Yesterday I was serious about doing a somersault. It was an early morning flight of fancy, but I really thought I would do it. I wanted to do it. A voice in my head warned me against the idea, but the warning just provoked me. Once it occurred to me to do it, I couldn’t back down. Why not do a somersault? What are you afraid of? What could possibly go wrong? I taunted myself. What’s the point of being fit if you can’t do a somersault? It’s such a simple act to drop your 69-year-old derriere to the grass, tuck your head between your knees, and roll forward onto the back of your neck, as you crunch your hips toward your chest until your feet are in the air and your legs fly over your head to land you squarely on your back. So simple. Just like Gumby.
It was around 7:30 in the morning and the lawn was still glittering with dew, so I looked around for a patch of dry grass. Then I checked for sharp pointy things hidden in the thatch. Then I inspected the entire area for dog poo. Then I noticed that I had been methodically planning to do a spontaneous somersault for about a half hour. Due diligence, I defended myself. It would be a bummer to drop myself onto the grass in a burst of youthful energy, roll onto my head, and come up with a big fat bacon stripe of dog poo on my back. Planning makes me feel safe. But my inner Gumby was feeling stifled. What’s the big deal? Do a somersault.
I’m in good shape. I walk hills. I squat to reach the bottom shelf of the kitchen cabinets. I get on my knees in the garden. I crawl on all fours to get a chew toy from under the couch. I do yoga, sort of, once in a while. But mostly I’m limber. How bad could a somersault be? A pulled muscle? A strained tendon? A pinched nerve? Oh, calm down now. You’ve got ice packs. And you’re not going to break your neck doing a somersault. And if you did hurt yourself, your cohabitant would find you during the commercial breaks on Good Morning America. For sure he would miss you when no one made breakfast. And when he sees you pretzeled in a pile on the grass wearing your head backwards, he’ll call 911 and everything will be just fine. A little ibuprofen, some edibles, some arnica. How bad could it be?
So, I folded my legs into a squatting position on that soft, clean patch of grass, fully prepared to thrust my body forward onto my head and roll ass-over-teakettle down the swale, when a silent scream from my knees stopped me and Gumby cussed a blue streak. It was very uncomfortable down there crouching on my toes with my chin tucked into my neck, and I hadn’t even pinched a nerve yet. A big yellow warning light flashed in my brain, and I couldn’t just speed through it. I had to stop. My ego was crushed. I thought I was braver, stronger, more adventurous than this. But do I really have time for self-inflicted paralysis? I tried to imagine writing in an iron lung with electrodes on my head connecting my brain to my laptop and my flight of fancy melted like too many candles on a birthday cake. But I’m not giving up. I’ll do a somersault on my 70thbirthday. That gives me time to hire a personal trainer and convince my knees. Mark your calendar.