Aliana: Mommy, I’m going to ask you something, and you can’t say no. You have to say you’ll at least try.
Me: I can’t promise an answer to a question I don’t know.
Aliana: Pleeeease!!! Just say you’ll try!
Me (exasperated): Okay, okay, what is it?
Aliana: Will you try to do a cartwheel? Just once? It’s okay if you can’t do it; but will you try?
Aliana is obsessed with cartwheels. She learned to do one in gymnastics not long ago, and she won’t stop doing them. She does cartwheels everywhere–after school in the hallways, in the mall when we are shopping, in the yard, in the living room, and even in the grocery store.
Last Sunday, my friend and I were walking down Mass Ave (a street downtown), and were deep in a conversation about how hard life can be, when suddenly Aliana, who was probably tired of listening to us adults talk, started doing cartwheels. On the sidewalk. In downtown Indy.
And of course, my first reaction is, “What are you doing? Why are you doing a cartwheel right on the concrete? You’re going to bump into people!“
The pedestrians started moving to the side to make way for her cartwheels. They didn’t seem to mind.
Aliana said, “Sometimes I just feel like doing a cartwheel, mom!”
So when she asked me to try a cartwheel the other evening, I was thinking, “Sweet Jesus, you have got to be kidding me.” I’m 38–about to turn 39. I’m not as spritely as I used to be. It has probably been over twenty years since I did a cartwheel.
I looked down at the hardwood floor of our living room, and kept thinking, OMG, it looks so far down. I admittedly felt panicky, despite the fact that I’m only five feet, three inches.
I was anxious. I wasn’t sure if my body could intuit what to do. And I always sucked at gymnastics as a child. And I thought my arms may not be strong enough.
But I did it anyways. In fact I did several. They were not very good cartwheels, but I did them. And my child pretended to be a British sports broadcaster, while videotaping a play by play of my cartwheels.
Suddenly, I couldn’t stop laughing. It was so ridiculously fun to do these damn cartwheels. It’s like my body and my mind needed those cartwheels. I exercise and lift weights on a somewhat frequent basis, but I wasn’t used to moving my body this way. And I needed to. I needed to do something different.
It reminded me, in general, that when things in life aren’t feeling good, I need to do something different. Sometimes I have to trick my feelings by changing my actions. When I feel like lying in bed and not getting up even though the big, bright sun is shining, I must get up. When I’m feeling down, and my child is asking me to get in the pool and play with her, I must do that, even though I feel like just sitting on the side of the pool, getting a tan. When I keep dating the same man in different clothing, I must stop dating and just be alone. When I am tired of the same old bullsh*t story, I need to change it.
When life knocks you down, do a cartwheel. Or a somersault. Or a headstand. You don’t have to do it well, you just have to try.