In gymnastics class, we learn to visualize the exercise before fearlessly executing it. Twist the torso, bend the legs, contort the arms, tuck in the head, tighten the diaphragm. Then release into a standing or sitting position, butt cheeks clenched, an entire body ready to catapult itself into the next fierce and determined rebellion against gravity.
As beginning gymnasts, we are ever cognizant of the dangers present in each exercise. Muscles may be torn, bones may be broken. Our teacher sees the fear in our eyes and plays the pragmatic cheerleader. Use your impending adrenaline rush effectively, she says. There is power and importance in resolve, she reminds us. Decide on the action, visualize it, then make the concept a reality!
She is our teacher and our grade depends on our success. So we do this. We pay attention to her directions, ready our bodies and minds, and resolve to follow through. And when we fuck up, as we novices are apt to do, we are told to relax and fall safely. Let the weight of our actions guide us crashing to the floor while onlookers laugh and point. Brush it off. Start again.
I’m not good at this, at the falling. I have never learned to fall gracefully or tactfully. I get so caught up in my goal that it becomes impossible for me to foresee the fall, or I invest so much of myself in it that I become blind to the possibility of failure, of falling. Maybe that’s my biggest flaw: I must believe in the inevitability of success in order to actually succeed. I have to fake it until I make it – and sometimes, I start believing my own lies. And then it’s too late. Paths are walked down, lines get drawn in the sand, whole futures are created before a life has actually begun. The only option is that of acceptance because there is an odd comfort in understanding the development of a life, and being able to claim it – all of it – as your own.
Sometimes, when the sky darkens at two in the afternoon, and a swell of gray clouds descends on my tiny tropical patch of the universe, I can feel a storm brewing. It’s outside, smelling faintly of street-side barbecue stands and deep fried quick batter. It threatens torrential downpour, landslides, destruction and death.
But also, it’s inside of me and tucked into Destiny’s back pocket, and I, in my supreme clairvoyance, have wisely and ineffectively attempted to suffocate it with hope and faith. It is too scary to clearly consider. It augurs renewal and rejuvenation. It chases into the periphery of my reality an option I was too scared to conceive of. And it hides in plain sight, an ugly stain that I point to, jokingly and halfheartedly, an attempt at being nakedly honest while keeping some kind of dignity.
I pirouette and somersault and shake my ass onto the seat of someone’s pants, and I tell myself that I’ve fooled everyone. That no one’s seen my disguised fall, that maybe I had subconsciously intended to end my exercise in that particular way. Surely, there is skill in doing so. Surely, all good things must reside in someone so skilled – even if that person never learned a skill so basic as that of safely falling.