I am embarking on a quest that would put Don Quixote to shame. I plan to whittle three and a half inches off my waist. If that’s not the impossible dream, I don’t know what is.
I started by hiring a personal trainer. I found Tracy teaching the Body Pump class at my gym—a do-it-yourself boxing class. There is nothing more empowering than pumping the air with no heavy boxing gloves, no opponent and no way to get hit back. You win every “fight”!
I signed up…but what I got, at Tracy’s insistence, was a hula hoop.
She said, “You need it to strengthen your core. Every boxer can hula hoop.”
Not this one.
When I was a roly-poly five-year-old, I was the only kid on the block who couldn’t hula hoop, even though I had an amazing hoop that my Dad bought for me at the circus.
This hoop, oh this hoop—it lit up and had flashing lights.
I played with it in our postcard-sized Brooklyn backyard, mostly pavement, with one lonely peony bush. “Don’t hit the peony bush,” my mother admonished. No worries there. I was all hat and no cattle. I could make the hoop rotate only three times, mostly around my legs, and then it would fall to the ground.
At the gym with Tracey, I repeated the performance of 65 years ago, nearly move by move. Three spins and the hoop fell. This time it was a grey plastic weighted hoop that Tracy assured me prize fighters used to get fit. I was in “hoop a dupe” mode, when she said, “Don’t worry. You have been moving side to side—it’s back to front. Now that you know how it will be easy.”
Now, in my experience, merely knowing how is the booby prize.
I know how to ride a bike, but I can’t ride one. I know how to lose weight, but I don’t do it. I know how to save money, but my credit card would tell you otherwise. Progress in anything that does not come naturally takes more than knowledge.
It takes courage to fail.
Samuel Beckett wrote in Worstword Ho!, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Of course, he was a pessimistic curmudgeon, but the human animal needs encouragement, and the sentence stuck as a mantra for achievement. Anyway, I always liked the line.
Thomas A. Edison who failed a thousand times before perfecting the lightbulb is a bit harsher on us: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
My favorite line on failure comes from Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
So what would it take for me to master something physical that I never learned to do as a kid, like swim, ski, ride a bike or hula hoop?
While kids can generally pick up anything by just watching and trying (unless you’re me with a hula hoop), experts suggest that older adults take it easy when learning a new physical skill, follow protocols, stay safe and learn little-by-little.
Some of my favorite gurus…
- Swimming: Laura Williams-of Livestrong
- Skiing: Professional Ski Instructors of America
- Biking: Pedal Ready in Wellington, New Zealand, a charming town.
No matter how many times I watched their YouTube tutorials, I never did learn to swim, ski or ride a bike. I’m resourceful, so I snowshoe (with skiers shouting “stay on the track”), long-distance walk (with bikers shouting “to your right”) and scuba dive (with fish saying…well, they just laugh.) Still, I felt I never mastered the real thing.
Not this time.
This time I had a major goal little addressed in discussing the motivation of folks of a certain age. That motivator is (wait for it)…avenging the past—or in my case my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. P.
I was a chubby kid. I remember standing up straight, looking down and trying to see my toes. I couldn’t—my stomach was in the way. One day, in fourth-grade vocabulary class, Mrs. P said, “Let’s learn the difference between the words plump and obese.” “Stand up, Sally. Class, Sally is an example of plump.”
Today, the Parent Police would come and arrest that woman. How dare she make the kid a spectacle and then call her plump in front of the whole class?
I, however, was delighted. Why? Because I was not the one put on show, so I did not have to suffer such humiliation. Until…
“Now obese means fat. Adriane, stand up.”
Through the years, I have found that such monsters exist in many positions and colors and shapes. I have learned to see that as their problem, not mine. But not in fourth grade.
Apparently, at age 70, I am still back in elementary school, hoping to one day see my toes.
The remainder of this story must be seen, not read. Check this out.
Ask yourself, Is there a skill that has eluded me all my life? If so, find a compelling motivator to gain that skill. Go for it. Muster your courage, and try again and again. You may master it or fail better. To me, either is progress.