I was calm again. Inner-peace restored, I asked to get more pressure put on the hooks. The entry and exit points burned terribly, especially on my legs. I wasn't sure that I'd be able to go through with it after all. I considered asking if they could cut my legs free then and there. I'd done a suicide before and knew I could handle it. But I figured that doing a Lotus was my goal, I already had the hooks in, and rigging had taken a good while to get set up. So I might as well go ahead. It took several more gradual pulls before I got to the "there's only one thing to be done" mindset and asked to be lifted. They pulled me up and I was very aware of the pain. I reached down with my hand and found I could still feel the floor with my fingertips. I thought about how easy it would be for them to lower me those few inches, how the pain would fade. I could sit for a while, get a drink of ice-cold water, go up when it would hurt less. But I knew that it wouldn't hurt less. I forced myself to open my eyes and look at the hooks. "See?" I asked myself. "They are just hooks. Your skin is only being stretched. You aren't even bleeding much. You are not in danger. The pain doesn't mean anything." And I started to feel better. I asked to go higher, and up I went. It still hurt, and it went on hurting for at least the first five minutes. I realized that I did have some control over where the pressure was put, so I eased up a bit on my legs, letting my back take most of the weight. "Just ask them to cut your legs free" cycled through my thoughts several times, but I knew I could be comfortable again if I just took the time. At this point, the film crew came over again. I think the question this time had something to do with what made me want to do this. Again, I felt it was incredibly inappropriate to ask, especially at that moment. It screwed with whatever mindset I'd been building since working to get off the ground, and I just couldn't take it. Tears rolled down my cheeks as Erik again came to my rescue and got them away from me. Right when I'd almost become comfortable, too. I got my frustration under control and found I still wasn't quite pain-free, so I asked for a small push, knowing from past experience that swaying helps with what hurts. And I did begin to feel better. One issue I found in the beginning was that I wasn't sure what to do with my arms. I tried putting them in my lap, but that just put extra pressure on the hooks. And any time I tried to move them, I just ended up hitting the rigging and giving my wounds a nice jolt. I finally clasped my hands behind my back and found that to be quite comfortable. I alternated a while between looking around the room and keeping my eyes closed. The resentment I felt towards the film crew came back again and again, especially when I overheard them interviewing other people about what I was feeling at that time. Apparently these guys wouldn't know "obtrusive" if it stuck out and smacked them in the head (which it probably would, being obtrusive and all). I tried to push back my bitterness, not wanting that to get in the way of my otherwise positive experience, but it cropped up again and again. Maybe it was this, maybe something else, but something inside me burst forth and I shut my eyes and cried. Tears trickled down my face. I could feel them as they fell onto my legs, pattering near the hooks. For several minutes I let them fall, unable to think of any good reason why they should be. It just felt right, so I let it continue, knowing that people were probably watching (and filming) me but thinking that I wouldn't let that spoil the moment. When I opened my eyes again, someone handed me a tissue and I looked down to see that I'd left a nice wet spot on the blue sheet of paper below me. I felt great after that. No more pain. More than once I wondered how it was that I managed to find myself floating up in the air before I remembered the hooks in my skin which held me up there. Sometimes I'd hear a snippet of conversation or applause as someone else got off the ground. Mostly I just hung there, perfectly content to be where I was and not really wanting to be anywhere else. Sometimes I got a push and swayed happily; sometimes I didn't and stayed happily. Always in the back of my mind was the suicide I still thought of doing and the flight home that I needed to catch. I thought about just asking to be let down, keeping my perfect Lotus just as it was and saving the suicide for some other time. But they had rigged me special. And all of the suicide suspendees looked like they were having so much fun. After about (I think) forty-five minutes to an hour of suspending Lotus style, I asked to have my legs cut free. I was lowered very gently into the suicide position, quite surprised by how much more painful it was than I'd anticipated. It didn't hurt badly, but I'd thought that it really wouldn't feel any different. After adjusting, I asked to get a