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March 09, 2003: G is for Grace (or lack thereof)

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I've always envied the women who could move with grace. They float across the room and you never hear *their* footsteps clumping on the floor. They never have bruises on their shins from stumbling into furniture. They don't have to worry about tripping over invisible cracks in the sidewalk. Worse yet, they can even walk in high heels and make it look effortless. And they do it all effortlessly. This never took them any moment of thought. It's just the way they are.

Unfortunately, the above paragraph does not describe me. If it has a sharp edge, I'll run into it. If there is a corner, I'll bump it. If it can be tripped over, run into, stubbed, or any other form of bruise-inducing action, I'm all over it. In other words, no one could ever reliably accuse me of having grace.

When I was a little girl, I took ballet lessons. My mom has pictures of me at my recitals, wearing my tights and my fluffy tutu, my hair up in a bun on the top of my head and a big grin on my face. I loved it. I took class after class, and I think I may have stopped only because the teacher was no longer teaching. It wasn't until years later that it finally dawned on me that I had been repeating the same class over and over. The teacher never let me move on past the beginning stage. I was just that bad.

I remember taking gymnastics, very briefly, but that didn't stick. Probably just as well the potential for injury in gymnastics was a lot higher than simply letting me repeat a beginning ballet class over and over. I do remember that I could never manage to do a cartwheel. It's one of those basic skills everyone else masters, but which has eluded me my entire life. Somersaults no problem. Cartwheels forget it. And let's not even start discussing the balance beam. The very name implies a skill that I never seemed to have in any great quantity.

When I hit junior high I got to experience P.E., and discovered an entire world of new things I also wasn't good at. If the sport involves a ball, I stink at it. No matter how many times I've been shown, I can barely hit a ball with a bat. Every time it rained I dreaded P.E. because I knew this meant we would have to stay inside and do volleyball, and I stank at that too. I think the only thing I was even remotely good at during the six years of P.E. through junior high and high school was archery and square dance. I assume that this is because neither of them takes any great amount of coordination. In square dance you're whirling around there's usually someone swinging you toward the next position. In archery the only thing you have to focus on is the target (well, that and making sure your elbow is far enough away from the bow that you don't scrape yourself with the arrow as you let it loose). If I focused long enough on either of those, I could do them, and not once did I ever hurt myself doing square dance or archery (unlike pretty much every other sport). I suppose that fact alone makes them stand out above all the rest.

It wasn't until midway through high school that I discovered that I really wasn't as hopeless as I'd feared. I do have grace but only in the water. That was when I joined the summer synchronized swimming team with my best friend, and started learning how to do all manner of nifty things while hanging out upside down in the community pool. And I surprised the heck out of myself (and probably everyone who knew me) by actually being almost good at it. There were no hard surfaces for me to trip over or run into. There was only the water.

I kept at it all through college. I even went to national competition. It's a difficult sport and I knew the entire time that I was never going to be the best; all that mattered was that not only did I love it, but I had finally found a place even if it's the only one out there - where I have grace.

This has been an AlphaBytes entry.

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