Okay, I swear this happened.

I am driving to Spec’s to buy a really expensive bottle of champagne to share with Gail Allen, my friend and employer of fifteen years, because we were finally going to celebrate my book contract.

That’s what you would have seen if you were recording my movements with a video camera: a woman driving, parking the car and going into a store.

What you couldn’t see was the debate going on in my mind: I am wondering if it is time to leave this job in order to devote myself more fully to the job of being a writer. For more years than I can count, I have juggled three part-time jobs plus being a single mother plus writing. One part of me said this contract was a huge yes and adding it to pile of things I did might not be in my (or the book’s) best interest. Another part of me countered with how I had added in pursuing my MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts successfully so I should be able to add in launching a book and writing the next one, right? It was a ping pong match in my head. Should I let it go? Should I stay?

After purchasing the champagne, I got back in the car and, in an effort to tune out the mental gymnastics, turned the radio on. A man with a French accent was speaking:

“I leave the balancing pole. I approach the edge. I step over the beam. I put my left foot on the cable. The weight of my body raised on my right leg, anchored to the flank of the building. Shall I ever so slightly shift my weight to the left, my right leg will be unburdened, my right foot will freely meet the wire. An inner howl assails me. The wild longing to flee. But it is too late. The wire is waiting decisively. My other foot sets itself onto the cable. Faith is what replaces doubt in my dictionary.

“It’s interesting, because when I put one foot on the wire, I have the faith, the certitude that I will ppactually perform the last step. If not, I will run away and hide in cowardice, you know. So you cannot have a project, a goal if you don’t have faith. If not, it will be like, oh, I hope one day, you know, the success will fall from the sky and, you know, I’ll be there to receive it. It doesn’t work like that, in my opinion.”

Philippe Petit talked to me the entire drive to Gail’s house.

By the time we uncorked the champagne and held the glasses towards each other, my foot was on the wire. Gail toasted my perseverance and dedication and told me how my journey is an inspiration. We took a sip. We hugged. She had been a single mother, gone to graduate school, created her own business. She knew what working hard toward a goal and reaching it means.

I said, “I have to stop working for you.”

My other foot left the flank of the building. Just as Petit had predicted, I heard the inner howl. “Take it back. Don’t leave.”

I kept silent. Gail and I looked at each other. The only sound was the bubbles fizzing in our glasses.

Holy crap. What had I done? Fifteen years, I had managed her practice. We had become friends. I didn’t want to leave her. The comfort of her practice. The steady income. I howled inside.

Then Gail laughed. I laughed. We cried. If someone had been running the video camera, they probably would have set it down in disgust and told us to figure out what scene we were playing. Or maybe they would have hung in there and taped every second of this most extraordinary of human moments: when we feel about fifteen emotions at once, when we get bigger because we feel so much, when we hold onto each other and know that whatever happens, if we expand, if we love, if we don’t contract in fear, all will be well. All will be well.

For next three hours, we laughed and cried. We danced on the wire between our old lives and whatever lay ahead.


If you want to check out the full talk by Philippe Petit on the TED Radio Hour at National Public Radio. Click here.


Filed under Faith, Writing and Life

34 responses to “FAITH

  1. Beautiful story, Lindsey. I’m hanging the picture of the tightrope walker above my desk. Thanks.


  2. Rebecca Van Slyke

    I always think of that scene in Indiana Jones 3, where he must cross the chasm that looks like nothing spans it. He closes his eyes, takes a step off the cliff… and hits a bridge painted to look like more chasm. Only by taking that step of faith could he cross. Then, and only then, does his perspective change. Blessings as you step out in faith!


  3. So good. Amazing when the message we need lands right when we need it. Congratulations, and may we always have that faith.


  4. abwestrick

    I love this post, Lindsey! I’m reminded of the time my husband and I told our daughter (who was about to graduate from art school and thought she’d move back home) that we would always be there for her, like a safety net under a high wire, but right now it felt like she was rolling around in the net, and it was our job to nudge her back up onto the wire. We cried. It hasn’t been easy. But now, five years later, she’s a visual artist in Brooklyn, and her work is appearing in gallery shows.


    • Lindsey Lane

      Oh wow, good for you. Anne. I hadn’t thought about being the one to nudge someone out on the wire. Thanks for the different perspective. The teen is a junior in high school and she is getting close to the high wire part of life.


  5. Aw, Lindsey! I love this, and I love your courage! May your faith always be rewarded. xo


  6. Love this story, Lindsey! I’m so glad it spoke to you and you realized what step you needed to take. It speaks to me for a similar reason.


  7. Well, now I’m crying! 🙂 What a fabulous story and all the best to you. I hope you two stay in touch and celebrate future successes together. It sounds like you will.


  8. Joshua McCune

    The cliche is a leap, but Lindsey, I think you’ve nailed it. It’s a step into the unknown… step after step. Bravo and bravo to your brave first steps.


  9. Wonderful post, Lindsey. Go get ’em! 🙂
    One of my favorite things to do is jump into the water from high places. That moment when it’s too late is the scary best.


  10. Lindsey Lane

    Oh Adi, I’m calling you up next time I have a scary thing to do.


  11. Sheila A. Donovan

    What a wonderful moment of serendipity! Good luck !


  12. Such a beautiful story, Lindsey!


  13. Lindsey Lane

    Thanks, Tara.


  14. This is wonderful and perfect and a good reminder for us all. Thank you, Lindsey!


  15. Lindsey Lane

    Thank you, Deborah.


  16. Christine Hayes

    So poetic and inspiring, Lindsey! I’m struck by the intimate connection between faith and courage. Lots to ponder here.


  17. “Faith” is the perfect title for this post. And this…
    “We danced on the wire between our old lives and whatever lay ahead.”
    I love that line!!!
    Great post, Lindsay!


  18. Lindsey Lane

    Thank you, Christine and Penny. It was a blast to write and pretty fun to live.


  19. What you did takes so much courage, Lindsey. You seem to live with such soul. You’re an inspiration.


  20. Lindsey Lane

    Thank you, Megan…poet who whips up great songs about books she hasn’t even read. Talk about inspiration!


  21. Parker

    Ah, that was really inspiring. I’m so glad you shared this. We don’t often get to hear about those scary moments that come when you pursue a career like this. Sounds like you aren’t looking back. 🙂


  22. Lindsey Lane

    Sometimes I look back longingly but I keep going forward.


  23. Oh, Lindsey, I adore this post. We work in an industry of faith-leaping, don’t we? Never sure if the path will appear, but certain that it can’t if we don’t take that big step. I’m thrilled you’ve taken that big leap. Bravo!
    I don’t know how I missed this TED talk with Petit. I’ve done a whole bunch of research about him, for a book I’m working on.


  24. Lindsey Lane

    Thank you, Donna. I am so glad to have you alongside me in the walk of faith. How perfect that I was able to link you to another bit of research. This is how we continually help each other. We are not alone.


  25. Pingback: Faith Redux | EMU's Debuts

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