When I was about three years old, my mom enrolled me in ballet.
I was graceless. Tap? Rhythm-challenged. Acrobatics? I excelled!
It wasn’t long until I was doing handstands, somersaults, back bends and cartwheels ubiquitously.
By age eight, I had set my goal: one-hundred cartwheels a day, no matter what. In winter, I practiced in our dank, dark basement (having been banned from the
living room after breaking a lamp). The rest of the year, I whirled up and
down our blacktop driveway.
Though I try, I can’t remember when I stopped doing my 100 cartwheels
a day. Somewhere around the time I discovered boys, make-up and the telephone, I suppose. But even with the passing of years, I continued
a modified routine of cartwheel capers.
Shortly after each one of my sons learned to walk, I would demonstrate
my cartwheel prowess. They were not the least bit enthralled, but my bowling team thought it was a pretty cool move for someone in their 30s. And so did the school board moms when I hopped up one day and shot off a few at age 42.
When I turned 54, I realized it had been a long time since I did a cartwheel. Could I? Should I?
Singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette once said, “If I’m scared of something, that’s a pretty good indication that I should do it – except for heroin and skydiving.”
So one morning I tried it. Walking around a track, I flung my body forward,
leaned in, lifted off and — to my utter amazement — executed a cartwheel. Then another.
I was ecstatic. I planned to do more the following day, then increase each day until I was back to 100. More is better and most is best was my mantra.
I paid for my spontaneity the next day with a flare-up of bursitis in my
hip and shoulder. At that moment, I became acutely aware of the thin line
between boundless enthusiasm and self-destruction.
Cartwheel anxiety set in. I knew there were plenty of things in this world to get stressed about and doing 100 cartwheels in a row shouldn’t be one of them. But I found the idea of no longer having that option disconcerting.
And now I’m 70.
I watch my granddaughters fling their springy little bodies down the
hallways, turning cartwheel after cartwheel without effort or getting dizzy.
I don’t even try one. I remind myself that I can still easily touch my toes from a standing position and my chin to my knee when my legs are spread eagle on the floor.
And I’m okay with that.