When I was in junior high school, part of boys’ PE class was learning gymnastics. I always looked forward to gymnastics as I was genetically gifted with the amble dexterity and agility of brick.
I watched as other boys easily climbed the rope in the middle of the gym, all the way to the ceiling, at least eighty feet above the floor. They pulled with their muscley arms, the rope magically wound itself around their legs, and they moved steadily upward with graceful power.
I was able to pull myself up the rope far enough to easily sit on a chair. That was it. No check-mark in the book.
Next came cart-wheels. Why are they called cart-wheels, anyway? Other guys rolled across the floor as if they were being flung like a hoola-hoop, only stopping when Mr. Jackson yelled, “Good job!” It was enough for me to be able to touch the floor while still standing on my feet. I couldn’t get my body to bend sideways and throw my feet up over my head at the same time. No check-mark in the book.
Next was an all-time favorite, hand springs. At least this time, Mr. Jackson rolled one of the mats up so we could use it to spring into the air as we flew forward, landing flat on our feet. Denny, Mike, Tom, Craig, David, Chuck, Roy, and Randy ran, jumped, and sprang from the mat off their hands as if they had been shot from a catapult, landing, not on their head, their shoulders, knees, elbows, or face. They landed on their feet, just like Mr. Jackson said.
As I waited for my turn, I told myself I could do it. The rolled mat already provided two feet of lift, so I was sure to be successful. I ran for the roll, put my hands down, but what Mr. Jackson promised didn’t happen. My legs did not spring. In fact, they checked out. I was on my own. I landed flat on my back. I’m sure they felt the shock-wave in the office. No check-mark in the book.
Then came standing on our heads. Mr. Jackson said we were first to get on our hands and knees, place our head on the mat, then raise our knees up on our elbows. From that position we were to raise our feet until our legs were straight above us. For extra credit, we were to bring our legs back down until they were parallel with the floor, while still holding ourself in the head-stand position.
A miracle happened. A light shined from above, surrounding me in glory. I put my head on the floor, expecting only to be able to do that well. But, I was able to raise my knees to my elbows. Then, I was able to slowly lift my legs together, still on my head, until my legs were straight. I was standing on my head! Then, as the entire class watched in awe, I was able to slowly lower my legs until they were perfectly parallel with the floor, and I stayed there until Mr. Jackson said, “Good job!” Check-mark in the book!
Many years later, I decided it was time to learn to do a flip from a diving board into a swimming pool. I knew I could do it. Others made it look easy. I forgot that my legs do not cooperate with flying. When I landed flat on my back, the underwater scream that came from my lungs raised the water level in the pool three inches.
Several years later, I decided it was time to finally take control of my legs and force them to cooperate with my decision to fly. This time, I wore a shirt, and I put a life-jacket on backwards so my back was covered. I put another one on the front. Then I put shoes on. The first time I tried to flip off the diving board, to my utter shock, I landed on my feet. I did it again, and I did it again.
Hollering with excitement, I tried it again. This time I sprang with extra umph and landed on my face. I decided extra umph wasn’t necessary and landed on my feet again, after my face stopped hurting.
After many successful flips, I took off my life-saving equipment. To my great delight, I again landed on my feet.
I ultimately reached the moment when I decided doing flips, either front or back, was not a good idea. Although I’ve been tempted a time or two, I believe my decision was a good one. No check-mark needed.