Two days ago, as I was attempting to do a back bend from a standing position, my teacher said, “I’m not going to help you anymore.” So I just kind of hung there for a while, way longer than necessary, reaching my arms back like I was merely taking in the view of the back wall from upside down until she said, “Come on, what are you waiting for?” And I thought, “Gravity?” and closed my eyes and prayed that my arms would reach the mat before my skull did. And they did! Twice!
Then, today, I fell on my head. It didn’t hurt a lot, in the grand scheme of pain, but the sound—that dull, cartoonish thonk—evoked a very clear body-memory of when I got hit by a car. The body never fails to remember pain, even though we sometimes manage to banish it for a while, deep in the folds of our subconscious minds. Then something triggers it, fear, smell, dull, cartoonish thonks, and we are transported back to that unpleasant time and place, a little “fuck you” to our delusional sense of self-control.
Generally, when something is really painful, I tend to recoil from it, which is probably why I haven’t ridden a bicycle since I got hit by a car. Granted, my bike DID get totaled, but it was almost two years ago and I’ve yet to buy another one. And that’s not all. I don’t ride roller coasters anymore, something I used to love and torture all my roller coaster-hating girlfriends and boyfriends with at every opportunity. I’m antsy in cars, gripping windows and door handles at the slightest sharp turn or too-close car. Hell, I don’t even like bumper cars. And airplanes cause my breath to quicken and palms to moisten, which is ridiculous because I HAVE A PILOT’S LICENSE. I spent 150 hours in a tiny, two-seater Cessna learning how to fly in rain storms and how to land if the engine dies. I’ve sky dived. I’ve cliff dived. I’ve gotten lost on midnight hikes in mountains. I’ve done almost every reckless thing you can imagine in the name of adventure and now I am paralyzed by a back bend.
Ray Bradbury once said,
“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”
Thankfully, my aversion to fear is not quite as strong as my willingness to humiliate myself. And if fucking Snooki from Jersey Shore can do a back bend, then so can I!
I’m reminded, also, of my favorite Rainer Maria Rilke quote from Kissing Jessica Stein, the movie that probably made me bisexual (either that or watching David Bowie’s wildly bouncing package in Labrynth):
It is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.
So this is an attempt to hold myself accountable, to embrace the unknown and unconquered and potential head trauma as something that is just that — a feat that has potential.
Just don’t ask me to go on a bike ride, mmkay?