push and spent the next ten minutes or so swinging like the kid on the playground who's clearly having the most fun (the whole time being careful to keep my legs a good distance apart, since I still had the hooks in them and didn't want them getting tangled/ripped out). After another ten minutes or so of this, I took a couple of minutes to hang still, taking in the sensations for just a little bit longer before asking to be lowered to the ground. Feeling twenty pounds heavier, I made my way over to the message tables to get my hooks out and the trapped air burped from the holes. And wouldn't you know it? There's a film crew waiting! "Aurora," (who is this guy to call me by my first name?) the director says, "Do you mind if I ask how you feel?" "Okay," I responded, feeling that I couldn't possibly say any more about how I felt at the moment. But I did feel pretty darn okay, so that should have sufficed. There was an awkward pause, like they were waiting for something to happen. "So how do you feel?" "Okay," I repeated. "Oh, I thought you meant it was okay if we asked." But Erik once more came to my rescue. He got them away and led me to the chair. I didn't even feel the hooks coming out. Or the air bubbles, for that matter. It just felt like my skin was being pinched, much as it had been two hours prior when the best place for the hooks was being determined. I was cleaned up, bandaged, and given the green light to leave. I felt good, though physically exhausted. I made my way to grab my bag and change back into my civies, and as I went, people complimented me on the nice suspension. They didn't know the half of it. I wished I could have responded, could have said more, but to have tried would have been pointless. I got changed and called a cab. I went back into the suspension area to give my final thanks. The community film crew wanted an interview and I told them they had five minutes before my cab arrived. The History Channel crew asked if they could hop in. I was feeling too good to hold a grudge, so I let them. Some questions, some answers. I was more animated than I'd be under any other circumstances. My voice shook and I stumbled over my words as I tried to answer their questions, still very much under the spell of what I'd just gone through. My cab arrived and I split. For the record, I have no problems with crews shooting at events. I signed the waiver; I knew I was fair game. But there's a definite difference between getting filmed by insiders and by outsiders. The insiders know about suspension and what it puts a person through and what it takes to get in the air. They get that it's a very personal journey. But the outsiders just want sensational TV. They think that there is no privacy, that personal experiences are to be offered up for public consumption, that everyone is just waiting to get their story "out there". (And yes, I know that through this experience, my story will now be "out there," but these are my words, in a medium that I feel comfortable with, at a time that feels appropriate.) I guess I'm mostly upset by their timing. Perhaps it's just a lack of insight. I'm not sure anyone can really appreciate how difficult it is to talk about suspension until that person has tried it for himself. And it's especially difficult to go into whilst one is actually suspending.
My back ached as I eased myself into bed three hours later. The thought of popping a painkiller crossed my mind, but I decided that the pain was part of the process and figured I'd sleep through the night and reassess the situation in the morning. Two hours later, I woke up in such pain that, once able to maneuver out of bed, I headed straight for the medicine cabinet and grabbed some Excedrin. It wasn't just my tender back that was troubling me, but also my neck, which was so stiff that I couldn't turn it to either side without sending shooting pains through my shoulders. I doubted that I'd be able to get up for work in the morning, but when I woke up five hours later, I felt well enough to go in. My back and ankles still felt a bit tender, but the pain was no impediment. The tenderness lasted about five days, going down by degrees as each day passed. My back stayed sore the longest, the pain being fully localized to where the hooks had been. This surprised me, as I'd been expecting some amount of lower back pain. I wore boots that covered the ankle holes, and that was a bit noticeable for the first couple of days, though I wouldn't say it hurt.
Despite what you've just read, the idea of describing what happened still seems absurd. I don't believe that I'll ever be able to put that into words. I don't see much of a point to doing so, anyway. What happened was very personal and is all mine. But now when people ask what it was like, I can tell them that they should wait til they see the footage. Guess there's a plus side to having your life captured on film, after all.
submitted by: LotN
on: 26 March 2008